The fad and flavour of the week is unsolicited advice to Rahul Gandhi on how he should have handled Arnab Goswami. I can therefore be forgiven the temptation to add something of my own. Except, I will confine myself to just one issue: 1984.
This was Rahul’s, and in fact the Gandhi family and the Congress party’s, best opportunity to come clean. But it was lost with the usual defensive I-didn’t-do-it, my grandmother was assassinated, and then, an unthinking stroll back into an indefensible past by suggesting that while some Congressmen may have been involved, their government wasn’t.A better way to answer this, in my humble view, could have been something like the following: “Those killings were horrific, Arnab. And though I was only 14 then, and you 11, and therefore we were too young to know what was going on, it is a blot on our generation as well. It’s such a pity that we have collectively failed to apply closure to this, that so few of the guilty have been punished. I am sure subsequent Congress governments take some of the blame for this. But they are not the only ones to have ruled India in the past 30 years. So it is the collective, shameful failure of our system.” Then, he could have concluded with a QED: “That is why we must change the system. It sucks if in thirty years, the families of three thousand Sikhs who were slaughtered in three days, within a one-mile radius of Rashtrapati Bhavan, cannot get justice.”
He only had to learn from his mother. Until 2004, her party had hidden from questions about another indefensible crime, and one for which there were no alibis or mysteries: the Emergency. But once our Walk the Talk conversation (at Allahabad’s Anand Bhavan, May 2004) drifted back to that darkest chapter in her party’s history, she was quick to seize the chance. She regretted the Emergency, and even said that at dining table conversations, Indira Gandhi herself would admit that mistakes had been made, excesses committed. There was zero effort to defend the indefensible, deflect blame, find justification in JP’s “destabilising” agitation, foreign hand or “but I was then just an ordinary spouse in an airline pilot’s household”. Because she did not miss that moment, her party has found it less inconvenient to talk about the Emergency afterwards. Because Rahul missed the moment, he has brought a three-decade-old calamity back to the centre stage of his most important election campaign yet.
It is unfair to blame only him for this. To steal an expression much in use — and abuse — these days, it is the fault of the System. But the system continued…