Rahul Gandhi needed stronger evidence to call Modi corrupt

Congress vice-president ended up rehashing the charges levelled by Arvind Kejriwal on November 15 in the Delhi Assembly.

 |  5-minute read |   23-12-2016
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Khoda pahad, nikli choohiya,” quipped P Chidambaram, former finance minister, when he was asked about the demonetisation decision of the Modi government in Nagpur on December 13. It was also a reference to the dwindling possibility of windfall gains accruing to the government as had been expected.

In the same vein, one would have to conclude that Rahul Gandhi made a mountain out of a molehill after promising earthquakes and making a song and dance about some “bulletproof” evidence he had in his possession against Prime Minister Modi.

After carefully choosing Mehsana in Gujarat, the home turf of the prime minister, to level the corruption charges, Gandhi only managed to highlight the allegations and documents that have been in the public domain for quite some time.

He ended up rehashing the charges levelled by Arvind Kejriwal on November 15 in the Delhi Assembly. The matter is currently being heard by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by activist Prashant Bhushan, who deserves the credit for raking it up after being swept under the carpet.

Gandhi alleged that as Gujarat chief minister, Modi received kickbacks to the tune of Rs 40 crore in nine instalments over a period of six months from Sahara. He also brought up the Birla diaries and an alleged part payment of Rs 12 crore, against an entry of Rs 25 crore against “Gujarat CM”, retrieved from the computer of a senior executive of the Aditya Birla group in a joint raid conducted by the CBI and the income tax department in 2013.

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Rahul Gandhi made a mountain out of a molehill after promising earthquakes.

Despite the anti-climax to the drama witnessed in Parliament, Gandhi’s charges seemed to have some effect on other parties as the press conferences that followed indicate.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was fielded by the BJP to defend the prime minister and he promptly rubbished the charges claiming the PM was as clean as the Ganga.

The Congress press conference followed and the contents in Rahul Gandhi’s speech were repeated once again, disappointing all those who had hoped some sensational evidence would be presented.

The Aam Aadmi Party too held a press conference where Kejriwal took pot-shots at Gandhi for repeating his allegations and waking up too late to them.

Similarly, Trinamool Congress too paid a backhanded compliment to Gandhi for raising something they claimed they were the first to raise a couple of weeks back.

Both these parties demanded either a CBI or an SIT inquiry monitored by the court. CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechuri and representatives of other opposition parties backed Gandhi’s charges with their tweets.

So, what has it achieved for the Congress party?

It is clear that the Birla and Sahara computer records had not been paid enough attention by the mainstream media, like, for instance, how they had pursued the AgustaWestland case despite the common factors.

The Congress is attempting to generate some noise on this issue, thereby bringing the clean image of the PM under a cloud. So, they are hoping that this might get the people to talk about the personal integrity of Modi.

But the more important question is, how does Rahul Gandhi emerge out of this episode?

There is no question that his credibility takes a huge hit as he failed to come up with any evidence of his own as he had promised. It’s not every day that the leaders of major parties raise allegations of this nature. By doing this, Gandhi has taken a leaf out of Arvind Kejriwal’s book thereby diminishing his stature.

There have been speculations online that more evidence is in the pipeline and would be broken in the days to come. But it seems highly unlikely after talking to people in the know.

This calls into question the strategy of the Congress party. It also raises questions on the kind of people that advise Rahul Gandhi as it also comes on the heels of his meeting the prime minister within 48 hours of making the serious charges which broke opposition unity and was regarded as a political blunder.

Does this mean that demonetisation as an issue will be relegated to the backburner? If so, that would make for an awful strategy even after the Congress was handed such a mammoth issue practically on a platter.

Despite all the bravado, the Chandigarh municipal polls indicate that demonetisation as an idea still resonates with the middle classes. What is the Congress doing about taking their plank of demonetisation as a disaster door to door?

Can the Congress still reap dividends by pitting the poor against the suited-booted class? What about the large chunk of the aspirational middle classes? Are their concerns being addressed?

Rahul Gandhi seems to be a man in a hurry of late. After putting in many cameo appearances through the years, he has finally taken charge of the party - short of formally taking over from his mother.

The problem is, he doesn’t seem to have people with the requisite shrewdness and political acumen around him to help strategise. Or perhaps, he doesn’t listen to them.

Either way, it is not a good omen for a party that is currently at its lowest point ever.

Also read: Mud appears on Modi’s image of a so far ‘incorruptible, clean leader’

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Anand Kochukudy Anand Kochukudy @anandkochukudy

The writer is a political journalist and lapsed academic.

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