Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has got bail and the two-year sentence has been put on hold when he appeared at the Surat court on Monday. The next hearing on his petition would be on April 13. Rahul got disqualified from Lok Sabha as the sentence he was handed over was for two years in the defamation case.
Targetting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, over his last name which is shared by fugitive businessmen (Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi) who fled the country after looting the banks, during the campaign in 2019 elections in Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi commented “How come all thieves have the common surname- Modi?” BJP has been making a lot of noise over it saying that it is an insult to the Other Backward Classes although both Nirav and Lalit do not belong to the OBC. Former Gujarat Minister and MLA Purnesh Modi had filed a petition charging Rahul of defamation, went to Gujarat High Court to obtain a stay on the hearing, and got it vacated posthaste (obviously inspired by somebody) in February this year and then get it transferred to another metropolitan magistrate who awarded Rahul Gandhi the maximum punishment. Rahul, who went to Surat along with his sister Priyanka, Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh and Venugopal, filed a petition challenging the court’s order. What happens on the 13th is going to be of great significance to the future of the country.
After the judgment from the trial court, Rahul Gandhi quoted Mahatma Gandhi saying, “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it.” He made it clear with this quote that he is fighting for the idea of India which is the same as the idea of India envisioned by Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Sardar Patel and other freedom fighters. He has been waging an ideological battle against Modi and the BJP. Diversity and democracy as the foundation of the Idea of India as against the homogeneity and religious majoritarianism as propounded by the BJP. Narendra Modi had successfully hypnotized the countrymen over the last nine years of his rule. Many thought he would deliver. The shortcomings of Modi have been recognized by majority of the people. After Bharat Jodo Abhiyan, Rahul Gandhi has transformed himself into a serious politician and an able communicator. In contrast, Modi’s appeal appears to be on the wane. He came up with a suggestion that his adversaries had given supari in India and abroad to defame him. It shows his anger and confusion.
Though there is an argument that Modi has purposely elevated Rahul Gandhi as the main challenger since it would be easy for him to best the Congress leader as he did in 2014 and 2019, the calculations might go wrong. Rahul appears to be on a strong wicket since he is pushing the Idea of India which is original as practised by the founding fathers and completely different from Colonial Idea of India and Saffron Idea of India. Rahul’s plank is originally an Indian thought. He may not have invented it but he had discovered. The colonial idea of India was the conglomerate of different princely states with different languages and cultures. But the freedom fighters discovered that the civilization binds India together. Saffron leaders on the other hand believe in ethnic and communal uniformity or religious unity or majoritarianism which Narendra Modi has been trying to practise.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have now two options before them. They can welcome the Surat court’s verdict if it quashes its original order letting Rahul free or they can be happy when the court reiterates its verdict and insists on the two-year sentence to be served by Rahul. They will prove to be leaders with some vision left in them if they opt for the former. Otherwise, they would be seen as ruthless practitioners of power bent upon suppressing Rahul politically since they cannot fight him ideologically. The dilemma of the BJP over Rahul should be resolved either way. The Surat court verdict can help the process. Whether they would like to bring sanity to the polity or prefer to use brutal power of the state and that of vigilante, as in the latest case of Bihar, is up to them. This is something which may not be over within one year after which the general elections would be held. The ideological fight would go on relentlessly irrespective of elections and results for a couple of decades. The people of the country should be prepared to witness a prolonged ideological struggle which may not be free of violence.
Narendra Modi would do well to grab the historic opportunity to be provided by Surat court. He can put an end to unsavoury debate on Rahul’s disqualification from Parliament. The disqualification has been attracting attention of foreign powers and domestically it is not doing good to the BJP. Whatever Indian ForeignMinister Jaishankar might say about the habit of the Western powers to comment on democracy in other countries, Modi realises that it has been spoiling the image of the country.