A tale of mis­lead­ing names

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL -

right-wing dem­a­gogues to seize power. Congress gov­ern­ments gave oxy­gen to crony cap­i­tal­ism and si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­ated room for a so­cially di­vi­sive lobby that hi­jacked the In­dian state.

Prashant rep­re­sents the quest to set things right on both counts, the first step be­ing the killing of the nexus be­tween mon­ey­bags and the po­lit­i­cal class. He has spo­ken up for Kash­mir's demo­cratic rights, for Dal­its and Mus­lims too.

Prashant Bhushan knows he can­not fight the fight alone. Who then could be his al­lies to cover the flanks?

The lawyer ac­tivist lends his voice to myr­iad votaries of dis­sent and rad­i­cal change. He ad­mires Arund­hati Roy and she him, to see where he stands on the can­vas of po­lit­i­cal ideas. Roy has served a jail term for con­tempt of court, and it is his turn now. She re­fused to apol­o­gise to the supreme court judges who charged her with con­tempt, so has Bhushan. He told the court, which post­poned his sen­tenc­ing on Mon­day, that row­ing back from his views, which have of­fended some judges with tweets old and re­cent would be con­tempt of his own con­science.

Prashant's range of pol­i­tics is wide. He helped form the Aam Aadmi Party that stalled the Modi juggernaut in 2015, but left Arvind Ke­jri­wal who he thought had be­gun to imi­tate those they to­gether once crit­i­cised. How­ever, his main tar­gets are the cor­po­rate mon­ey­bags that run the coun­try's pol­i­tics, and, ac­cord­ing to well-re­garded for­mer judges, may have wormed their way into the hal­lowed precincts of the higher ju­di­ciary.

Prashant Bhushan knows he can­not fight the fight alone. Who then could be his al­lies to cover the flanks? The­o­ret­i­cally, Prashant rep­re­sents ev­ery earnest politi­cian's dream by speak­ing for the com­mon man and against the most pow­er­ful. He has tar­geted cor­rup­tion dur­ing the Congress party rule as force­fully as he has probed shady deals dur­ing the Modi era.

How and what does Rahul Gandhi bring to the po­lit­i­cal field to com­ple­ment Prashant Bhushan's fight? The young Gandhi knows that he is ma­ligned by op­po­nents as a Johnny-come-lately. He is called names by the prime min­is­ter and at his be­hest by the me­dia. The prime min­is­ter has sworn to evict the Congress party from In­dia's po­lit­i­cal arena.

Put two and two to­gether. He wants a Congress without the Gand­his. Why? Rahul has spo­ken up on the gov­ern­ment's mis­han­dling of China. He has called out the gov­ern­ment over the se­cret Rafale war­planes deal. He has taken on Modi on the ap­par­ent in­com­pe­tence with which the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has been ap­proached. He has ex­pressed his dis­may at the way the Ay­o­d­hya tem­ple project has been hi­jacked by the party in power.

When most TV chan­nels show Rahul as men­tally ill-equipped to lead the party, they are warm­ing the cock­les of the hearts of the very ty­coons he has named in par­lia­ment and out­side - as did his grand­fa­ther Feroze Gandhi - as ben­e­fi­cia­ries of cor­rup­tion.

Strik­ingly close to Prashant's stand in the supreme court, Rahul has said it openly: he would con­tinue to slam the gov­ern­ment's anti-peo­ple poli­cies even if it costs him his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. One can't think of an­other cur­rent politi­cian ready to put his ca­reer on the line as Rahul Gandhi is ready to do. There are other rea­sons why many in the press hate his guts. We need to go into the back­ground a bit.

When P.V. Narasimha Rao demit­ted of­fice in 1996, Congress trea­surer Si­taram Kesri was elected the party pres­i­dent. He was a back­ward caste Hindu from Bi­har who spoke well of the Gandhi fam­ily, a fam­ily that was still re­cov­er­ing from the trauma of los­ing Ra­jiv Gandhi to a sui­cide bomber dur­ing an elec­tion rally in 1991.

The Congress had shrunk in seats and pres­tige, and Kesri was busy stitch­ing up al­liances, some­thing that the Congress needs to do more fer­vently to­day. Dalit leader Mayawati, the Left Front and other back­ward caste lead­ers were be­ing ap­proached. The Bom­bay busi­ness lobby re­sented this. That's when Pranab Mukher­jee led the charge against Kesri. The Congress pres­i­dent was locked up in the toi­let and his board re­moved, all in the name of So­nia Gandhi.

Kesri told peo­ple close to him that So­nia had noth­ing to do with his ouster.

It was a move to use her shoul­der to in­stal a can­di­date loyal to the busi­ness club. They used So­nia Gandhi to shore up pro-mar­ket Man­mo­han Singh but they also re­sented it when she set up the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil to counter the fall­out of Singh's pro-mar­ket eco­nomic poli­cies on the poor. It was not sur­pris­ing that the sec­ond ten­ure of Man­mo­han Singh be­came a melee with se­nior jour­nal­ists ad­vis­ing the gov­ern­ment on who to ap­point min­is­ters with which port­fo­lio, and they were do­ing it on be­half of spon­sors in Mum­bai.

One of the names that fig­ured as the con­duit in the me­dia-politi­cians­busi­ness club at the time was of a Congress leader who also au­thored a let­ter that prompted So­nia Gandhi to of­fer to re­sign on Mon­day.

How does an in­terim pres­i­dent re­sign though? No Gandhi wants to be party pres­i­dent, any­way. And they call the fam­ily feu­dal. Hope­fully, Prashant Bhushan and Rahul Gandhi will seize the mo­ment that des­tiny has thrown at them, and not quib­ble over their mis­lead­ing names.

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