What a pity they don’t have someone like Robert Mueller. The former FBI director is now investigating the links between Trump’s election campaign and the Russians. If they had one, we are sure, the recently re-energised Rahul Gandhi—Naya Rahul, not unlike the Naya Lux of the pre-liberalisation days—would have got him to investigate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign connection.
Otherwise, how would you explain to the Congress’ de facto boss why these foreigners keep on lauding Modi. First, it was the World Bank. Last month, it had the gumption to certify that Modi has made doing business easier, raising India’s ranking a good 30 notches among 190 countries. At that time, Gandhi as also his minions had duly questioned the WB findings, trying to poke holes in its methodology. They failed to see what the Bank saw, rubbishing the findings. Despite such harsh criticism, the foreign agencies failed to take the Congress’ criticism on board.
Now another US-based investment ratings agency, the Moody’s, has gone and done it. After maintaining India’s credit rating unchanged at Baa 3 for 14 long years, it has raised it to Baa3. Like Gandhi said when the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business report came last month, the whole thing seems to be a conspiracy against the Congress Party. Modi is being helped by foreigners with an eye on the coming Gujarat poll, which, Gandhi believes, he is all set to win.
As we said, if Trump used the Russians to win the Presidential poll, you cannot rule out Modi relying on the World Bank and the Moody’s to bolster his prospects in Gujarat. At least, this is what the Congress leaders seem to think. Will wait for the gems of wisdom P. Chidambaram spews weekly to know how they perceive the Moody’s perfidy, especially when it did not care to raise it when he was the Finance Minister. There has to be some dal mein kala, honestly.
Never mind the detailed reasoning that underpins these findings of the Bank and the Moody’s. Constraints of space wouldn’t allow us to mention these even briefly, but it must be acknowledged by anyone with a modicum of common sense that the Modi government has pursued major economic reforms, even if incrementally, without let or hindrance, unmindful of the opposition from the usual suspects, the Opposition and the vested interests who find their gravy train halted abruptly by the spotlight on tax transparency and accountability that has the sleazebags scurrying for cover, seeking shelter under the now tattered UPA tent. That is probably the real reason why the Congress does not find the Bank’s ease-of-doing-business report credible.
Anyway, the new Rahul, the confident Rahul, believes he can overcome the twin shocks from the World Bank and the Moody’s. After all, he has three able lieutenants in Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani—or simply HAJ, as the BJP mischievously clubs the trio together. Having outsourced the leadership of the Gujarat Congress to the three, Rahul feels it necessary to defend their most egregious behaviour in public, lest they dump the Congress. While Alpesh was all along with the Congress Party, and Mevani refuses to openly join it, it is Hardik on whom the Gandhi scion is depending the most to deliver the election to him on a platter. But Hardik, whom Harish Khare, the venerable editor of the Tribune describes rather elegantly as “a pain in the lower backside of the BJP”, is turning out to be a liability for various reasons, not necessarily due to those sex CDs and drinking sessions.
Buying damaged goods for a party impoverished of all talent seems to have become a habit with the Gandhis, but in the case of Gujarat, it was an absolute necessity. With lightweights helming the Gujarat Congress, playing second fiddle to the likes of Hardik Patel might have become unavoidable. But the conservative Gujarati voter, particularly the Patels, who have traditionally voted for the BJP anyway, are unlikely to be under any compulsion to heed Hardik’s SOS, especially when reservations for the community remains a pipedream, despite Kapil Sibal’s lawyerly jiggery-pokery to befuddle the callow youths of the Patidar campaign.
Again, repeated forays into Surat by Rahul Gandhi might have further egged on the diamond and textile merchants for them to persist with their zero-tax operations—and might have even caused the Finance Ministry to give them some slack—but despite all the bluster and noise, it is unlikely to convert into votes for the Congress Party. The major trading hub, now with the added distinction of having replaced Kolkata as the shell-company capital in the country, has enjoyed one long tax holiday all these years. With Modi keen to enforce transparency in business and industry, bashing GST as Gabbar Singh Tax was clearly an irresponsible act, even as the World Bank and the Moody’s endorse GST as a progressive measure.
But to return to the re-launch of the Congress scion for the nth time, we believe the outcome in Gujarat will have a huge impact on his viability as a leader. A bad mauling yet again would put paid to all the efforts his background minders, aided and abetted, no doubt, by a section of the media, have put in the last couple of months, beginning with his foray into public speaking in the US. Therefore, it is a mistake to invest too much on a grand Congress showing in Gujarat, though, to be fair, the party at no stage had claimed to be in contention in Himachal Pradesh.
Unfortunately, the ingrained sycophantic culture in the Congress Party colours the judgement of even those who ought to know better. For instance, the NRI technocrat Sam Pitroda. Asked whether Rahul was being re-launched, he denied it outright. That is alright, but what he went on to say in an interview to a prominent English daily truly reflects what ails the Grand Old Party, that is, you cannot speak truth to the Leader.
For proof, read what Pitroda said—and consider that such cloying talk could have as easily come out from the mouth of any member of the party: “…he is very educated, sincere, he meditates, he thinks a lot, and sometimes I think he thinks too much. He reads a lot and he is a scholar. I will give you an example, during his recent trip in the US, he spent 90 minutes with a top scholar on Islam, another 90 minutes with a top scholar on China and North Korea…”
Just one question: Where is this Rahul Gandhi of Sam Pitroda’s imagination? We will know the answer on 18 December when the ballot boxes in Gujarat and Himachal are opened.
And now the Modi jackets
We have heard of Nehru jackets, even Rajiv Gandhi kurtas, but no other apparel associated with a former Prime Minister. Now we can report, the Modi jackets are selling like the proverbial hot cakes, especially in Gujarat. It seems at least two prominent tailoring outfits in the twin cities of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad are doing roaring business, selling old-fashioned half-jackets with the Modi label prominently stitched in the inner layer. A retired Gujarat cadre IAS officer, who happened to be in Gandhinagar recently, came back with two, apparently presented to him by his old cadre-mates, and, we confess, this columnist is now a proud owner of one of them. It is fine, except that it is supposed to command value because of that all-important sticker behind the collar.