By: Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee
Today many students of the Indian diaspora in Virginia shouted slogans in favour of Rahul Gandhi. I think in other parts of America too Indians are doing this. Unexpected but this happens and I met a few young Indian students from the South who expressed their happiness saying, this time Rahul is going to be the Prime Minister. I could not shake their conviction even though I tried to draw their attention to the reality of Indian politics. In America Rahul is no less popular than Modi especially in the academic circle of Harvard and other universities where Indian students speak politics and democracy. The Supreme Court verdict upheld the greatness of India as a country giving importance to democratic values and fundamental right to freedom of speech which we find in America. According to the Indians here, Rahul wins his fight against hate. Modi’s recent visit to America and his beating of big drums of Democracy did not get much credibility in the general mind though US Congress gave him seventeen time standing ovation as a part of their diplomatic manoeuvre.
Okay, what did Rahul do? The students with diet coke bottle in their hands asked me in the VCU campus. I was just coming out from the chamber of Dr. Les Harrison’s chamber after a discussion with him on Melville and Whitman. I am nearly a few months away from the country. What I knew about Rahul was all from the TV news channel and the newspapers here. The Guardian published a wonderful article on Rahul today. ‘India’s supreme court suspends Rahul Gandhi’s two-year defamation jail term’. Betsy Reed Editor Guardian wrote it so nicely.
Earlier the Surat Court did not give relief to Rahul from the worst possible punishment of two years of imprisonment for him which cost him his seat in parliament. Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Modi Surname did not come in good taste which landed him in the big trouble when a judge at a lower court of Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat found him guilty of defamation. The punishment which is alleged to be calculative and politically motivated the exact period of two years of imprisonment resulted in his disqualification as an MP and in spite of the I.N.D.I.A alliance formation there was everything uncertain about his contesting in general election expected to be held in April and May 2024. Finally after a long waiting, the Supreme Court emerged as the saviour though Rahul disagreed to stoop to seek forgiveness for what he said in the Bengaluru meeting about the Modi surname “In sab choron ka nam Modi hai (he did not say (Why do all thieves have the surname Modi? (Kyun sab choron ka nam Modi hai). The difference between the two sentences was small but unnoticed; it could create ever big troubles. So Rahul was determined not to apologise (Main mafi nahi magunga) because he was confident that (he said ‘In sab choron ki naam not sab choro ka naam’) of a conspiracy hatched by the over reactive BJP government in ousting him from the Parliament and also from the MP residence when a lot others for same disqualification as MP are still holding such residential quarters in New Delhi. He did not speak personally to any Modi in that meeting. It was a rhetorical speech full of taunts against the money launderers and against those who were silent during these money laundering. Those who do wrong and those who allow the wrong doers to get a clean cheat are equally condemnable. So Rahul was not to be punished in that worst manner. With all respect to the judiciary we must say, sometimes the verdicts are not justified. That is why the verdict was challenged. That is why Rahul dared not to apologise. Still the victory of truth came.
“It is a denial of justice not to stretch out a helping hand to the fallen; that is the common right of humanity.” We support Rahul or not, the basic question is the verdict from the Supreme Court showed that we live in a democratic country where the judiciary still is not purchased at the highest level. The verdict of the Supreme Court of India once again made our head high against all alleged political framing and injustice. The grounds of accusation were non-existent but in the preliminary ruling the maximum punishment and surprisingly the imprisonment of exactly two years were meted out to him. The Supreme Court stay order came as a relief and the reason was perfect: the cause of representation of the constituency. The transparency of the verdict was quite commendable when one of the Supreme Court Judges for the case Justice B.R Gavai told that he might remove himself as his came of a Congress family. This was probably missing in the local court that made the preliminary verdict against Rahul Gandhi first because the punishment was for the maximum period and the question of representation was not considered.
Rahul came of a family that had fought over the years on Gandhian principles and always supported the fight of the Dalits and the Harijan for whom Jawaharlal or Indira Gandhi following the precepts of Gandhiji showed great sympathy during their regime. Rahul’s father too sacrificed his life for the country. Rahul is the strongest lone voice in the opposition and the issues he raised were in favour of democracy and unity of the country. He cannot say anything really against the common people. As he was vocal against the Adanis and economic money laundering which Modi himself is trying to eradicate by using the ED and CBI against the corrupted big guns, the question came in a public speech of Rahul. He did not say ‘all Modis’, he said, ‘all these Modis’ and his purpose was clear. He was mentioning a few powerful Modis who are involved in money scam which is not to be supported though as it included the reference to the Prime Minister Modi who however did not pursue Rahul personally in the defamation case.
In The Guardian US, the reaction of the Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge is published with great importance, “This is a win for the people of India, the Constitution and Democracy” and it is expected, the reinstatement is likely to provide a boost to Congress, which last month joined forces with more than 20 other opposition, to collectively take on the Modi government in the general election through I.N.D.IA.
But there is also the other side of the question too. After Rahul’s clearance to contest the election, the Congress may now project Rahul as the possible Prime Minister candidate and this may create a big fissure in the I.N.D.I.A coalition. There is a grave doubt if Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Kejriwaal or Lalu Prasad Yadav may now feel at all enthusiastic about the fight against BJP with Rahul as the helmsman.
Speaking to the media after the ruling, Gandhi said “truth always prevails” and that his “future course of action is clear in my mind”. What action does Rahul refer here to – nobody fully knows it yet. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of Congress in the lower house of parliament, said he had met the speaker of the house on Friday afternoon, seeking Gandhi’s immediate reinstatement, and that Gandhi hoped to return to parliament as soon as possible. What he reiterated is that the Supreme Court verdict will “cost Modi heavily.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Priyanka Gandhi said. “Rahul fighting battle for people’s interests, ‘arrogant regime’ using all tricks to deter him.” Once more it is proved that the fight for the people cannot be stopped. Rahul’s relief may cause headache for many who do not from their heart want to see him as the projected Prime Minister in the I.N.D.I.A. This is however a gain for the BJP and its leaders including Prime Minister Modi. A boon in the form of a boon. Rahul’s leadership if declared by Congress out of over confidence may affect the so called unity of I.N.D.I.A where leaders are mostly opportunists and they do not have any basic similarity. All are eyeing at the Prime Minister Kursi and the ‘kiss kursi ka’ may turn sour for many after the return of Pappu, a term used for denigrating the stature of Rahul. The senior leaders who joined here are mostly competing to become the next Minister they are less interested in any mission other than ousting Modi from power. They only did not say openly, “Har time Prime Minister ka nam Modi kiyun hai?” Their one point programme seems to be “Modi Hatao, Mujhe PM banao”.
We have seen many of them doing pungent criticism one against the other and Rahul was the common target before the formation of I.N.D.I.A. One fact cannot be denied that at that time Congress did not have Rahul to project as their Prime Ministerial candidate. They did not expect that Rahul will come back clear so soon and Congress is not probably going to lose this opportunity this time when no other party is strong enough to make a stronger claim. But the big question is “Will I.N.D.I.A be able to proceed with their single motto of ‘Modi Hatao’ if Congress begins to project Rahul as their Prime Ministerial candidate? The verdict comes as a double edged sword. Time will say who will be finally there ready for accepting Rahul as their leade. Only one Manipur issue cannot unite the 26 parties for a long time in their fight against BJP and Prime Minister Modi. (The author is at present affiliate faculty in Virginia Commonwealth University & may be reached at email@example.com)