Opinion is majorly divided over the manner in which the Congress high command has handled the National Herald case, despite the fact that so far no party activist has openly come out to express his or her views. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi may have consulted some of the top lawyers of the country, but at this juncture there is apparently diminutive thinking that has gone on how to deal with the political fallout of the matter. In the process, the Bharatiya Janata Party, whom the Congress tried to accuse for targeting its top leaders, is happily placed. The BJP has scored in the war of perception as most people believe that a matter emanating from a court directive should have been best challenged in court itself. There was no point in stalling the proceedings of Parliament consistently when the issue is likely to come up before the lower court next Saturday.
A WhatsApp joke, which was circulated in the earlier part of the week, interestingly stated that when the UPA was in power, the House proceedings were held up by the BJP. Why? Because of corruption charges against the Congress. Now when the NDA is in power, the House proceedings have been held up by the Congress. Why? Because of corruption charges against the Congress. However, there is a distinct difference. The allegations against the Congress leaders had no backing of the court earlier, while this is not the case anymore and both Sonia and Rahul, along with some of their associates, are being accused of criminal conspiracy and other serious charges in the high profile matter. The transfer of National Herald from one company to another has also invited criticism from the former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju and noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan, whose families held the shares in Associated Journals, the original owners of National Herald. The legal implications of the follow-up action by the two legal luminaries may also have far reaching ramifications for the Gandhis, who face a possible jail sentence for the questionable actions.
The legal team engaged by the Gandhis is yet to take a decision on whether to apply for bail for the two leaders. Rahul is understood to have told his associates that he was willing to go to prison and has held the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for the “political vendetta” against him and his mother. It is evident that some of Rahul’s advisers feel that going to jail would evoke sympathy for the party vice president, who was seen till last year as the sole challenger to Narendra Modi in the Parliamentary polls, but since the results has ceded the space to several others including the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Sonia Gandhi has been putting up a brave front and a few days ago declared that she was not scared of anyone since she was “Indira Gandhi’s bahu”. This was totally unnecessary as she may be Indira’s daughter-in-law, but she is not Indira, which she seems to forget. Indira Gandhi was never accused of misappropriation or embezzlement by anyone and she never even encouraged moneybags and industrialists to get close to her.
She was the tallest leader of her time and someone who is revered even today. For 31 years after her assassination, the Congress virtually forgot this iconic Prime Minister, but has suddenly woken up to her existence because its two top leaders are in trouble and since Indira’s loyalist Makhan Lal Fotedar in his recent book had accused the high command of deviating from her policies even though it was her legacy that had brought them to power.
The dilemma before the Congress leadership is that both Sonia and Rahul are in a vulnerable position. It should not surprise anyone if the demand for their removal is made once they secure bail in the case. Sources said that a prominent leader who has been sidelined consistently could seize the opportunity to target the mother and son. The 130th anniversary of the party is also to be celebrated near the yearend.
There is speculation already that the Congress would need to do something to inspire the grassroots workers. An improbable but politically correct act could be to field Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra to lead the fight back. But Priyanka’s initiation would mean that Rahul Gandhi’s plans to be the party’s top leader would be dashed beyond any redemption.
The BJP is certainly not going to be in a forgiving mood and even if they were the matter is beyond their reach. It is in the court. The apt time for protesting in the Herald case was when it was re-opened after being closed by the former enforcement director. The charge does not hold good any longer as the high court has already given its opinion on the matter. It is surprising that the high command did not consult former Law Minister Hansraj Bhardwaj, who has the reputation of being a successful legal trouble shooter. Obviously, petty rivalries and vested interests came in the way.
It is evident that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have neither received the best political advice nor the best legal counsel at the right stage. Thus they have to now face the consequences. Between us.