Let us begin with a simple question. If, as the Congress boss Sonia Gandhi insists that Robert Vadra is a private citizen, then why does she and everyone else in the party feel obliged to defend him every time a new scandal involving him hits the headlines? The answer too is pretty simple. For all practical purposes, Vadra is a public person whose indefensible actions the Congress party feels duty-bound to defend because virtually all of these are inextricably linked to the fact that he is the son-in-law of the Congress president. Were he not married into the Congress’ First Family, what to talk of the crooked realtors and defence dealers, even a four-anna party worker would refuse to give him the time of the day. Period.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Sonia Gandhi has yet again risen in defence of her no-good son-in-law, who this past week featured in a brand-new scandal. This time it is a notorious liaison man for multi-crore defence deals whose dirty doings have landed the Congress’ son-in-law into a public scandal. A homeopath’s son, Sanjay Bhandari, switched trades to make humongous money through deal-making in defence purchases. And he enlisted the services of one man who had the capability to bend the UPA government to his will, namely, Robert Vadra.
Since the scandal about the incriminating e-mails revealing the benaami London home of the infamous son-in-law are already in the public domain, let us consider the defence of Vadra by his mother-in-law. Speaking in Rae Bareli the other day, she challenged the Narendra Modi government to investigate Vadra and to file charges if any evidence of wrongdoing was found.
The line of argument is familiar. P. Chidambaram had adopted the same to defend his son, Karti. In response to the remarks of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Chidambaram Sr, had said that instead of debating the alleged scams of Karti in Parliament, the right thing for the NDA government would be to launch prosecution in a court of law.
Such touching faith in the judiciary, far from revealing any desire to get at the truth in a plethora of corruption charges against the crooked sons and sons-in-law of powerful politicians, only exposes the inherently flawed justice system, which can be gamed through derailed investigations, misdirected prosecutions and unconscionable delays and diversionary tactics in courtrooms.
After all, the way the system failed to nail Sonia Gandhi’s close family friend, Ottavio Quattrochhi, the real bribe-taker in the Bofors scam, it can only give hope to every Karti Chidambaram and Robert Vadra to persist merrily in their sleazy ways. Governments can well change hands, but there is little prospect of justice system ever nailing the crooks, especially if they happen to be closely connected to powerful politicians or moneybags.
Indeed, our fear is that should somehow Dawood Ibrahim were to be caught, the system will fail to convict him (though a benign judge might ensure his detention in jail without bail for an indefinite period). It is unfortunate but true that justice is mostly meted out, if at all, to the poor and the helpless alone.
Corruption and politics having become inseparable twins, a vast majority of enormously wealthy politicians who are now household names had started life as dirt-poor candidates at the start of their careers.
Mahatma Gandhi was so disgusted with the corruption of the first lot of Congress ministers in the 1937 provincial governments that he threatened to sever his ties with the party, but was persuaded not to in the larger interest. Nehru failed to put even a single Congressman in jail despite the cancer of corruption spreading wide and far under his watch.
The point is that Congress politicians are very well experienced in deflecting the charges of corruption. When a Chidambaram or a Sonia Gandhi dares the Modi government to try their near and dear ones in a court of law they do not so much deny wrongdoing as they reveal their faith in a system which can be easily gamed to protect the wrongdoers.
In particular, Chidambaram should know that his sneering and superior manner does not at all mask the fact that in every ministerial charge he has held, beginning in the mid-1980s, he has figured in one or the other scandal.
He might have got away so far, but from all available evidence this time it might be hard to save his son.
Meanwhile, the voters cannot escape blame for encouraging political corruption. Unless they punish it at election time, there will be no disincentive against corrupt politicians. But the way political dynasties have flourished, from the Karunanidhis and the Pawars to Lalu and Mulayam Yadavs, and, of course, the Gandhis, it would seem that corruption is a non-issue, to be exploited by politicians to embarrass one another without actually anyone wanting to stamp it out.
Therefore, we are afraid, regardless of the seriousness of the latest charges against Vadra and Karti, nothing is likely to come out of them. They would go scot free, the real reason why Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi have such touching faith in the “system”.
FOCUS ON RAJYA SABHA
Following the ongoing biennial polls to the Rajaya Sabha, the Lok Sabha would further recede into the background as the top guns on both sides of the political divide concentrate on the Upper House. The Congress’ firepower will increase further with Chidambaram and, most likely, Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh bolstering the Opposition thunder.
It is however on the Samajwadi benches that more interesting things are set to happen. The return of the prodigal Amar Singh to Mulayam Singh’s party from his dil means that there will be frisson of excitement and tension in the SP ranks, with the incorrigible Singh seeking to dominate the proceedings. Samajwadi MPs such as Jaya Bachchan, Naresh Aggarwal, Ram Gopal Yadav, etc., having bitterly opposed the return of Singh, they might find themselves upstaged, particularly when he has a way with words and has the knack to insert himself in all situations promising high visibility. Happily, the Rajya Sabha might become the favoured forum for the display of real cut and thrust of parliamentary debate, with Arun Jaitley leading the charge from the ruling benches ably assisted by Smriti Irani and a number of newcomers, including Swapan Dasgupta, Subramanian Swamy, M.J. Akbar, etc. On the Congress side, though on the back-foot due to his dubious ministerial legacy, particularly the misdoings of his son, Chidambaram can still be relied upon to use an interesting turn of phrase in his haughty and overbearing manner. Both Sibal and Ramesh too are competent speakers though they often spoil their cause through great exaggeration. Remember Sibal and his “zero loss in 2-G scam” theory?
And you thought only politicians hold rent-a-crowd rallies? The Lawyers’ Collective—which till the other day, one had presumed, did pro bono work but one was disappointed to know it was not true—received enormous foreign funds and used some of them to hire people for organising protest demonstrations, paying them fees plus money for lunch for a few hours of slogan-shouting and placard-displaying. This was not expected from someone like Indira Jaising, an additional solicitor general in the UPA government. Besides, it was questionable whether using foreign funds for private foreign jaunts was kosher with the donors.
Our quarrel with the NGOwallas is simple: Want to do good, improve the lot of the people, save humanity from sinners and evil-doers. Very well, do it by all means. But do it on your time and with your money. Taking money to do good only means, in a majority of cases, a lack of opportunities elsewhere. Kaam na chaley to social worker ban ja is the new slogan of the entrepreneurs of the cottage industry of NGOs.