By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
On 4th August 2023, the Supreme Court of India stayed grand old party first family scion Rahul Gandhi’s conviction by a Surat based trail court, which Gujarat High Court refused to stay, in a criminal defamation case over his Modi surname remark made in a political rally in Karnataka in 2019. As an effect of the SC stay, Rahul also got restoration of his membership in Parliament. The contentious remark was, “Achchha ek chhota sa sawal, inn sab choron ka naam, Modi, Modi, Modi kaise hain…Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi…Aur thoda dhundoge toh aur saare Modi nikal aayega” or in short translation in Q-language, it is “why all thieves have Modi surnames”. Certainly, the target was Rahul’s political rival PM Narendra Modi.
The above quoted controversial remark was made after opposition parties and anti-ruling party establishments in India failed to stall India and France signing of a €7.87 billion Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition, and when Lolit Modi IPL scam and Nirov Modi bank fraud cases were hotly debated in the country. To the dismay of opposition, even the Supreme Court, which was approached by the prominent civil society members and disgruntled politicians, did not find any wrongdoing in the deal. Here, it is required to inform the readers that Lalit Modi IPL scam (telling selective bidders how much to bid during the first IPL team auction in 2008) and Nirov Modi Bank scam (obtained his first LoU from PNB’s Brady House branch on March 2011) were took place when Gandhi-Congress led UPA government was ruling the country.
Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat ruled the state from Oct 2001 to May 2014, and during his tenure, the present Gandhi family-owned Congress was in power in centre from 2004 to 2014. But later could not find any scam to taint Narendra Modi name despite having the prowess of several investigation agencies which are now accused of being used by Modi government to silence oppositions including Congress party leaders. During this period, Congress governments in the centre and several non-Congress governments in the state, many despite being member of UPA, were tainted for financial scams, and bank frauds which UPA’s Chief Economic Advisor and former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan admitted before a Parliamentary Panel in 2018 as he said maximum bank loans, which later turned NPA, were allowed without due diligence under pressure from higher up.
Apart from the above, the independent India has witnessed Jeep Scam (1948) and Mundhra Scam (1957) to Bofor Scam and Submarine Scam in 1980s, National Herald property appropriation, AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal (2013), etc. etc.
Whose surname is associated with all these scams? But, so far, none has made a particular surname accused of all the scams a la Modi surname slurred recently.
Maybe it is due to a higher level of sense of political propriety and democratic decency on the part of the then opposition parties.
While staying conviction of Rahul Gandhi, the apex court three judges bench comprising two future Chief Justices -going by conventional seniority-based practice of appointment of CJI though it was violated by Rahul’s grandma in 1970s- Justice B. R. Gavai and Justice P. S. Narasimha, also observed that ‘the utterances of Rahul Gandhi were not in good taste’ and said that ‘a person in public life ought to have been more careful while making public speeches.’ But, to this author’s utter dismay, no leading newspaper on 05 August 2023 I have so far checked had any mention of SC bench advice related to decency either in their headline or in their intro. All of them covered the story in their front page as lead story of the day with more or less identical titles such as “Supreme Court stays Rahul’s conviction” in The New Indian Express-Bhubaneswar, “Rahul set to return as LS MP after SC stays his conviction” in The Times of India-Mumbai, “SC stays Rahul’s conviction for Modi surname remark” in The Hindu-Chennai, “Rahul to return as MP as SC stays conviction” in The Hindustan Times-New Delhi, and “SC stays conviction. Rahul Gandhi is now ‘Mission-Prepped’ in The Telegraph-Kolkata. Going further The Telegraph, quoting Rahul Gandhi, writes just below the headline “COME WHAT WAY, MY DUTY REMAINS THE SAME: PROTECT THE IDEA OF INDIA.”
Let us discuss The Telegraph quote of Rahul Gandhi’s vow to protect the ‘idea of India’ and its long-term impact on unity and integrity of India.
What is Rahul Gandhi’s ‘idea of India’?
As reported in The Times of India 25 May 2022, while addressing in Cambridge University, Rahul Gandhi said, “The word ‘nation’ is a western concept; India is a union of states, like Europe.” He compared India with European Union, later a political and economic alliance of 27 countries, which have not lost their sovereignty in view of their membership in EU, continue to have their elected legislatures/parliaments, make their laws as and when required to meet their administrative exigencies, retain their sovereign territories and law and order machineries and independent national security establishment apart from retain their right to seceded like UK did in 2020. They were together never a country in the entire European history apart from they did not have national ethos and culture a la India has since ancient time though attempt had been made to distort this essential feature of India as a country during British rule followed by secular historians of Independent India.
If European Union kind is Rahul’s ‘idea of India’ and that is why he and his party oppose complete integration of Kashmir into India with withdrawal of Art370, then there is certainly a threat to national integrity from his ‘idea of India’. Since his ‘idea of India’ talk in Cambridge University a lot of discussions and debates have taken place opposing his idea. But Rahul has not changed. If The Telegraph for the sake information circulation among the masses printed Rahul’s statement “COME WHAT WAY, MY DUTY REMAINS THE SAME: PROTECT THE IDEA OF INDIA”, it is not bad. But when one reads the headline ‘Mission-Prepped’ along with “COME WHAT WAY, MY DUTY REMAINS THE SAME: PROTECT THE IDEA OF INDIA”, it looks like the newspaper is a party to the divisive agenda.
Going back to this column’s title, it is noticed that most of the newspapers have buried the apex court observation on Rahul Gandhi slur on Modi surname and the court suggestion to ‘a person in public life’ in their insignificance interior of the story limiting to few words as if political decency has no role in 21st Century democracy. And as if The Press, the Fourth Column of Democracy, is in league with political indecency. It is certainly not a good sign.
(Author is Sr. Research Fellow – DRaS & Faculty of Management Studies in TGI. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])