Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s words – “I’m Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law” – are ominous. We all know what the nation had to go through when a single judge of the Allahabad High Court had indicted Indira. Then, as the Lutyens’ folklore goes, she went by the personal advise of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, more a friend and confidante than a lawyer – waking up the President late at night to sign on the dotted line of the Emergency Ordinance. Though the Congress wasn’t short of legal luminaries even then – none came out pouncing on the Allahabad High Court judgement, nor did MPs create pandemonium in Parliament.
But now a mere order for personal appearance in court has all the legal eagles of Congress hyperventilating in public, making insinuations of political vendetta, that borders precariously on the edge of contempt of court. One also doesn’t recall either of Indira Gandhi’s two sons holding out threats akin to “I shall reply in the Parliament” – though the younger one, Sanjay, did emerge from behind the curtains much later when the Emergency was well underway (so, there may be some merit in the view that Rahul is cast more in the mould of his uncle than the father).
Congress MPs – loyal subjects of the Queen as they are – brought both houses of Parliament to a halt with cries of political conspiracy and witch hunt and putting at stake the already fragile fate of the winter session.
One shudders to think if this is happening when the Congress is out of power and down with 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha, what would the worthy “Bahu” have done following her revered Sasu-Ma’s footsteps if the UPA were ruling today.
Yet, this is the same Congress that swears by the independence of judiciary and asserts authorship rights over the Constitution. “Let the law take its own course” and “the guilty be punished” are pet phrases of Congress leaders when it comes to people other than their own royalty. Thus, even the redoubtable Lalu Prasad had to spend a few days tending to the gardens of Ranchi Jail, not to forget lesser allies like A Raja and Kanimozhi who were long-stay house-guests at Tihar. Of course, Narendra Modi is considered convicted without any court having pronounced him so and Amit Shah’s sentence only reinforced people’s faith in the country’s judicial system.
It can be argued that such an exaggerated reaction of the Congress and its first family only points towards guilt and real fear of exposure. If the Gandhis and the many star lawyers in the Congress’ fold are so supremely confident of their case, why should they be afraid of going through the due process of law? But that is going into the realms of speculation of a matter that is still sub judice.
Similarly, it would be disingenuous to suggest that this entire development is a ploy by Narendra Modi’s detractors in and outside the BJP to derail his “truce” efforts for getting the GST Bill passed and make his position even more vulnerable post the Bihar election setback.
What is most worrying, however, is how easily the anti-BJP political spectrum and a large section of the media have bought into the “vendetta” theory, ignoring the implication on the stature of the judiciary. They don’t seem to be a wee bit worried that it reveals an imperialist mindset of a dynasty that considers itself to be the natural rulers of this country and, therefore, by definition above the law. So, anything from allegations of land grab against the son-in-law or bending state government laws for construction of summer retreats in the hills to misappropriation of trust funds is turned on its head by a single-point counter-accusation of political vengeance.
People who are constantly crying wolf about the spectre of Emergency being imposed again would do well to pause and reflect. For all his perceived flaws, Narendra Modi has never run away from the law. He has faced trials – albeit with the best of legal defence anyone is entitled to – and come out acquitted. Nor has Modi tried to bypass the judiciary to get even with his political adversaries. Even assuming that the BJP (like many other governments before him) has used investigating agencies for political ends, it has always deferred to the courts (Teesta Setalvad being a case in point).
Therefore, those concerned about the fate of democracy in India need to seriously ponder whether the nation is safer in the hands of a democratically elected homegrown chai-wallah who may have graduated to wearing monogrammed suits or a woman who has devolved from sable coats to cotton sarees, but whose natural upbringing makes her coded genetically to fiercely protect the family’s existence – perhaps, the very same quality she so admired in her mother-in-law.