The Congress party characterises Modi as a dictator and by implication, presents Sonia as a democrat. Whether a popular leader is a dictator or a democrat is tested by conduct. An unpopular dictator is an oxymoron. A dictator may become unpopular but no unpopular person can ever become a dictator. How a leader behaves when in position of power — particularly when his or her position is under threat — offers the most reliable test. A popular Indira Gandhi was tested twice. Once in 1969 when her senior colleagues dissented her individualistic style. She used State power, backstabbed the party and defeated the party nominee in the election for the President of India and captured the party with the help of the enemies of the party by forging an ideological alliance with them. This destroyed the democratic Congress party as the nation knew till then. She put the party under her virtual dictatorship. She changed the very paradigm of national politics from politics of ethics and character to politics of power and success. This brought out her dictatorial mind. The real dictator in her came out when the Allahabad High Court unseated her from Parliament and the Supreme Court made her a Prime Minister without voting rights in Parliament. She struck at the nation, imposed Emergency and, as Nani Palkhiwala said, defaced and defiled the Constitution, courts, Parliament, Opposition, media, and the people at large and put the whole nation under total dictatorship. It is 40 years since and still now, no one in the Congress or from the family of Indira Gandhi has sincerely regretted the Emergency. On the contrary, Rajiv Gandhi, after he got four-fifths majority in the Lok Sabha in 1984, even tried to justify the Emergency. And that Congress party and Sonia Gandhi, claiming to be the proud daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, are trying to brand Narendra Modi as dictatorial — by implication, claiming to be democratic. Is it not time then that one compared the democratic credentials of Sonia and Modi?
Look at how the ‘dictatorial’ Narendra Modi conducted himself when, just three years before he became the Prime Minister, he was under tremendous pressure from the Opposition, media and even the courts. Sonia Gandhi and her party had accused him of being the merchant of death. The UPA, which had made the CBI its Alsatian, used the agency to target him in the Sohrabuddin case. The sordid story was exposed by The New Indian Express (see articles titled, Fixing Shah, by Fabrication, CBI Betrays Court, Bails Out Congress and Interrogating The Media — published in August 2010). The media was applauding every effort to fix and get rid of him. Yet, there was no FIR against him. No complaint had been filed in any court against him. No court had issued him summons. No court had ordered his examination by police. But the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Gujarat riots summoned him for examination like police would summon any one at their discretion. He was as popular in Gujarat as he is now all over the country. He was a powerful and performing Chief Minister of Gujarat. Also he was seen as the rising national leader within the BJP when the SIT summoned him. But he did not use his party to drum up support for him in the Assembly nor did his party stall Parliament. The Gujarat Assembly functioned and so did Parliament. He could have gathered a million people to give him a great ovation when he went to the SIT office to put pressure on the investigation and on the instigators of the case against him. He respected the summons and drove to the SIT office in his car. He walked down the lane leading to the SIT alone. He was grilled by the SIT for over eight hours. He answered their questions. Satisfied with his answers, the SIT finally exonerated him. But his adversaries would not leave him. They charged the SIT with favouring him. Finally, the Supreme Court had to exonerate him twice — once, when the UPA was in power and next time, a few months ago. This is ‘dictatorial’ Modi’s behaviour.
Now compare how the ‘democratic’ Sonia behaved after the National Herald case caught up with her, her son and her family loyalists. Here is the National Herald case in brief. In November 2012, Dr Subramanian Swamy exposed how Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have grabbed properties of National Herald worth thousands of crores through a convoluted criminal strategy. After that, this newspaper carried a detailed article, National Herald Affair: It’s Fraud All The Way (TNIE, November 8, 2012), explaining the fraud. In January 2013, Dr Swamy filed a criminal complaint against Sonia, her son and family loyalists, including Motilal Vohra, the Congress party treasurer, charging them with conspiracy, fraud, cheating, and criminal breach of trust to rob the shareholders and the public of thousands of crores. All this happened when the UPA was in power. Rahul Gandhi threatened to file a defamation suit against Dr Swamy. Swamy challenged him but Rahul ran away. In June 2014, a Delhi criminal court took cognisance of the offence and issued summons. Forthwith, Sonia Gandhi and other five accused, including Rahul, filed petitions in the Delhi High Court to quash the criminal proceedings. They kept delaying the hearing till they thought they got the judge they felt comfortable with. One judge recused himself and so did the next. The matter went to the third judge, who Sonia and her co-accused did not like, and he too recused himself. All the accused petitioned to have the matter heard by the second judge who had recused himself earlier. The case was posted before the very judge, who Sonia and her co-accused felt comfortable with. It is that very same judge, who decided on December 7, 2015 that the lower court has rightly ordered their trial and summoned them, and asked them to appear before the metropolitan magistrate. Still, hell broke loose. The very next day the Congress president was seen instigating her MPs to stall Parliament. When the Speaker asked them why were they disturbing the House, they shouted they saw in the National Herald case “political vendetta” and “democracy in danger”. When the Speaker asked them to spell out what they want and offered to allow them to raise the issue and speak in the House, they ran away from speaking in the House. Obviously, they only had instructions to stall the House. The same theatrics were repeated in the Rajya Sabha. Not that they did not talk in the House. They couldn’t. Why?
It needs no seer to say that the prosecution on the National Herald fraud was an act of the judiciary and the Modi government had had nothing to do with it. There was no CBI or Income Tax or the Enforcement Directorate in the picture which could link the prosecution to the government. It was the private complaint of Dr Subramanian Swamy on which the magistrate held that Sonia, Rahul and the four family loyalists had created a trust company fully controlled by them as a cloak or sham of a special purpose vehicle to convert public money and to acquire control over thousands of crores of assets of National Herald. The court held that the accused acted as a consortium to achieve the nefarious purpose and asked them to face trial. This was the prima facie assessment of the court under the law. The government had no role in this process at all. It was between Sonia Gandhi and her co-conspirators on the one hand and Dr Subramanian Swamy on the other, with the court playing the neutral and judicial role. This order was passed in June 2014. Did Sonia or Rahul or any of the accused or the Congress party even hint that the magistrate had acted outside the law? Stop Parliament? In contrast, they all went to the Delhi High Court to quash the order and summons of the magistrate. The judge, whom they were comfortable with, decided on December 7 that they better face the criminal case as the magistrate had rightly decided.
The very next day, the ‘democratic Sonia’ ordered her party to stall Parliament. Even as she was overseeing the closure of Parliament for the day on December 8 and her son was on a flying visit to Tamil Nadu to offer relief to the flood-affected people, their lawyers were standing before the magistrate and pleading that Sonia, Rahul and the other accused were “keen to appear before the court”. Where is vendetta then, Madam Sonia? The court has granted them 10 days and directed them to appear on December 19. It remains to be seen whether the ‘democratic’ Sonia and Rahul will walk alone and appear before the court like Modi did before the police or gather a huge crowd for theatrics and disturb the court like the Gandhis disturbed the Shah Commission.
A caveat: Obviously stressed by the court notice on charges of swallowing thousands of crores of properties of National Herald by using the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi said, “Why should I be scared of anyone? I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law.” She said this after personally directing the Congress party to halt Parliament on Tuesday. This is ‘democratic’ Sonia, the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, the saviour of democracy in India, charging Modi with ‘dictatorship’. There cannot be a more cruel joke on democracy.
The author is a well- known commentator on political and economic issues.