Is Narendra Modi proving Rahul Gandhi right? The debate or lack of it or the stalemate in Parliament started with an American organization exposing the irregularities of Gautham Adani, an Indian industrialist, followed by a hard hitting speech by Rahul Gandhi in Parliament. The speech has reportedly been expunged from the records. Then a four year old slur during the 2019 election campaign at Kolar in Karnataka was made use of to award a sentence of two years, the maximum that could be awarded in a defamation case, and the subsequent disqualification of Rahul’s membership of lower house. The hurry with which the old case of defamation was pursued, the maximum punishment awarded and the disqualification immediately after the court verdict is unbecoming of a government in a democracy. The whole series of events have been planned meticulously to prove what Rahul Gandhi said in his Cambridge engagement- that democracy is threatened in his country-correct. Rahul never asked the foreign powers to interfere as the BJP leaders have been wrongly and relentlessly attributing with ulterior motives. He, on the other hand, had clarified that it is an internal problem and it has to be resolved by the people of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not spoken a word about Adani case so far. But his response has been very clear. He would not criticize Adani nor would he countenance any criticism from the opposition. What Rahul Gandhi said about the relationship between Modi and Adani is being proved right by Modi himself by his silence on Adani and his actions against Rahul Gandhi. The unseen hand of Modi in the unsavory developments cannot be denied even by Modi’s bhaktas.
There are both legal and political questions here. What Rahul said in a lighter vein was “How come all of these thieves have Modi in their names?” This comment has been declared as defamatory by a court in Surat. Both the conviction and sentence are questionable even legally. Does the remark made by Rahul defame any particular person or persons with surname ‘Modi? The expression, “collection of persons” used in Section 499 of the IPC, with reference to those who can be defamed, has to be an identifiable class or group and that the particular defamation must demonstrate personal harm or injury by the alleged defamatory statement. Rahul in his jibe must have intended three Modis, including the prime minister and two businessmen who fled the country after duping the banks to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees. The name of the Gujarat BJP MLA Purnesh Mod, the litigant, may not have been known to the Congress leader. It is not clear how the MLA was aggrieved personally or as a member of ‘Modi’ community. Another point made by legal luminaries, including former judges of Supreme Court, is that the disqualification itself is illegal. Kapil Sibbal, the former union minister and a famous lawyer, is on record saying that the conviction automatically disqualifies the member. He said the conviction has to be set aside to stop disqualification and not the sentence. But the legal experts say in this case of defamation, the conviction is less important than the sentence. Had it been a conviction with less than two years of sentence, the question of disqualification would not have arisen. The suspension of the sentence is vital here and the Parliament secretariat should have waited for a higher court to examine the conviction as well as sentence. The crucial aspect is there in the sentence of two years which is extraordinary for a defamation case. It is not proportionate to the gravity of crime. Rahul Gandhi’s remark, although something that cannot be defended, is not so grave as to attract the maximum punishment. In the heat of electioneering many BJP leaders said so many things. They called Rahul a ‘pappu.’ Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur said “Goli Maro Saloan ko.’ The comments were condemned but were not taken to the court in the name of defamation. This is where Modi government is proving Rahul’s Cambridge remarks right by its vindictive actions.
By saying, “I am not a Savarkar to apologize. I am a Gandhi,” Rahul Gandhi has indicated that he is rooting for an ideological battle. He is going to fight for the ‘Idea of India’ as believed by the Congress party, at least during Nehru era. This may take time and may not conclude before 2024 elections. It could be taken to a crescendo by elections time if all the opposition parties are united. It calls for a movement across the country with the Congress and other like-minded parties involved in a big way opposing the Hindutva idea of India as represented by Narendra Modi, BJP,RSS and the other allied organizations.
Had Rahul Gandhi been asked to apologize for his remark on Modi surname, he would have done it without any difficulty. He is being asked to apologize for his remarks in the Cambridge debate. There is nothing to regret in what he said. Our own prime minister created precedence by criticizing Indian politicians in his meeting abroad. Celebrated writer Aundhati Roy’s ‘Approaching Gridlock’ on Free Speech and Failing Democracy in a speech given at Swedish Academy on 22 March 2023 at a conference called “Thought and Truth Under Pressure” vindicates what Rahul said at the Cambridge. She said,”India for all practical purposes has become a corporate, theocratic Hindu state, a highly policed state, a fearsome state.” The Idea of India is not ending up in a theocratic Hindu state. It is pluralistic, secular and a democratic India our forefathers had fought for. It is an entity where people of all religions, languages, regions, culture and traditions live happily in absolute harmony. That is the idea of India that is enduring.
What is the purpose of talking negative about our country in other countries ?