Rahul seeks ‘legal accountability’ for 2002, disputes Narendra Modi ‘clean chit’

Rahul Gandhi says he ‘completely shares’ PM apology over 1984, dismisses AAP as factor.

New Delhi | Updated: March 18, 2014 8:37 am

BY: M K Razdan

In his sharpest attack on Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots, Rahul Gandhi on Sunday demanded “legal accountability” for the “clear and inexcusable failure” of governance during the violence, and dismissed talk of a clean chit to the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee as “politically expedient” but “far too premature”.

In an interview to PTI at his residence, the Congress vice-president said that Modi was answerable on moral grounds. “Beyond that there should be legal accountability for the clear and inexcusable failure of governance under him.”

The BJP contends that Modi has been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT and courts and, therefore, has nothing to answer or apologise for regarding the post-Godhra riots.

Asked about this, Rahul said: “As you know, the SIT report had been seriously questioned by a number of credible experts. Grave flaws have been pointed out in the functioning of the SIT. The acceptance of the flawed SIT report by the lowest court has not yet been subjected to judicial scrutiny by higher courts.”

Referring to the Gujarat Chief Minister, he added: “The specific allegation and evidence pointing to Mr Modi’s responsibility in the 2002 riots are yet to be adequately probed. Any talk of his having been given a clean chit may be politically expedient, but is far too premature. There are many unanswered questions. There is a lot more the country needs to know.”

With the BJP bringing up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots whenever cornered on 2002, Rahul went a step further on the matter than he had done during a recent TV interview.

Asked why he, as the Congress vice-president, had hesitated during the TV interview to apologise for the riots which followed the assassination of his grandmother and PM Indira Gandhi in 1984, Rahul said, “The Prime Minister of the UPA has apologised and the president of the Congress party (has) expressed regrets. I share their sentiments completely.”

Debunking opinion polls predicting heavy losses for the Congress, the party’s chief campaigner acknowledged that there was a “certain amount of anti-incumbency against us”, but maintained that the party would do better than 2009 when it had won 206 seats in the face of similar grim predictions.

Refusing to hazard a guess on the number of seats the Congress would win, Rahul said: “We will do well.” He cited the UPA’s various welfare scheme as its achievements.

Rahul added that he did not see the Aam Aadmi Party as a factor at the national level in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The new party had got an opportunity to run Delhi for which the Congress had given full support, he said. “They did not solve any of the problems they said they would. Frankly, they ran away… It is one thing to make large statements — that we will do this and we will do that. It is totally different to actually run a government.”

Rahul added that he did not see the Lok Sabha elections as virtually a presidential style contest between him and Modi. “It is a clash between two ideas of India,” he said. The Congress represented an idea which “respects the liberty and dignity of every one of our countrymen by upholding the ideals of humanity and inclusion”, whereas the BJP wanted an India “in which there is no place for the poor, no place for those with a different religion or ideology”, Rahul said.

Further accusing the BJP of wanting an India “in which power is centralised in the hands of individuals”, he added, “The ideas that Mr Modi represents are dangerous for India.”

To a question that people appeared to be disappointed with the lacklustre performance of the UPA government and appeared to favour a strong leader like Modi, he said, “Yes, I believe that India needs a ‘strong’ leader, but we must have a deeper understanding of what ‘strength’ means… Strength to me is not brute force or the ability to bulldoze your way through decision making in an autocratic manner… I do believe that an autocratic mindset that believes in dispensing with whatever is inconvenient to its notions is dangerous because such people tend to disregard what is right for what is expedient.”

Asked if he was ready to be the leader of the Opposition and would be in for the long haul if the Congress ended up on the opposition benches, Rahul replied, “I entered active politics in 2004 when the Congress was written off. I did not join when the party was in power. I entered politics because of the infinite love and affection I have shared with this nation. There is no possible outcome of this, or any future election, that can make any difference to these sentiments. I am here for good.”

“I must also say that the media seems to have a need to score card me at every turn. I view my own success and failure on a different scale and time horizon. Down the road I will measure myself on how much voice we have been able to give the people of India through devolved structures of the Congress party,” Rahul added.

Contending that his power was “overestimated”, the Congress leader claimed that he had differed with the government on a number of issues but “I have been overruled”. Asked to cite examples, he said that “one very large public place where I was overruled” was on the question of making Lokpal a constitutional body.

He also talked of the ordinance to nullify a Supreme Court order disqualifying convicted lawmakers. He said he had a view different from senior members of the party but was initially overruled. “Then I took the step of making my views public.”

Rahul repeated his belief that the UPA government had not been aggressive enough in conveying its achievements. “We have done transformatory work. We could always be better in communication.”

Rubbishing the perception that the Congress was losing partners, the party vice-president said that it had alliances with the NCP, RJD, JMM, RLD and the National Conference, though it had lost the DMK and Trinamool Congress. He did not rule out the possibility of working with the TMC and DMK again.

Rahul justified his repeated assertions that he wanted to “change the system”, despite being very much an insider. What was important was “not where I come from but what I work for. Does being an insider — as you define me — take away from me the right to disagree or fight for change”, he said. “These insider/outsider are unimportant labels.”

‘Will marry when I find the right girl’

* Asked about his marriage plans, Rahul said, “Right now I am engaged in fighting elections. Unfortunately I have not been focused on private life.” Pressed for a specific time frame, the 43-year-old said he would marry “when I find the right girl”.
* Talking about his hobbies, Rahul said he read quite a bit, “too much non-fiction” and “too much about things related to my work” — “history, geography, political affairs… a lot about the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China”.
* He did not watch as many Hindi movies as sister Priyanka, he added. PTI

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  1. Arman Khan
    Mar 17, 2014 at 2:24 am
    Keep going Rahul hi.. we are behind you. We can see vision and honesty in you. You will defeat the divisive and communal forces.. good luck.
    1. S
      Mar 17, 2014 at 1:03 am
      Your party got wiped out in Delhi and you say AAP is not a factor? Wake up.
      1. M
        Mar 18, 2014 at 4:52 am
        Will Rahul hi explain to the nation why the Delhi police then under PM Rajeev hi in 1984 did not shoot and kill or wound a single rioter, despite the fact 3000 sikhs were killed by the rioters in just 2 days ?
        1. R
          Mar 17, 2014 at 1:25 am
          Mr. Rahul hi...how about we start a probe in 1984 Riots in Delhi, killing of HINDU's in am !! Drop your double standard !!
          1. N. Dhuvad
            Mar 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm
            Narendra Modi is not anti-Muslims but in reality he is staunch secularNarendra Modi represents thecomprehensive philosophical counter to the Nehruvian consensusRajeev Mantri| Harsh GuptaIndia’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru defined the philosophical debate in Indian politics tillhis death in 1964. The worldview he espoused has come to be known as Nehruvian.It entailed pervasive state control over the economy, an idealistic stance inforeign affairs, and special consideration to certain communities in domesticpolicy.But the Congress was far from aone-man or one-ideology party in the 1950s—it was a big tent with a vibrantright wing, too. Its decline as a political insution began under Nehru, whowas the first prime minister to abuse Article 356 and dismiss Kerala’s electedstate government in 1959. Even if Nehru was not inclined to take this position,he reportedly allowed himself to be overruled by the Congress president, hisdaughter Indira hi,whom he had gotten installed as party president. This Stalinist template, whereno distinction is made between party and state, and the executive is debased atthe expense of the party, was pioneered by Nehru and has been followed byalmost all successive Congress prime ministers: Manmohan Singhhas only elevated it to a new high. The emasculation of inner-party democracyaccelerated under Indira hi, was continued by her son Rajiv hiand has been dutifully carried forward by his wife Sonia hi.Jivatram Bhagwandas Kripalani opposed Nehru vigorously on the issue of allowing separatepersonal laws for Muslims in 1955, charging him with communalism on the floorof Parliament. C. Rajagopalachari quit the Congress at age 80 in 1959 to establish theSwatantra Party, espousing economic liberalism. “The Congress Party has swungto the Left, what is wanted is not an ultra or outer-Left...but a strong andarticulate Right,” Rajaji wrote in his essay Our Democracy. TheSwatantra Party was later hounded by Indira hi, who nationalized industriesto decimate Swatantra Party’s financial backers. It was a clic case ofdestroying economic freedom to kill political freedom.But Nehru’s most formidableideological opponent was Vallabhbhai Patel, and it was Patel’s death on 15 December, 1950, thataccelerated India’s tilt towards the left.Patel’s worldview was substantivelydifferent from Nehru’s in many important spheres. Despite opposition fromNehru, Patel got a mosque shifted—whether one agrees with it or not—to rebuilda temple at Somnath that had been repeatedly destro over the centuries byMuslim invaders. Mahatma hi gave his blessings to Patel but wanted nopublic funds to be used for the construction of the temple. On China, their viewsdiffered with Patel advocating help to Tibet when it was invaded—and Patelturned out to be right. On Kashmir’s accession to India, Patel’s realism wasagain overruled, and Nehru needlessly internationalized the issue by invitingintervention from the United Nations.On economic issues too, they hadsignificant differences, with Patel repeatedly opposing Nehru’s demand forestablishing the Planning Commission. It was on Patel’s insistence that theCommission was given an advisory role only, with its policies subject to theUnion cabinet’s review and approval. Nehru wanted to define the purpose ofplanning as the elimination of “the motive of private gain in economic activityor organization of society and the antisocial concentration of wealth and meansof production.” Patel prevailed over him and got this language deleted.That Nehru sought to endow anunconsutional body with such sweeping powers only betrays his affinity for acentralized, anti-market, if not communist, approach to economic development.Their positions on zamindariabolition and the use of eminent domain for land acquisition further illuminatetheir philosophical leanings. Patel wanted compensation as market price plus15%, while Nehru favoured no compensation. Patel also successfully supported Rajendra Prasadfor President of India, and Purushottam Das Tandon for Congress party president in 1950, not just forideological reasons but also to show Nehru that he couldn’t always dictateterms. Only Patel commanded the political heft to counter Nehru, and with hisdemise, the right wing within the Congress lost its strongest ballast.Just as with Swami Vivekananda, leftist intellectuals are confused whether tore-appropriate the legacy of Patel, or to escalate their attacks to make themtoxic for the right. They are tempted to try re-appropriation because of theanic stature of these individuals, but at the same time they are unable toreconcile the liberal views of Patel and Vivekananda with their owncollectivist dogma, which they have managed to label as liberal such a political-historicalcontext enters Narendra Modi.His economic record has been debated threadbare. There have been cases wherenewspapers have published false data, perhaps in their eagerness to bring downhis record, and then retracted. Nobody credible doubts that Modi’s tenure asGujarat chief minister has accelerated Gujarat’s economic progress.Modi’s critics argue that he may bea good administrator, but he isn’t inclusive and is autocratic. He has beensaid to be insufficiently reformist. Above all, Narendra Modi is not secular—heis painted as someone who is too divisive and obdurate to lead a diverse nationlike India.This is an inaccurate narrative. Theword inclusive has become a euphemism to justify irresponsible governmentspending, often based upon ideny, and it is parroted by all who believe inthe type of socialism that kept India impoverished for decades. Even thedarling of the self-described secular crowd, JDU’s Nitish Kumar,is a d-in-the-wool socialist from the Ram Manohar Lohia school of thought.Kumar’s government already receivesover 75% of its revenue from New Delhi, yet he agitates for more. Thesustainability of his Bihar model will be determined by his ability to extracttaxpayer funds remitted from other parts of India. Essentially, Kumar iswilling to barter political support in exchange for even more funds from NewDelhi.This kind of parasitic growth isunsustainable and undesirable. Not only does it hurt the poor, it weakensIndia’s federal structure by centralizing power in New Delhi and by makingstates dependent on Union government handouts. To quote economist FrédéricBastiat, Kumar seems to believe in the fiction that everyone can live at theexpense of everybody else stark contrast, Modistands out as the only major Indian political leader since AtalBihari Vajpayee to advocate that government has no business to be inbusiness. No m leader in recent times,even from the BJP, has been as explicit in expressing this view on the role ofgovernment. India has witnessed economic growth since 1991 because thegovernment stepped back from areas where it had no reason to be in the firstplace. It is economic liberalism that has catalyzed economic growth in India,and strong doses of it are the need of the hour. Modi has spoken unequivocallyin favour of federalism and decentralization, too, calling for flexibility tostate governments in designing welfare schemes India, one is bed communal ifone doesn’t support state welfare of citizens based on religious criteria. Thisis a hideous perversion of secularism. Can UK’s prime minister or the USpresident get away with saying that any one community has the first right overthe country’s resources? Yet, in India, Manmohan Singh said exactly this forMuslims, and is considered secular. The hideousness of secular politics hasplumbed new depths in recent times. During a rally at Azamgarh at the time ofthe Uttar Pradesh embly elections, Congress parliamentarian Salman Khurshidsaid that the Congress president “wept bitterly” on seeing images of theencounter that took place at Batla House. Congress leaders like Digivijay Singhinsisted the encounter was fake before a judicial verdict was delivered. Tearswere shed for the terrorists killed in the encounter, but apparently there wereno tears shed for policeman Mohan Chand Sharma, who was murdered by the terrorists at Batla House.The Congress-led United ProgressiveAlliance government has gone so far as to advocate special courts for Muslimsto expedite trials for them. Don’t members of other communities deservespeedier justice?Patel had severe disagreements withNehru and Abul Kalam Azad over the allocation of housing in Delhi that used tobe occupied by Muslims who, after parion, migrated to stan. Nehru andAzad insisted that only Muslims should stay in those homes, whereas Patel heldthat no secular government could take such a stand. The gatekeepers ofsecularism would have charged Patel as communal today, just as they attack Modias communal for upholding the same principle.Patel unreservedly condemned themethods adopted by communists as being against the rule of law - he said that“their philosophy is to exploit every situation, to create chaos and anarchy,in the belief that, in such conditions, it would be possible for them to seizepower.”The same charges - fascist,communalist, capitalist—made against Patel during his lifetime and since hisdemise have been levelled against Modi. This only shows that the Nehruvianconsensus has never been so threatened in India as it is today—and those weddedto Nehru’s ideas will do everything they can to prevent the implosion of thisconsensus.Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta areco-founders of the India Enterprise Council.
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