Wednesday / June 26.




By Nantoo Banerjee


One would expect a late Indira Gandhi’s daughter in law to show greater respect to her mother in law by respecting the democratic system and to judicial summons instead of loudly protesting against them in Parliament to stop its normal function. The massive land grab charges against the president and the vice-president of the party pending before the court need to be fought there legally and not in Parliament. Indira Gandhi fought her election perjury case in the Allahabad high court, which she lost in the end, instead of trying to stall Parliament proceedings using her party representatives. The Delhi high court has found substance in the massive land grab allegation against the Congress president, her son and associates. They were directed to appear before the trial court. Like good citizens, they should have immediately responded to the direction by the upper court and submitted their version before the trial court instead of disrupting Parliament and invoking the name of the late prime minister.


The massive rejection by the people of India of Indira Gandhi’s Congress party and herself by the Allahabad High Court after the emergency might have provided some good lesson to her in political mannerism. She and her party got re-elected to power within three years following the collapse of the Janata government. However, Indira Gandhi had to die sadly a violent death from the bullets of one of her own security guards at her official residence while she was still the country’s prime minister. Indira Gandhi had many good qualities. Yet, she had to ultimately die by sword for living a life more akin to a dictator. A statement such as ‘I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter in law and not afraid of anyone’ or words to such effect may not necessarily credit the current Congress president with the upside of the otherwise controversial  Congress prime minister.


Few are impressed with such statements. The fact of the matter is the Delhi high court has found substance in the allegation and wanted the Congress president, vice-president and other respondents to appear before the court.  Parliament is certainly not the place to protest against the judicial order by a higher court. It is a serious case of alleged criminal misappropriation of a huge property at substantial cost to the Congress party and, also probably, to the exchequer since income of political parties from donations is said to be tax-free, even if it looked like a ‘political vendetta’ by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress president and vice-president would do well to fight the case in the appropriate court of law and not in Parliament or on the streets to establish their innocence in true democratic tradition.


Honestly, BJP, which, until the other day, did little to remove the VVIP security treatment to the Congress president’s son in law in Indian airports and act against his highly questionable past business deals in currently BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan, in association with some of the country’s top real estate promoters and builders, may not be seriously trying to fix those Congress top bosses even if they had acquired through their legally registered entity a few thousand crore rupees worth assets of the erstwhile Associated Journals Limited (AJL) that published the multi-edition National Herald newspaper by alleged illegal means. Incidentally, the BJP government has not even moved against the real estate business associates of the Congress president’s son in law, showing massive amounts as ‘contingent liability’ in their balance sheets, mainly on account of pending claims from the government exchequer.


In fact, BJP may have nothing much to do with the National Herald case, in which the Congress party has allegedly lost Rs. 90 crore by taking a write-off against loans provided to the terminally sick and now closed public company despite its holding real estate assets worth anything between Rs.2,000 cr and Rs.5,000 cr in multiple prime city locations, including Delhi. The assets were reportedly taken over cheaply for Rs. 50 lakh by an entity named Young Indian, overwhelmingly controlled by the Congress president and her son. The matter was in the media for over a year. Few have smelt a dirty political rat until the High Court order, earlier this week. The case was launched by Subramanian Swamy, who also happens to be associated with the BJP.


Politicians and journalists know Subramanian Swamy as one having his own mind and own way to fight political corruption. Even Morarji Desai, the post-emergency prime minister, could not control Swamy, then a young first-time Janata MP, who smuggled himself into the prime minister’s first press conference at Bombay’s Indian Merchants Chamber building only to get spotted by the prime minister himself. Desai was not amused. He asked Swamy: “which paper do you represent?” The venue had burst into laughter. Swamy had been after political scams involving parties in power. He did not spare even AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa, an ally of the Narendra Modi government, who had to relinquish the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s job to go to jail after being convicted by the Karnataka high court in a disproportionate asset case only in September 2014. She returned back to power recently following judicial relief. The Congress party and its top brass would do well to spare Parliament and fight Swamy and the court to clear themselves of the current legal hassle. (IPA Service)