The problem is: The apology has come forcibly and not spontaneously, thus robbing the gesture of its ‘greatness’.
American actor Steve Martin once remarked: “An apology? Bah! Disgusting! Cowardly! Beneath the dignity of any gentleman, however wrong he might be.” It was a tongue-in-cheek statement, but there are those who seemed to have taken the sentiment quite literally. Rahul Gandhi is one of them. After having suggested in the public domain on more than one occasion that the Supreme Court had endorsed his Chowkidar is a thief’ comment directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress president dragged his feet on tendering an apology. After being pulled up by the court, he filed an affidavit expressing “regret”, but refused to apologise. He and his legal team believed the matter was closed, but unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The apex court issued to him a notice of contempt of court.
He had two options. The first was to unambiguously apologise, and the second was to stick to his remarks and invite contempt proceedings while could have landed him in jail. He must have found it disgusting and cowardly to say ‘sorry’, even though he was wrong. But faced with a prospect that was even more damaging than an apology, he buckled. To add insult to injury, the lawyer for Rahul Gandhi told the court that the earlier affidavit his client had filed, had three errors.
As if all this was not enough, there is the old citizenship issue that has returned to haunt him. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has now waded into the matte
The political loss of face for both the Congress and its president is evident since it comes bang in the midst of a bitterly fought general election. The ‘Chowkidar is a thief’ had become the Congress’s favourite slogan against the Prime Minister. And, although it was clear that the jibe was not finding traction with the public at large, Rahul Gandhi and his team had persisted with it, finding trouble backtracking after having gone this far. Anyway, by no means is the Congress going to abandon the slogan mid-way; it will continue with it, but by keeping the Supreme Court out of it.
The Congress’ spin masters, caught in a web of embarrassment, are now giving an ingenious spin to the episode. They are projecting the apology as a sign of greatness on their leader’s part. The problem is: The apology has come forcibly and not spontaneously, thus robbing the gesture of its ‘greatness’. Besides, given that the party insists on using the slogan further, the question remains: What evidence does the Congress have for the allegation? The apex court has not passed a final on the Rafale matter. It has to deal with a review petition filed by a bunch of people who are acting as the Congress’s proxies. Admittance of the plea will also not mean that the Modi government has indulged in wrongdoing.
The Congress president should be, instead be answering on a variety of other issues. For example, why is his party seeking to give anti-nationals a lifeline by promising to scrap the anti-sedition law? Why is it promising a review of the Armed Forces (Special Protection) Act, a move that would fetter our security forces from conducting anti-terror operations? Why is it insisting on continuing with Article 370 when the provision has clearly failed in its stated objective? And, where is the money going to come for the much-touted Nyay scheme? Rahul Gandhi has offered a characteristic silly and immature answer: He will squeeze money out of Ambani and Adani to pay for it!
The Congress chief has a track record of speaking without thinking. He landed in legal trouble by accusing the RSS of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. More recently, he came up with a remarkable theory that people with the ‘Modi’ surname are wrongdoers. Some of his sympathisers have suggested that he is being misled by cronies and made to feel embarrassed by lawyers in the Congress who are messing up cases. Even if that were true, it reflects poorly on a man who hopes to be the country’s Prime Minister. It leads to two worrisome conclusions. First, he is dependent on the wrong advisors. Second, he does not use his own discretion to sift sense from nonsense.
As if all this was not enough, there is the old citizenship issue that has returned to haunt him. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has now waded into the matter. For months, senior BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy has been speaking on the subject, accusing the Congress chief of not coming clean on his citizenship. It is true that the Ethics Committee of Parliament, before which the issue reached, has not acted. It’s also a fact that the returning officers of the Election Commission of India have since the time Rahul Gandhi contested the elections, found nothing erroneous. But none of that has lifted the cloud over questions on his citizenship. Documents have in the public domain which suggest that there is more to it than meets the eye.
It is difficult enough, as it is, for Rahul Gandhi to counter Modi in the electoral arena. The fresh controversies have made Congress’s chief’s task even more formidable.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.