NEW DELHI: The fight was short and sweet: Kapil Sibal began his arguments at 2.55 pm and bail was granted barely a quarter of an hour later. Swamy tweeted, “I did not oppose bail today, only opposed exemption. Thus the accused all produced bail for `50,000. No exemption. No bail boast?” He described the scene inside the courtroom, “When the Gandhis entered, they were made to stand in a corner where the accused are supposed to be. They were not allowed to sit except for Motilal Vora.”
Gandhi family politics has always depended on symbolism—royalty surrounded by loyalists. Priyanka Gandhi in a casual kurta with a blue silk scarf stylishly worn around her neck and husband Robert Vadra in a sharply cut suit, ringed by Abhishek Manu Saghvi, Ambika Soni, Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ajay Maken, Mira Kumar, Mukul Wasnik, Ashwani Kumar, Rajeev Shukla, Kumari Shelja, Mohsina Kidwai, Oscar Fernandes, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Jagdish Tytler and other luminaries provided a perfect photo-op of Congress revival. The message was: we are not afraid. However, they also played down the hype. Singhvi told reporters, “All this hype and hoopla was unnecessary by the press. In deference and great respect to the court, we all appeared through counsel and each of the accused appeared except accused number six Sam Pitroda who has a medical problem.”
Bail was also given to Congress treasurer Vora, Gandhis’ family friend Suman Dubey and Fernandes on personal bonds of `50,000 and a surety of the same amount each. Antony stood surety for Sonia while Priyanka gave surety for Rahul.
Swamy opposed the bail pleas saying the Gandhis and others can flee from justice. He has declared that he will see them brought to justice in 2016. Congress leader and senior counsel Sibal, who appeared on behalf of the Congress leaders, told reporters that the court rejected Swamy’s plea to impose restrictions on their travel abroad.
“We moved an application before the court on behalf of all the accused for grant of bail. The court was kind enough to grant bail without conditions except for furnishing security in the sum of Rs.50,000 on behalf of each of the accused which were furnished,” Sibal told reporters after the hearing.
Hundreds of Congress supporters thronged the office of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Saturday here immediately after Sonia Gandhi and Rahul reached the party headquarters at Ashoka Road.
Gandhi told the press, “The Central Government is misusing government agencies to target the opponents. We are not afraid. Our fight will continue. Our struggle for Congress policies and in the interest of the poor will continue.”
Rahul contributed his bit saying “I and Congress will not bend. We will continue to struggle for the poor.” Even the mild-mannered Manmohan Singh disclosed the tiger within by saying, “We will fight and we will give determined fight because of certain values, certain ideas and certain ideals, and nobody can reject the Congress party from that part.”
The workers had celebrated the bail with patriotic songs.
Swamy, the lone petitioner in the National Herald case, denied he had spoken to the Prime Minister about the National Herald case. “I have never taken appointment in his (Modi’s) office... In fact, I have never spoken to the prime minister verbally on this matter,” he told reporters after the hearing.
The Gandhis did not ask for exemption from appearance in the trial. A senior Congress strategist later quipped, “What’s the hurry? Why do you want all the developments together?” The challenge before the Gandhis will be to keep agitational politics going, both within court and the streets, as well as Parliament. The recent consensus in the Rajya Sabha—except for GST—is to show that the Gandhis are working in the national interests. With the coming array of state elections starting early next year, where the BJP is not expected to fare well, the Congress plans to capitalise on the headstart bail has given them.