Justice is blind. The law is cockeyed. The caged hawks have been let out, to go for the Gandhi jugular. The law puts the ownership of the National Herald and its assets in the family’s hand, gained through not-so-subtle fiduciary sleight of hand. Justice means that they—like others in money laundering cases—will go to jail, later bail notwithstanding. But has the government blundered by looking for a prize scalp in its war
Nobody believes that agencies persecute a ruling party’s political rivals to get justice—Indira Gandhi saw to that. Where is the value addition should Rahul be arrested and jailed—he has been doing Modi’s work of annihilating the Congress exemplarily. If that happens there is a chance that India’s most unvotable politician could come out a hero. Historically, prison is the launching pad of political heroes, unless he or she is blatantly corrupt like Lalu Yadav. Enemy propaganda created Pappu, a title which Rahul lives up to. But something about one man standing alone against a formidable government inevitably tugs at people’s heartstrings. Will the national mood herald the arrival of a brand new martyr?
In a nutshell, the National Herald case is a family saga that has run out of printer’s ink. Jawaharlal Nehru started the paper in 1938 with 5,000 freedom fighters as shareholders. During its silver jubilee in 1963, he said the Herald is “generally favouring Congress policy” while maintaining “an independent outlook”— very much like India’s media scenario today, especially national television, but with a different party. Sonia and Rahul own the majority shares while the rest was held by trusted fighters of Gandhi freedom; the family controls very expensive real estate in the paper’s name.
The ED is well within its rights to question them—Narendra Modi’s concurrent theme for years has been Congress corruption. Putting Rahul in jail for money laundering and land grabbing could be a good way to make the label stick. Given his past record on consistency, he might even fade away. But will the ED succeed in uniting the Congress when others have failed is a dangerous question to ask in this summer of discontent.
Congress geriatrics who are either excoriating each other or pleading with Amit Shah for a saffron gate pass are unanimously screaming persecution. Congress chief ministers, PCC presidents, MPs and MLAs have announced satyagraha (the wrong Gandhi this time, folks!), besieged offices of BJP chief ministers, and generally made a nuisance of themselves. Meanwhile, in Delhi, Rahul went the whole hog for optics. He arrived at the ED office heading an impressive convoy of heavy hitters, including P Chidambaram, who was himself a reluctant guest of the government, thanks to ED. The public show of strength indicates that the Gandhis are making the statement that they still embody the Congress and an attack on them is an attack on the party which still has a loyal vote base of about 20 percent.
Questions about the future inevitably produce irrevocable answers about the past. Rahul is perhaps incapable of making a comeback because he hasn’t left the Congress alone. Modi has spoken about a Congress-mukt Bharat while Family Disloyalists demand a Gandhi-mukt Congress. Should Rahul’s political career appear in the obit section of the National Herald, a Gandhi-mukt Bharat may end up being actually good for the Congress.