Monday, October 3, 2022

Irony of dynastic democracy

It has taken the summons issued from the Enforcement Directorate on Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and heir apparent and Congress leader-at-large Rahul Gandhi, to kick the comatose Congress to life when it was compelled to resort to a series of protests during mid-June and late July. The protests were aimed against misuse of the ED by the ruling BJP specifically targeting opposition leaders while those who were summoned or booked by the ED are no longer harassed after they joined the BJP. The unconvincing and futile response from the BJP leaders was that the ED was ‘only doing its job’ and slammed opposition parties for politicizing the summons. Needless to say, the ED is empowered with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) over which no law can interfere. However, the selective use of PMLA against critics and opponents of the BJP is certainly against the very tenets of due process of equality of law and justice. Had ED used its power under PMLA then it should have also landed many BJP leaders and turncoats in the dock. The Congress protest against the ED may have found some support but the main objective of the loyalists and their foot soldiers was to protect the Gandhis, who are now in a big mess in the National Herald case. The Gandhis through Young Indian, acquired rights of the buildings and assets of the Associated Journal Limited (AJL) in Delhi and other metro cities worth a few thousand crore rupees. When AJL could not repay loan of Rs.90 crore from the Congress, it sold shares to Young Indian worth Rs.50 lakh. The Rs.90 crore loan to National Herald could not revive the party mouthpiece since the newspaper had unproductive people, who owed their jobs due to the political patronage from the Congress. Thus, the protest against the ED in this case does not have much ground because if both Sonia and Rahul and others are innocent the law will save them not street protests. However, the point of misuse of ED by the BJP government does hold water. On protest against price rise and levying GST on pre-packaged and pre-labeled food items, there is much substance since union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has only been following the directive policy of the ruling party. The poor and middle class are suffering while the corporate houses in the country are experiencing the soaring of their fortunes. The protests in Delhi and other states by Congress has confirmed that it has a pan-India presence and a potential to give the BJP a run for its money. However, the party’s heir apparent has been a disaster with messaging. It is an irony that when the Congress calls for opposition unity, its own house is in disarray as many of its battle hardened leaders are either being sidelined or almost pushed out to accommodate Rahul’s dream of a new and youthful Congress. The events of several years have only led to concern that freedom and democracy in India is being severely limited. But for Rahul to suggest that democracy is dead is going a bit too far when democracy in Congress itself has perished. The noose around the Gandhis is tightening and if the ED has enough evidence of some wrong doing in the Herald case then that could be fulfillment of the vow of Modi for a mukt-Bharat Congress.