It’s now almost a year since we came to know about Robert Vadra’s business in the real estate sector; that he was blessed with powers to turn fallow land expensive. And one has not heard the young Rahul Gandhi speak out his mind on Vadra and his allegedly shady business deals. If only the scion had chosen to speak his mind, the Congress Chief Minister of Haryana would not have done anything to hound Ashok Khemka and Rahul’s sister’s husband might have landed in one of the jails in Haryana or in the Tihar.
The way in which the Congress party has behaved after Rahul’s outburst over the ordinance nullifying the Supreme Court judgement that those convicted shall not be allowed to stay in office and not even as MPs or MLAs makes one look upon him as the messiah of a nation. It is ridiculous to see Congressmen, including members of the Union Cabinet, speaking out against a cabinet resolution. It is no use talking of the impropriety in Cabinet ministers dissociating from a decision that was theirs. Propriety is a cry in wilderness.
Rahul’s theatrics reminds us of his grandmother doing similar things in 1969. In her quest for supremacy within the party, Indira Gandhi, as Prime Minister, went about defying her party president and other leaders in the Congress Working Committee. She first tried to foist Jagjivan Ram, one of her partisans in the Working Committee as the party’s candidate for the Presidential elections.
She then recommended an ordinance nationalising 14 private sector banks to irritate and thus ease out Morarji Desai from her Cabinet.
And as days went by, she orchestrated a demand for conscience vote in the presidential elections and took the fight against her party leaders, including the party president S Nijalingappa, to a point of no return. And by all these she ensured the defeat of the party’s Presidential candidate and the victory of her own nominee, contesting as independent, as President of the Republic. VV Giri returned the favour by issuing a Presidential order (even while he knew that it was not in order) abolishing the Privy Purses; this was after the legislation to that effect was lost in the Rajya Sabha for want of a single vote!
Lest it is mistaken, there is very little similarity between Rahul and Indira, notwithstanding that the former gathers his importance only because he was born to Indira’s son. Indira, even if she had risen due to her father helping her immensely, did have a mind of her own. She had scripted every line of her acts. Rahul, on the contrary, is innocent of any such things. Saying he is innocent does not mean that he is unaware of Vadra’s allegedly fraudulent deals. If those who are privy to the nature of Rahul’s relationship with Vadra are to be believed, they know each other too well and hence there is no reason to think that the young vice-president of the Congress party is blissfully unaware of the activities of his brother-in-law.
It should, hence, be inferred that Rahul did not really mean to cleanse the body politic when he said that the ordinance in question should be dumped. It was just that he reacted without thinking. He had done this before. Notwithstanding his own government’s policy on the mines and minerals front, he went to Odisha and said a few things against mining in the Niyamgiri hills; the point is that he had nothing to say against similar destruction taking place in Andhra Pradesh, Goa or Maharashtra.
In any case, the consequence of his statement from Odisha was that all the King’s men joined the chorus and the hills were saved of destruction! One must thank Rahul Gandhi, even if he did not intend anything of that kind.
Likewise, there is reason to celebrate his condemnation of the ordinance. Unintended as it may be, the fact that the Congressmen in the Cabinet have joined the chorus should provide hope to the hopeless in our midst that convicts will be forced to stay out of Parliament, legislative assemblies and ministries.
The best thing is this judgement of the apex court will not face the same fate as one of its earlier rulings granting divorced Muslim women the right to maintenance. In the Shah Bano case, Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi had turned the clock back. Rahul, at least, deserves praise for ensuring that the consensus among the parties all the parties had wanted and continue to want the apex court’s decision to be nullified was no hurdle in cleansing the system.
One must, hence, hope for a similar knee jerk response from the young vice-president of the Congress party to declare, even if in a huff, that those who grab land and make a lot of money selling it by being hand-in-glove with builders and realtors must be dealt with in accordance with the law, regardless of their power and authority. This will do the country a lot of good and posterity will remember Rahul for doing what many others have failed to achieve.
Such cynicism is not good for democracy. The concept of collective responsibility, which is the cornerstone of a Cabinet system, ought to be preserved. Dissent in the open is important. But what we saw after Rahul’s comments and the way he made it public does not fit any scheme. He must be told that politics is a serious business. It is not the same as scoring points in a debate competition for students of the upper primary class. It is impossible to desist from saying this; recall Rahul’s speech in defence of nuclear power invoking Kalawati!
The writer is Associate Professor, Dept of History, Sikkim University. Views expressed are personal