Rahul Gandhi holds the high ground of morality when it suits him.
Rahul Gandhi, son of India’s erstwhile prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and the Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi, has been a reluctant political player. He has often been accused of disappearing as quickly as he has been appearing.
But that Rahul Gandhi, vice-president of the Congress Party, can be brash, and awfully brash at that, is a quality that few have been aware of.
Some days ago, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was about to meet President Barak Obama in the US, Rahul barged into a press conference in New Delhi and rubbished a government ordinance which sought to protect convicted criminal members of parliament from disqualification.
He said the ordinance needed to be thrown out.
(The Congress heads a coalition government in New Delhi.
Rahul’s statement and the lack of propriety he displayed at the press meet not only unnerved Congress Party circles, but also undermined the status of the prime minister – particularly at a time when he was set to meet Obama and later Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif commented on this, even going to the extent of describing Manmohan Singh as a “rustic woman”. Sharif, however, denied this.
While Rahul’s statement on the ordinance was welcomed by most people – because nobody wants convicts to rule the country — there was uniform condemnation of way he went about it.
Commentators wondered whether such unseemly behaviour by any other Congressman would have been tolerated by the party leadership.
Obviously, in a country like India where dynastic politics of the Nehru-Gandhi family (Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister and Rahul’s great-grandfather) is a fact, Rahul is the heir to the throne and the unannounced prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections. And such a man can do no wrong, and here the end justifies the means.
The ordinance was thrown out a couple of days ago, just as Rahul had wished, and just as most Indians too.
Selective high moral ground
But Rahul’s brazen act (some have compared him to his father, who sacked the Foreign Secretary during a press conference in the late 1980s) has been uniformly slammed.
As the Firstpost quipped in an article: “In other words, the rah-rah backing Rahul receives from some quarters is based on the argument that the end justifies the means. If we take this position, it is possible to justify almost any action as long we can convince ourselves that the end is holy. In fact this is what we have been doing all along: in the name of secularism, we are happy to compromise with casteism and corruption. In the name of fighting casteism, we are willing to abandon every principle of equality before the law. In the name of protecting farmers, we will compromise fiscal prudence. In the name of fighting terror, we are willing to wink at serious human rights violations. And in the name of being fair to the accused, we are willing to let the guilty go scot-free”.
True, a bad ordinance has been dumped. But till the time Rahul had rubbished it, Congress Party leaders were praising it.
Also, the ordinance, as Manmohan Singh himself said, was considered by the cabinet of ministers twice before it was approved. (It was just waiting for ratification by the President of India.)
Manmohan Singh’s statement is being read as a broad hint of the pressure that was exerted on the cabinet by Sonia Gandhi to pass the ordinance.
Finally, Rahul’s wish not to protect criminal members of parliament does not extend to the wrong deeds committed by his own family and party.
When India was rocked by the real estate scandal involving Rahul’s brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, or by the scams relating to coalmine allocations and 2G spectrum where the Congress Party was involved, Rahul did not consider it necessary to even talk about them, let alone lambast them.
So, Rahul holds the high ground of morality when it suits him. But this time, he has marred the reputation of the prime Minister, when he was on foreign soil, and also that of his mother, Sonia, who was probably the one who wanted the ordinance the most.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]