School of Thought

BJP's non-stop attack shows it's still scared of the Gandhis

Why were there no page one stories on Amit Shah's Rs 3,875 rent for a sprawling eight-bedroom house in Lutyens' Delhi?

 |  School of Thought  |  5-minute read |   17-04-2016
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The obsession with which the BJP government at the Centre keeps getting after the leadership of the Congress, including those members of the Nehru-Gandhi family who are not even in active politics, shows the dread with with the party views the Gandhis.

From cheaply faked letters of Indian's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to former British prime minister Clement Attlee on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, to irrelevant plants on Nehru-Sardar Patel relationship, this government has made it its raison d'être to demolish the Nehruvian edifice.

The National Herald case, in itself a non-starter, was hyped up in an insane haste to taint the Nehru-Gandhi family. In the National Herald case, the most common business practice of converting debt into equity was followed by Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in favour of a Section 25 company, Young Indian.

Also read: Why did Rahul Gandhi even bother to visit Rajasthan?

The law prohibits any profit to the directors or shareholders of a Section 25 company. No asset of AJL was transferred to Young Indian. The Election Commission of India found nothing illegal in the loan extended by the Congress to Young Indian.

Incidentally, the saga of the BJP mouthpiece Tarun Bharat went unnoticed in the din of non-issues conveniently whipped up by this government. The BJP extended a loan to a "for profit company" called Shree Multimedia Vision Limited (SMVL), violating the IT and other laws.

pri_041716062936.jpg Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was harassed over the rent of her government accomodation. 

A sitting minister in the Maharashtra cabinet, Vinod Tawde, is the director of SMVL - another violation of the guidelines of the ministry of home affairs on the requirement by ministers to "sever all connections with management and conduct of any business..."

Union minister Nitin Gadkari forgets to mention in his election affidavit that he is a shareholder in SMVL. Both Tawde and Gadkari have got away despite violating multiple laws. If Tawde and Gadkari were Vinod Gandhi or Nitin Gandhi, an Arnab Goswami would have got a pay hike for his dutiful prime time attacks on them.

Also read: How Modi's Congress-mukt Bharat dream is becoming a reality

The likes of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy not only get away with murder in broad daylight of truth and fair play, they get rewarded with a bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi for raking up the National Herald issue. And what are the grounds for this inxplicable allotment? Security. What is the rent of the accommodation he gets? No questions. No media. No RTI (right to information).

Between 1984 and 1991, India lost both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (both former prime ministers). One at the hands of the security and the other despite the security. Subsequent governments began to take a serious relook at VVIP security.

Internationally adopted models of security were studied and adopted. Security protocols have become understandably exacting, both for the protectees and those who interact with them.

So much so that at times the Special Protection Group (SPG) often gets accused of insulating the leader from his or her followers. The sanitised zones at public meetings not only increase the visual distance between the two, they actually do not cut the leaders off from the people. The protectee has no say in the level of security detail.

sonia-rahul_041716063354.jpg Sonia and Rahul Gandhi appeared in court in the National Herald case.  

In a cheap display of petty politics, stories got planted in newspapers on how Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had expressed her inability to pay the "market rent" for the government accommodation she occupies.

In 1996, Priyanka had taken a rented accommodation in south Delhi. Having paid the advance rent, renovations were started. Before she could move into the house, the Director of SPG informed her of the decision taken by the security establishment of disallowing her from taking up a security non-compliant accommodation.

The Cabinet secretariat, through the SPG, directed her to occupy a government accommodation for which she, along with other occupants of government accommodations on similar grounds, started paying the market rent/special licence fee.

In 2002, Priyanka, KPS Gill (former Punjab Police DGP), MS Bitta (former Indian Youth Congress president) and Punjab Kesri's Ashwani Kumar Minna were surprised to see a 90 per cent increase in the rent under a new head - "Damages rate meant for unauthorised occupants of government accommodation".

All of the above were living in houses allotted to them by the government based on the decision of the Cabinet secretariat on security grounds. Thus, the "damages rate" was not applicable on them, as they were not "unauthorised occupants". This anomaly was brought to the notice of the ministry of urban development by the occupants.

The ever resourceful Minna did not stop at representations. He met then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and not only got the mistake rectified but also got the rent reduced from Rs 28,000 to Rs 8,000.

Where, in this entire story, is the wrongdoing on the part of Priyanka? Or for that matter, on the part of any of the others living in government bungalows under the same category?

A section of the media may choose to become "His Masters' Voice", but the masters get exposed every time they indulge in celebrity discrimination - being unfair to someone just because he or she is born into a particular family. Why were there no page one stories on BJP president Amit Shah's Rs 3,875 rent for a sprawling eight-bedroom house on Akbar Road in New Delhi?

For a leader, like for everyone else, there are two ways of overcoming one's diminutive persona. The size of your contribution becomes so big that it becomes impossible to ignore you.

And the other is the Arvind Kejriwal school of thought - the shortcut to overcoming your lilliputian identity is to bring down others around you who appear colossal. The BJP has chosen the shortcut.


Pawan Khera Pawan Khera @pawankhera

Political Analyst working with the Indian National Congress

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