The Rafale Fighter deal has triggered dangerous dogfights much before the deployment of a single plane in the IAF squadrons. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘a thief’ basing his charge on a revelation made by the former president of France, Francois Hollande, stating that the French government had no say in the selection of an offset partner by Dassault, the company that produces Rafale fighter jets. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has retaliated venomously by calling the entire Gandhi clan ‘a family of thieves’.
Other senior cabinet ministers are reminding us that the mother and son at the helm of the Congress party are on bail after being chargesheeted in the Associated Journals case and remaining tongue-tied whenever Robert Vadra’s involvement in myriad dubious land deals is mentioned. Certain things need to be made clear at the outset. Being chargesheeted or granted bail isn’t the same thing as conviction and the accused can’t be treated as guilty. RaGa isn’t known for temperate language or mastery of relevant facts so one is hard put to understand why the usually civil and restrained Ms Sitaraman lost her cool and decided to adopt an equally abusive tone. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for once had put it rather aptly that the gentleman once considered the Crown Prince has metamorphosed rather predictably into a Clown Prince. The matter should have been allowed to rest there and the government should have come out with a point-by -point rebuttal of the allegations made by the Opposition regarding what it believes to be a mega scam.
Once again it seems that the Congress president has jumped the gun. Unless he succeeds in sustaining the heat in the coming weeks ensuring an avalanche like snowballing, the dogfight will fizzle out before the Assembly elections. Much before 2019.
There is not much else that the BJP and NDA can gloat over. The fistfight that broke out on stage at an election meeting in Alwar even as Vasundhara Raje Scindia was speaking exposes the claims that BJP can defend this citadel from a determined Congress assault. The stink of Vyapam refuses to go away in Madhya Pradesh and in Chhattisgarh, Mayawati joining hands with Ajit Jogi may doom the Congress to oblivion but it doesn’t mean that the BJP will have a walkover. The Maoists continue to ambush police patrols and control vast tracts of forest. Goa is causing major headache as Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s early recovery is not in sight. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is driving a hard bargain about seat-sharing in the Lok Sabha elections and disgruntlement of allies like the Shiv Sena continues. The Marathas are far from placated and the Centre’s decision to go ahead with the local government polls in Jammu & Kashmir has brought together the Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference .
The haste with which the government first announced the meeting on the sidelines between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and then withdrew in a knee jerk manner after the killing of yet another J&K policeman only shows the bankruptcy of our Pakistan policy. One only hopes that the BJP learns to tread with caution after listening to swashbukling Imran Khan’s contemptuous comments about ‘small men occupying big offices’. It is our national obsession with cricket that makes us look upon this hero of yesteryears as the new ray of hope for a breakthrough. Let’s not forget that Imran has never been a friend of India, has been well-disposed towards the Taliban and has been not without supporters in the Pakistani armed forces. In past too Pakistan has had flamboyant and charismatic leaders who have only whipped up anti-India chauvinism.
As we write these lines, the Rupee continues to tumble and the petrol and diesel prices continue to skyrocket. The wisecracking finance minister has failed to come to grips with the problems that plague our economy despite its ‘strong fundamentals’. In the coming weeks, India will have to cope with US sanctions against Iran and other disruptions caused by President Donald Trump. Both the BJP and the Congress appear ill-equipped to confront emerging challenges. BJP believes that there is no alternative to it and the Congress and other opposition parties have auto-hypnotised themselves and maintain that the electorate fed up with the BJP-NDA doublespeak will propel them back to power.
We shall have no respite from dangerous posturing and mutual mudslinging (of those in power or in the Opposition) that can only hurt national interests as long as we suffer the arrogant and ignorant in silence either for partisan reasons or in sheer cowardice.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University