OPINION | Congress Needs to Respond to Criticism & Charges Instead of Portraying Itself As A Crybaby

FIle photo of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi (Image : Reuters)

FIle photo of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi (Image : Reuters)

In a democracy, people reserve their rights to evaluate, praise, question and criticise the functioning of the governments and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi cannot be an exception.


Sanjeev Kumar Tiwari

There is a famous law of motion, which states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”; it squarely applies to politics as well. In response to an importunate attack by the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be more determined to reply.

While addressing an election rally recently, Modi carried out a scathing attack on the former Prime Mnister Rajiv Gandhi. “Your [Rahul Gandhi’s] father was termed ‘Mr Clean’ by his courtiers, but his life ended as ‘Bhrashtachari No. 1’ [corrupt no. 1],” Modi said.

This statement has shaken the entire political discourse. The more vigorous attack on Rajiv Gandhi in subsequent speeches certainly carries a tactical message for the voters, especially as the electoral battleground shifts to Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Poorvanchal, areas where issues of anti-Sikh riots, Bhopal gas tragedy, among others, will dominate. Moreover, the Bofors issue could easily blunt the Rafale edge.

The attack on Modi by the Congress and the opposition for his remarks on the late Rajiv Gandhi has witnessed a new nadir in the political slugfest. In reply to Modi’s remarks, Rahul Gandhi had given a stern warning by tweeting, “The battle is over. Your karma awaits you. Projecting your inner belief about yourself onto my father won’t protect you…”

Rahul Gandhi was right — his father was assassinated by suicide bombers. But in a democratic system where differences, dissent and disagreement are the buzzwords, is it appropriate to deny the rights of others to evaluate and criticise?

Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley later rightly tweeted: “Indira Gandhi was also assassinated and yet Congress is questioned about emergency and Operation Blue Star.” It substantiates why Rajiv Gandhi is also not above the evaluation, questioning and criticism.

The list of slag and abuses for Modi is endless, starting from Sonia Gandhi’s remark in 2007 when she called him “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of deaths). In the last 17 years, opposition leaders have used every possible adjective for Modi -- from scorpion to monkey to “neech kism ka aadmi” (a nasty type of man) to the PM is doing “khoon ki dalali” (brokering over blood) to Modi is doing “zahar ki kheti” (cultivating poison) to “gandi naali ka keeda” (a worm from the drain), and so on.

The opposition is still in search of some credible issues to beat Brand Modi. Rahul Gandhi has not left no stone unturned to tarnish Modi’s image, although unsuccessfully. However, in haste to score over his adversary, Rahul Gandhi wrongly attributed his remarks on “chowkidar” to the Supreme Court, which finally resulted into a criminal contempt of court, regrets and apologies.

But when Modi raised the issue of “namdar vs kamdar”, the Congress was cornered. Was Modi wrong to raise the Bofors deal, which resulted in a humiliating end of Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as a corruption-accused PM? Is not it true that the Congress lost the 1989 parliamentary elections due to the Bofors deal? The relation of Rajiv Gandhi with the alleged Italian arms dealer and Bofors middle-man Ottavio Quattrocchi had always been under public scrutiny. Has it not put reasonable doubt where the role of the Congress leadership is concerned in the entire Bofors case?

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots witnessed the massacre of thousands of innocent Sikhs. The Congress leaders had defied laws, instigated and led mobs. Rajiv Gandhi’s role was under a cloud. At a public rally, he said: “…But when a big tree falls, the earth does shake a little.” Instead of providing justice to the sufferers, he had facilitated the alleged rioters with parliamentary tickets and ministerial berths. Finally, some justice seems to have been done when a few accused were punished under the current Modi regime. Should Modi not ask about this blatant criminal negligence on the part of the then Rajiv Gandhi-led government?

Complacency and gross neglect of Rajiv Gandhi’s government was glaring in the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984 in which more than 3,000 people killed and five lakh injured. The kingpin was Warren Anderson, chairman of Union Carbide. He was arrested for just a few hours and then got bail, soon left the country and never returned to face trial. If Modi questions the injustice to innocent people who lost their lives, where is he wrong?

On the issue of peace and communal harmony, the Rajiv Gandhi government had failed abysmally. Should the large-scale killings of innocents in Meerut riots of 1987 and Bhagalpur riots of 1989 not be questioned?

When Shah Bano won the right to alimony in the Supreme Court in 1985 after a long legal battle, Rajiv Gandhi succumbed under pressure from the Muslim clergy. He hurriedly passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, which did away with whatever little the Supreme Court had done for this neglected section.

Speaking in Kalahandi in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi admitted that of every rupee spent by government, only 15 paise reached the intended beneficiary. But mere acceptance didn’t exonerate him from his prime responsibility of cleansing the corrupt ecosystem of the country when he was at the helm.

There is not even an iota of doubt that both Rahul and Priyanka have all propriety to defend their beloved father, but they should not forget that Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. In a democratic country like India, people reserve their rights to evaluate, praise, question and criticise the functioning of the governments and Rajiv Gandhi cannot be an exception. The fruits of democracy can only thrive on an open-minded evaluation and critical review of working of different dispositions.

When the country is in an intense election mode, the same rule of game should apply to everyone. However, minimum decency and decorum is the basic principle of civil society. If the Congress criticises and abuses Narendra Modi a thousand times, they should also be open to some criticism. When the elections nearing their conclusion, the Congress leadership must reply to the queries raised by the PM instead of portraying itself as a crybaby.

(The author is a political analyst and teaches political science in Delhi University. Views expressed are personal.)

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