In disrupting Parliament over the National Herald case, the Congress displays extremely bad form, and worse judgement. The Herald case is in the court and the party must submit to the due process it so loudly swears by.
This means that Congress leaders must respect the court summons and explore the legal avenues to defend themselves. By all accounts, there are serious questions that the Congress needs to answer on the manner in which The National Herald was bailed out and its assets brought under the control of a company promoted by four party leaders, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. By attributing motives to the judicial proceedings instead, and stalling Parliament, the Congress embarrasses itself and Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder of The National Herald and a stickler for parliamentary etiquette and political propriety.
The Congress’s apparent strategy — of turning an issue that belongs in a court of law into a political battle to be fought in Parliament — blurs the lines between the parliamentary institution, the party, and the family that rules it. Clearly, much of the party’s anxiety and conspiracy-mongering in the matter has to do with the fact that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are among the accused. But why should these or other party leaders be exempted from a court appearance if the judge considers it necessary? In fact, in stoking a clamour over the court summons to the Gandhis, the party may be lending substance to the charge that for the party, the Gandhi family has always been, and continues to be, more equal than others. Party leaders, especially Sonia Gandhi, have sought to draw parallels between the post-Emergency legal challenges that Indira Gandhi faced from the Janata government and the Herald case. But the charges that have come to haunt the Congress have to do with the period when it was in power. Its cries of vendetta politics or imputations that it is ranged against the might of state power
now seem diversionary.
Admittedly, the Herald case can potentially take the sheen off what its supporters have read as an upturn of sorts in Congress fortunes — the party found itself on the winning side in Bihar and it also has the power to withhold its cooperation on the crucial GST bill from the government. Yet, the Congress may be scoring a self-goal in turning a civil dispute into an existential political battle and thereby turning the spotlight more fully on what can be seen as the questionable management of the family heirlooms. The party needs to urgently rethink the wisdom of its strategy.