The Indian Express
New Delhi, Sunday,Published:Dec 13, 2015
Fifth Column: Sonia’s threat
After returning from another mysterious medical break in a mysterious foreign country, Sonia got the news that the Delhi High Court had accepted that there was merit in the National Herald case.
Written by Tavleen Singh
We do not need to be reminded that Congress politics has seen neither parivartan or vikas in 40 years but Sonia Gandhi reminded us anyway last week.
After returning from another mysterious medical break in a mysterious foreign country, she got the news that the Delhi High Court had accepted that there was merit in the National Herald case. This meant that she would have to appear with her son in court. This is mandatory under the law in order to be granted exemption from future appearances and all she needed to have said was that as a law-abiding citizen she would appear when summoned.
She chose instead to make a political drama out of a legal matter. So on national television she announced menacingly, “I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law and I am not afraid of anyone.”
In saying this, she sought to invoke memories of that long ago winter when, due to the idiocy of the Janata Government, the other Mrs Gandhi was arrested on charges so flimsy she became an instant heroine. As a hack of a certain age, I can report that I happened to be covering this event outside Tihar Jail and remember well that it became clear to us reporters that when Mrs Gandhi was led through the iron gates of Tihar, she smiled because she knew as we did that this was the beginning of her political return journey.
Had Charan Singh, who was home minister, done this in collusion with her, he could not have done her a bigger favour. And with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge that his brief moment as India’s prime minister became possible only because of her help, who knows if there was not some kind of wicked plot.
The times have changed since then. India has changed. But Congress politics remain unchanged. There is still a Mrs Gandhi in charge and she appears to believe that there will be much political mileage to be had from the National Herald case. Her son and heir has already announced that he sees ‘political vendetta’ in the judge’s order and knows that this vendetta is being ordered from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The question nobody asked him was why the Prime Minister needs to take revenge on the leaders of a political party that has so few seats in the Lok Sabha. Or for that matter on him or his Mummy.
The National Herald case was brought to court by Subramanian Swamy three years ago when the man in the Prime Minister’s Office was their very own Dr Manmohan Singh. And it seems like a straightforward sort of case in which the Congress helped its president and vice-president buy the National Herald’s assets in a private company in which they acquired a huge majority of shares. On the board of this company were appointed their close friends and associates. The registered office of the company is the private home of one of these close friends. So if the judge found signs of ‘criminality’, it was probably because there does seem to be something dodgy about a political party allowing its assets to be transferred to a private company.
In any case, surely the best way to absolve the Gandhis of this new shadow of wrongdoing is for them to appear in court and state their side of the story.
This would indicate that they respect the independence of the Indian judicial system and believe in the rule of law. And instead of slinging mud at the Prime Minister’s Office, would it not be more dignified to respect the chaiwallah if only because he did win a full mandate from the people of India? But this is probably at the root of the problem that the Gandhis have with the Modi government. As Venkaiah Naidu said in the Lok Sabha last week, they simply have not been able yet to accustom themselves to being out of power.
So if the National Herald case had not given them a chance to disrespect Parliament once more, there would have been General V K Singh’s awful comment. Or if not this then there would have been a return to the alleged corruption of the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. And then there is new ammunition provided by the visit to Pakistan of the Minister of External Affairs. How dare she talk to Pakistan without first asking their permission.
The truth is that the Prime Minister may as well get used to governing with a non-functional Parliament because the Gandhis have made it clear that they will not allow it to function. Let him forget about GST for the moment and make those reforms in governance and the economy that he can make outside Parliament. There is much that can be done and he has not got started yet.
Follow the author on Twitter: @ tavleen_singh