Rahul Gandhi: Is He Fit For The top Job?

Published : Apr 30, 2019 05:29 pm | By: M D Sridharan

The Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his attempt to garner votes, has gone too far and stooped too low with a bunch of lies targeting Prime Minister Modi and is unbecoming of an aspirant for the top job.

Every political party talks about “eradicating corruption” and corruption continues to be the main focus during elections be it the ruling or the opposition. It is nothing new, this time also as the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress,  the country’s two national parties are gearing up for a pitched battle, corruption remains an important agenda. While the Congress has raised many other issues, its President Rahul Gandhi has taken the Rafale deal as the prime focus and has been constantly attacking the Prime Minister Modi of direct involvement in the deal favouring a businessman.

Though it is natural for the political parties to take advantage of any misdeeds of its opponents and attempt to milk it to the fullest to paint them in bad light apparently to garner more votes, in Rafale’s case it is very clear that the Congress is trying its best to build a perception that Rafale deal is a scam much like Bofors.

In tune with the party’s stand, right from its President to the local leaders all are engaged in building a narrative against Narendra Modi and linking him with Anil Ambani.  Especially, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi has taken up the “Rafale Deal” as the potential weapon and is pulling all strings to attack Modi and paint him as “corrupt”. Rahul Gandhi has continued his tirade against Modi and BJP in every political stage and in effect made the Rafale deal   as the main political campaign of his 2019 campaign.

Rahul Gandhi continues to openly taunt  'chowkidar chor hai' at Modi and has gone on record several times in the past couple of months that Narendra Modi is corrupt and will face charges of 'wrongdoing'. Clearly Rahul Gandhi sends the message loud and clear. The Rafale deal remains the primary agenda for the Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and is using it as the Brahmastra against Modi

SC and Secret Files

Earlier the Supreme Court has given a clean chit to the Centre on the Rs 58,000 crore contract with French company Dassault and dismissed all the writ petitions. The Supreme Court bench judgement clearly stated: “We found no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar deal and also observed that there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity on the issue of offset partner and found no merit in claims that there was huge escalation of costs”. Despite the apex court’s clearance on three contentious issues raised by the Congress and made into subject of the petitions against the government,  Rahul Gandhi continued to rake up the Rafale deal in every political meetings.

Subsequently a report published by “The Hindu”  claimed that the decision by Prime Minister Modi to buy 36 Rafales shot the price of each jet up by 41% . The report accused the PMO of conducting parallel parleys and stated that the increase in Rafale's price was due to the involvement of the Prime Minister Modi who bypassed certain mandated procedures.

 Quoting the report by The Hindu”, , former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the Modi government had ‘wronged’ the country and ensured a windfall for Dassault Aviation, manufacturers of the Rafale fighters. Indeed, “The Hindu” deliberately cropped off an internal note of the Ministry of Defence to exclude the then Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s response and published the report. But Soon, ANI  published the full page of the original note that contained the reply by defence minister Manohar Parrikar to the note which “The Hindu” conveniently chopped off.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) termed The Hindu’s report as “factually inaccurate” and pointed out that all issues have been answered in detail by the government and also by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament. Further, the MoD referred the Supreme Court verdict on the issue and said the apex court had not found “anything adverse in the deal” and had refused to order an investigation.

While the Congress continued its attempt to keep the Rafale campaign going on and its chief Rahul dig up the jet deal time and again, the ruling BJP has countered the Congress campaign by alleging that it is trying to flog a dead horse and playing into the hands of multi-national corporations and with vested interests keeping the issue alive.

While opposition based on The Hindu’s report maintained that the Narendra Modi government sabotaged India’s negotiating position and sold the country in the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan filed a petition seeking review of the court’s December 2018 verdict dismissing the need for a CBI inquiry into the obviously shady deals. Petitioner Prashant Bhushan demanded that government officials be punished for perjury as they had earlier submitted erroneous facts in sealed cover notes to the apex court, on which the court had relied for its December 2018 verdict.

The petition was based on the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) documents published by The Hindu that were “stolen” from the Defence Ministry. Attorney General KK Venugopal  argued before the court that the papers were leaked, unauthorisedly photocopied, and that they “are sensitive to National Security which relates to war capacity of combat aircraft”.  “These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry by some former employee and the investigation is ongoing. These documents are marked secret and were published by two newspapers, which is an offence under the Official Secrets Act, the AG was quoted as saying. The government had threatened to invoke Official Secrets Act against The Hindu  and other publication that had brought the contents into public domain) and subsequently,

The apex court dismissed the Centre’s objections claiming "privilege" over confidential documents "illegally published" by The Hindu concerning the Rafale fighter jet deal and agreed to include them while hearing the review petition in the case. By admitting these documents and rejecting the government’s objection, the Supreme Court gave fresh impetus to the Rafale case bang in the middle of the Lok Sabha election. However, the apex court’s decision was technical and by no means a judgment on the larger Rafale case.

Contempt of Court and Regret

Soon after the Supreme Court ruled that the Rafale review petition could use leaked defence ministry documents that the government had urged it to not consider, Rahul Gandhi saw it as an opportune political moment and sought to press home his advantage. He jumped in to claim that the apex court had validated his accusation and told reporters in Amethi that “Supreme Court has accepted that there is some form of corruption in the Rafale deal and ‘Chowkidar ne chori karwayi hai’ (the watchman has got the theft done)”.

Rahul Gandhi claimed that the apex court has made it “clear” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “committed a theft”.  “I am happy and I have been saying so for months that Hindustan’s PM has given the air force money to  Anil Ambani, and the SC has accepted it. The SC is going to investigate it,” Gandhi had said. “I want to thank the SC. It’s a very happy day. The SC has talked about justice. Justice has prevailed,” he had added.

The BJP promptly slammed Rahul Gandhi. Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had accused Rahul of "perpetrating lies" and also accused Rahul Gandhi of committing contempt of court by passing false statements about the Supreme Court verdict concerning Centre's objections on confidential documents in the Rafale deal case.  Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad urged the Election Commission to take serious cognisance of the Congress chief’s statements after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Rafale review petition on 10 April.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi took the Congress chief to court by filing a contempt petition.  Lehik's petition read“the words used and attributed by him (Gandhi) to the Supreme Court in the Rafale case has been made to appear something else. He is replacing his personal statement as Supreme Court’s order and trying to create prejudice”. She also requested the apex court to take criminal action against him. 

The Supreme Court was irked by the cavalier attitude of Rahul Gandhi – the  “Prime Ministerial” candidate. The Supreme Court  said it never passed a judgment on the Rafale review plea on 10 April and had only admitted three sets of documents as “evidence” whose veracity was questioned by the Centre. The Supreme Court bench, in its order said that the court "had no occasion to record any such views or make observations in as much as what was decided by this court was the legal admissibility of certain document to which objections were raised". The order also said that "no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the Court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court". The apex court observed the way in which Rahul seemingly distorted its views and sought to put a political spin to the court’s decision. The apex court sent a notice to Rahul Gandhi asking him to give an explanation over his remarks on the Rafale case.

Finally, a cornered Gandhi, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court said, his statement with regard to Rafale was "purely political" and was made to counter the "misinformation campaign" being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the government that the December 14 last year judgment gave a "clean chit" to the Modi government on the Rafale deal.

In his 26-page affidavit, Rahul Gandhi said: "My statement was made in the heat of political campaigning. It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this Court had said 'Chowkidar Chor Hai'.

It is not just a small mistake for the president of a national political party to “misquote” the Supreme Court and attribute his own political statements to a bench’s observations amid the elections. Using the Supreme Court is a clear case of a cynical strategy to gain maximum advantage to his onslaught on Modi. Even in his affidavit he has not been apologetic but only expressed regret.

Experts opine that Rahul Gandhi should not be allowed to simply walk away with “regret” after misquoting the Supreme Court. Has he not set a bad precedent by twisting the Supreme Court’s words to suit political needs?   Does it not pave the way for deliberate erosion of institutional credibility in future? Further, when the Election Commission went ahead in banning  Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath and  Maneka Gandhi, why it is silent on Rahul Gandhi, when such statements are bound to sway the minds of the electorate that too in the middle of the general election.

Is He Fit For The Top Job?

Though the apex court’s notice may not mean much in terms of criminal proceedings against Rahul Gandhi, but certainly it did damage his credibility.  Let’s not forget that initially the man was labelled as a “reluctant politician”.  Slowly and steadily the Gandhi scion was thrust in to the main stream politics by his mother and a host of trusted lieutenants of the Congress and eventually the dynast was anointed as the President of the grand old party.  Unfortunately, after decades of apprenticeship, Rahul Gandhi is yet to prove his mettle as a true leader. After losing a string of 13 elections, he managed to taste success in 2018. Only a dynast could achieve such a feat.

Yet time and again he fails to stand up to the tough demands of politics and often gets exposed with his limited knowledge on various issues and lands in trouble.  A little rewind exposes his sustained attack on the Modi government.  He went on record in that his speech would cause an earthquake in Parliament. In 2018 after completing his speech during the debate on the no-confidence motion against the NDA government, he rushed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hugged him. Live camera showed that he winked at a fellow Congress MP after hugging the PM which clearly exposed his drama. Promptly, he received flak from the Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, for his “hug and wink” act. Since then Rahul Gandhi has made one thing a regular affair: Levelling a host of allegations against Modi and his government.

Look at the amount of damage he has already done to Congress.  A year back in May 2018, there was euphoria in the grand old party. Having joined hands with JD(S) and willingly playing the second fiddle in an apparent move to thwart BJP’s claim to power in Karnataka, the Congress united the entire opposition unanimously in forming Mahagathbandhan that vowed to take on BJP in 2019 general elections. In less than a year Rahul stands completely isolated and every Opposition leader of repute  be it Mayawati, Akilesh Yadav, Chandrababau Naidu, Mamata Bannerjee, Arvind Kejriwal all openly opposed to his candidature for Prime Minister’s post   and expressed their dissent to fight under Congress leadership. In less than year he had lots of twists and turns and today Congress stands isolated.

Instead of  talking about the kind of  political stability that the Congress party can  bring to the  nation, the efforts it can put towards in  nation building, the ways to improve the  economic growth etc., Rahul Gandhi has targeted the Prime Minister Modi and in the process gone overboard with lies and lies. Throughout the 2019 election campaign, Rahul Gandhi continuously accused the Modi government for having treated shabbily all institutions be it SC, CBI, ED and EC and even the Army.  But, in fact it was he who has brought disrepute to these institutions with his barbs undermining their importance.

Alleging a scam in the Rafale fighter jet deal, Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly described the prime minister as a “chor (thief)” and demanded the registration of an FIR against him. “Dear PM, Have you no shame at all? You stole 30,000 Cr and gave it to your friend Anil,” the Congress president said in a tweet earlier. “He’s an incompetent man who listens to nobody,” he said in a tweet. He has often used derogatory language to attack Modi and even slammed the entire community by raising a question: “Why are all Modis thieves”?  

Rahul Gandhi has become a habitual liar. Right from Justice Loya case to Rafael deal, the Congress chief has uttered lies after lies.  He even framed BJP Chief Amit Shah in Sohrabuddin case. He is already facing criminal defamation case by RSS for his claims that the RSS killed Mahatma Gandhi. The Modi Samaj has also dragged him to court for his “thieves” remark on the entire community. His insinuation on SC proceedings and constant attack on crony capitalism are considered as political busters and have not been taken lightly by the public. Each time Rahul Gandhi had a Press conference, he peddled a lie.  After so many lies by Rahul Gandhi and then they being exposed, certainly the Citizens of India are bored and fed up.

In his enthusiasm to corner Modi and make a political capital out of it, the Congress president has shown enormous amount of immaturity. He certainly lacks the depth of depth of knowledge and often covers it up with bunch of lies. The way he has gone up against Modi in a most cynical way and got completely exposed of his cynical attitude. Some of his barbs have even left a section of Congress leaders unhappy. Some of the words he used to attack Prime Minister Modi does not behove neither the post he holds nor the one he aspires for.

Some people compared his onslaught on Rafale deal to the kind of attack  VP Singh launched against his father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on Bofors. But,   V P Singh,  was very much a Cabinet Minister under Rajiv Gandhi and openly criticised him on the Bofors deal. More importantly, V P  Singh was not only personally incorruptible and his moral authority was very high. He also gave up his cabinet position to fight against Rajiv Gandhi. But, in case of Rahul Gandhi he is already out on bail in National Herald case. Besides the shadow of Bofors and many other scams hangs over the party leaders that includes his Mother and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi. His continued personalised, no-holds-barred attacks on Modi, has made people to start comparing him with not the former Prime Minister V.P. Singh but the present Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

In his eagerness to break the perception about the corruption-free image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi is addicted to talk about Modi in every political campaign.  With repeated distortions, bluffs and rebukes, he has lost the trust factor in the minds of the general public.  With repeated false claims, Rahul Gandhi has made it difficult for the electorate to take the charges seriously.

Little did he realise that much of his statements and accusations have boomeranged. On many occasions, he has exposed himself of his calibre and thus the level of his maturity a potential Prime Ministerial candidate. It is unbecoming of a President of a national party to stoop low time and again. The Congress president’s repeated flippant and cavalier behaviour has really triggered a debate on the level of his maturity and the capability for the country’s top job.  The question in everyone’s mind is he a potential competitor for Modi?

But, in reality, his barbs and rebukes are used by the BJP to further raise questions against his  credibility. Of course, in a presidential mode of election, the credibility of the candidates carries great significance. While Modi is consistently shown as a trusted figure among the electorate in various surveys., Rahul has failed to live up to his role as a challenger.

In Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s words: “When senior leaders like the president of the Indian National Congress speak, there is sanctity to every word that they speak. But, Rahul Gandhi had no qualms in taking liberty with the truth and of late, he has made a daily routine of making recklessly false statements”. When public leaders express regret over their public statement that we lied to the people, it's an issue of credibility of such leaders".

After all politics is all about ideology. Winning and losing are inevitable in elections and that too in a democracy the people’s mandate is final. It is highly essential for a person who aspires for the top job must act responsibly in both words and actions.  The offensive discourses of Rahul Gandhi  makes it clear that he has run out of fresh ideas to mount an effective challenge to Modi.  Now, in the midst of the election, no amount of high-octane PR campaign may undo the damage which has already been done. It is time for the Congress President to do a complete reconciliation on the ways he is conducting his politics.

 

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