Now for a pro vs rookie battle

The only people feigning surprise at the coronation of the Crown Prince in Jaipur were Congressmen. Everyone else had cottoned on early to what the Chintan Shivir was all about. Rahul Gandhi, the perennial non-starter of Indian politics, despite beginning at the very top, was to be accorded the de jure status as number two to his illness-stricken mother. The control of the Firm needs must stay within the Family. Never mind the fiction about him being a reluctant politician. Or fearful about being consumed by power. It is an old charade with the family to pretend to shun power while doing everything moral and amoral to pursue it.

As for the lesser Congress men and women, well, they behaved as expected, that is as courtiers, one even seeing Obama in the Gandhi scion. They shed tears when the newly-anointed helmsman took them on an emotional roller-coaster ride, leavening his pre-scripted declamation with references to his father, grandmother and, of course, his mother. Truly, the address was an ode to the family. The only one of significance in the family who did not merit a mention was brother-in-law Robert Vadra, who sat in the front row watching the coronation.

Shorn of the ersatz hype created by the sycophantic lot, bursting firecrackers as if their Lord Rama had returned home, it was most ironic to notice obvious contradictions in what the mother-and-son duo said and what they, the party and its government actually practised. Sonia Gandhi railed against nepotism in the party while ensuring that her son was nominated as its virtual boss, failing to see the hollowness of her protestations. Rahul was the boss of the Congress because he was born a Gandhi. Period.

Again, she and her son talked about corruption. Surely, they could not be oblivious to the recent expose in the national press, including television, about the manner in which Vadra had overnight turned dirt into gold dust, with a number of Congress chief Ministers working as alchemists for their Dear Leader’s son-in-law. Railing against corruption and then contriving a clean chit for Vadra could only have convinced the faithful who had gathered in Jaipur to crown the next generation of the Nehru-Gandhis for keeping the oldest political firm very firmly in the family. No one else believed that Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Ashok Gehlot had not been accessories to the huge land scams.

Indeed, when both the mother-and-son duo railed against the crassness of the system, of the failure to assuage the popular anger over the recent gang rape in Delhi, when they talked about the growing alienation of the urban youth and the middle class from the system, one man directly in control of that system, namely, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sat impassibly within handshake distance of the speakers, nay, readers. Like it or not, as the one who has helmed that system these past nine years, Singh could not pretend that he was not being criticised. Yet, the PM felt obliged to cheer the Gandhis for their critical take on the current situation in the country in the making of which he himself had played no mean role.

Meanwhile, now that the heir apparent has taken his appointed place, there is every likelihood that we might witness a direct fight between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Whether or not Modi is formally named as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, it is undeniable that he would anchor the party’s campaign in the next parliamentary poll. It will be an interesting battle, with Modi’s clued-up and experienced persona standing out in sharp contrast to that of the half-baked and hesitant Rajkumar of the Congress. Rahul’s fan club could still be trusted to serenade him while a bemused nation watches an unequal pro versus rookie contest.

For sure, the Jaipur mission to preserve the family’s control over the Congress was accomplished. The party has reaffirmed its faith in yet another generation of the Gandhis. This was obvious even before Jaipur. But the big challenge lies ahead. With the terrible record in governance in the last four years, it will be a miracle if the Crown Prince passes his first major electoral test.

Grateful for those I-T raids

Rajnath Singh is the proverbial dark horse who invariably gets the top post when leaders far more qualified than him fail to settle their differences. L.K. Advani was dead set on nixing Nitin Gadkari for a second term as BJP chief. His first choice was his long-time loyalist Ananth Kumar. Nobody was ready for him. Next, it was Sushma Swaraj. She said no. Venkaiah Naidu was the next to be sounded by Advani. He too, surprisingly, refused, fearing that it would annoy key people in the party and the RSS. On his part, Jaitley knew that the time was not ripe for him to head the party at a time when it was divided against itself.

However, neither Advani’s opposition nor the open rebellion against Gadkari by Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Ram Jethmalani, etc., clinched the issue. It was clinched for the BJP by the anonymous income tax authorities who only a few hours before the formal confirmation of Gadkari’s second term went and raided a number of places in Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi listed by Gadkari’s Purti group of companies as investors. The IT raids served to persuade the RSS bosses that Gadkari’s continuance as BJP chief could become a huge embarrassment for the party in an election year.

Meanwhile, whoever ordered the raids on the firms connected with Gadkari did the BJP a great favour. Frankly, the BJP should for once be grateful to the ruling party for the good turn it did in organising the I-T raids at the eleventh hour to save it from embarrassment. Such raids after he had assumed his second term as party chief would have been a huge PR disaster for the party. Maybe the government unthinkingly got the timing of the raids completely wrong.

With Singh back as BJP president, hopefully, his decisions would not be dictated by his astrologer-cum-amateur-psephologist. Last time the latter had created a mess, deciding the choice of candidates on their “kundlis” regardless of their political standing in constituencies.

Taking out the frustration?

There is someone high-up in the income tax department who is taking it out on those who are reportedly close to Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi.

A few days ago, the premises of a Gurgaon builder were raided by the income tax authorities. The extensive raids at his home, office, and other places connected with him lasted nearly 24 hours. This builder’s name was mentioned during the recent expose of Vadra’s land dealings in Haryana in the media.

Sometime ago, another Delhi builder who had grown very big overnight was raided by income tax following speculation in the market that Vadra was a partner. Clearly, there are people in the I-T department who feel bold enough to go after those allegedly close to Vadra, even if they lack the courage to investigate Vadra himself in spite of there being ample evidence to do so. Or are they taking out their frustration at not being able to pry into Vadra’s accounts by raiding those allegedly associated with him? Well, your guess is as good as mine.