Prime Minister Narendra Modi should go beyond theatrics in taunting his tormentor, the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi has been going to town repeatedly with the charge that Modi took bribes from the Aditya Birla group and Sahara — without mincing words.
The charge may not stick in the court of law as already diary and excel sheet entries have been held as insufficient evidence by the Supreme Court. Prashant Bhushan would find it extremely difficult to produce clinching evidence given the past experience with such cases. But that would be a cold comfort for Modi.
Already there are whispers that Gandhi has succeeded in getting under Modi’s skin and rattled him sufficiently. A section of public opinion including the intelligentsia and the middle class, howsoever miniscule, might even be swayed by Gandhi’s diatribe.
Nitin Gadkari, Modi’s cabinet colleague, led the way in showing how to redeem one’s good name - he has so far been successful in extracting unconditional apologies from his tormentors before withdrawing defamation cases he had filed against them or threatened to file against them.
Arun Jaitley, another colleague of Modi in the Cabinet, has taken a leaf out of Gadkari’s book and dragged Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to court with a defamation case in the DDCA case.
|The RSS redeemed its stock by almost succeeding in getting a retraction from Rahul Gandhi. Credit: Reuters|
Stung and clearly petrified, Kejriwal is reportedly suing for peace, but Jaitley wants to put the upstart politician in his place.Kejriwal does not go public with his wild allegations against the rich and famous and the powerful, but chooses the confines of the Delhi Assembly that confer on him immunity against defamation suits.
For a while it appeared Gandhi would emulate the chastened Delhi chief minister by alleging bribe taking on the part of Modi in the safe confines of Lok Sabha. But he has chosen instead to go public after all, perhaps in the hope that it would get him more traction.
Modi knows that if push comes to shove, the charge of bribe taking would not stick because as politicians can easily shrug off such charges by calling the amount received as donation to the political party they are part of.
Donations, strangely enough, beget the public’s and even the cognoscenti’s indulgence. Political parties have this Teflon quality — they not only enjoy income tax exemption, but are also exempt from the purview of the Right To Information Act.
So much so an aura of secrecy and opacity marks their activities. Things might change, but as it is political parties succeed in their shenanigans through the sheer expedient of clinging together and defying changes.
But Modi should not count on such wiggle room. He should call Gandhi’s bluff by filing a defamation case.
To be sure, the defamation suit is a double-edged sword as the trial court would call for all the papers and evidence. Only a person confident of his grounds and not suffering a troubled conscience can dare his tormentor thus.
In other words, the defamation case is not for the weak-kneed or those with a shady past.
He should have the moral, intellectual and physical courage to stand up to the rigorous scrutiny done by the trial judge and the defendant. Apart from his powerful oratory, Modi enjoys a reputation for impeccable and unimpeachable integrity. His detractors concede in private that he may be arrogant and dictatorial, but he is honest.
This reputation has kept him in good stead and the nation by and large has stood by him when his detractors pilloried him for starting an ill-thought out demonetisation scheme which, in his perception, is a frontal attack on black money.
He should not allow this reputation to be besmirched even by innuendoes and philosophical rationalisations about the impossibility of politicians to remain immune from corruption.
The RSS redeemed its stock by almost succeeding in getting a retraction from Rahul Gandhi. He had alleged the RSS played a direct role in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
The latter has not withdrawn the defamation case against him despite his near retraction. Modi then has several examples to emulate, most of them from his own Cabinet and political and cultural alma mater.