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Read my lips. If Rahul Gandhi’s specially called press conference on Wednesday offered any takeaway, that was the only thing for me. Wow, I thought, that’s as close to Hollywood as you get in or around Parliament. For the record, I ignored Rahul’s “(will burst his) balloon” part, which BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao latched on to, reading it by the line and then dictating an eminently forgettable quote to the TV channels (including using the word inanity, which I am sure few outside Op-Ed page writers use these days).
I listened to Rahul with rapt attention. I even watched the few sarkari ads telling you about the merits of cashless transactions. Ads that may even drive a regular person to commit suicide or homicide – – they are that boring. That was before they cut to Rahul’s short address at Jantar Mantar. I was all ears. Will he say something?
Nopes. He made the same assertion. A variation of which he has made on several occasions in the last few days.
But still, since I read his lips closely, I thought about it for nearly 24 hours. What is this “personal corruption” of the Prime Minister? And as supporters and opponents fought on social media – – why should he invite defamation suit, he will speak in the House, just you see, contended the former; versus assorted Pappu jokes by the latter – – I drew three conclusions.
1. That he perhaps has nothing earth-shattering to explode. If he had it, and if it actually “terrifies” Narendra Modi, as Rahul claimed, he would have said it outside. Without himself being, apparently, terrified of a defamation suit.
If the allegations stick (and read my lips now, I say allegation, and not a definitive “expose”, as Rahul claimed, which a much much taller warrior like Prashant Bhushan has been unable to inflict), and there is no reason why it should not in this market where everyone is ready to buy anything (including WhatsApp forwards), it’s a win-win for the Congress ahead of the poll season. If it doesn’t, bad luck. Move on. As everyone does in Indian politics.
2. That Rahul believes there is a real threat of defamation, if he makes the charges outside. So he needs the immunity. And for that I could have simply smirked and quoted Sholay: jo darr gaya, samjho mar gaya – – applicable to both street fighting and stage fighting. But, still, correct me if I am wrong, in India defamation cases drag on, and on. So there would be little time Rahul actually would have spent in court, thereby apparently wasting time that could otherwise be spent in campaigning.
In fact, Rahul himself had said he would be happy to “expose” the RSS in court in the case related to MK Gandhi’s assassination. So he appeared to have apologised initially, and then retracted in court. Apparently to expose the RSS while defending his assertion in another court.
If this explosive stuff against Modi is waiting only for Parliament, I can only conclude that there isn’t enough explosive masala in it to score political points in court in case of a case of defamation. And the date inside the House is unlikely to come. At least in this session. Given the trust deficit between the government and the opposition, there is little chance he will get any chance in the one day left.
3. That he has not arrived at the kind of confidence in himself as a politician that a Modi or a Mamata Banerjee or even a relative novice such as Arvind Kejriwal has. Modi has as good as implied that everyone in the Opposition, more so the Congress, because most of his charges are against that party, and more so against the “maa-beta” team, is opposing demonetisation because they are corrupt. The Opposition, for days, wanted Modi to apologise for that in House. Which even the Opposition knew he would never do.
Mamata and Kejriwal, too, have made all kinds of allegations against Modi and BJP in the wake of demonetisation exercise. Did the Congress, or any opposition party, file a case against Modi, or some his ministers, who have made the same allegation more openly? Or, has the BJP taken Mamata or Kejriwal to court (in recent pre-poll-season instances)?
Indian politics is nothing if not about brazening it out. And for that the Congress vice-president’s speeches, objections and interjections have to be a little more than mystery wrapped in enigma. Or whatever that riddle is.
PS: What happens if he actually has something, and actually exposes Modi? Then I will stand exposed. Until then, it’s words against words. Fighting a dodgy battle even as the real people fight the real battle against cash crunch somewhere out there.