‘Winds of Change’?

With Rahul Gandhi getting back his parliamentary membership after the Supreme Court’s stay order on the defamation case relating to ‘Modi surname’, Congress leaders heaved an audible sigh of relief. No doubt the apex court’s decision was a welcome development for the grand old party that desperately needs a dynastic enterprise to survive and thwart the saffron offensive. Mr Gandhi was disqualified for a taunting remark he made in 2019 about the surname Modi. In his 2019 comments made on the campaign trail Mr Gandhi had cited a short list of infamous fugitives accused of large-scale fraud and money laundering. Lalit Modi, a cricket impresario and Nirav Modi, a diamond merchant used to get currency in those days for unscrupulous activities. Mr Gandhi said “Why are all thieves named Modi”, with an obvious slight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Then one Purnesh Modi filed a complaint to a court in Surat, a city in Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat, arguing that the remarks amounted to a criminal slur against all Modis. It led to Gandhi’s conviction and finally his disqualification of parliamentary membership and subsequent eviction from his official residence where he lived for 19 years.

That the conviction won’t stand at the Supreme Court was a foregone conclusion. In truth no reasons were given by the trial judge for imposing maximum punishment of two years in the case. If anything court procedures were used to further political agenda of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Congress leaders and workers celebrated the event, the BJP being taught a befitting lesson, hopes somewhat against hope that Rahul Gandhi’s reprieve will be short-lived and their euphoria over the top court’s judgement will vanish any time soon.

The BJP has been desperately trying to destroy democratic institutions and independence of judiciary in a bid to replace the Constitution with their version of Manusmriti-based legal framework, ever since it came to power in 2014. How India has become a classic example of elected autocracy over the years under the Modi dispensation is now an issue of debate, nationally and globally as well. It doesn’t require much to unearth how the BJP hatched a conspiracy against Rahul Gandhi to keep him away from parliament. The Congress Party thinks the reason is simple: Mr Gandhi busted the unholy nexus between the controversial corporate tycoon Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Taking a swipe at the BJP Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said that after the trial court’s verdict it took only 24 hours to disqualify Rahul Gandhi. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Ghelot was so charged that he lost no time to declare that their prime ministerial face would be Rahul Gandhi against Modi in 2024 parliamentary polls. After the Supreme Court’s observation some disgruntled elements in the opposition camp that were not ready to accept Mr Gandhi as their leader have begun to think otherwise. In other words ‘INDIA’ is likely to project Rahul Gandhi as their leader despite some murmur here and there and slowly accepting and systematising the dynastic culture in Indian polity.

But the opposition or for that matter ‘INDIA’ is reading too much between the lines after the apex court verdict, hoping that Congress revival is imminent. It is unlikely to happen from a single adverse judgement against the BJP machinations. Congress and its allies have no concrete agenda to confront Modi’s economic programme that aims at allowing the corporates to loot natural resources as they please and destroy environment and ecology in the name of development. India today lives at many levels. Only the upper level, a tiny fraction of the staggering population enjoys benefits of Modi’s much-hyped 5th largest economy.

The unemployed need employment, pensioners need cheap medicines, house-wives need reduction in vegetable prices. From Rs 33 per kilo in June, tomato prices rose to Rs 110 in July, a whopping 233 percent rise'.

Sky-rocketing prices of even life-saving drugs have made it virtually impossible for middle class people to afford minimum health care. Everybody wants containment of inflation that erodes real income of even white collar employees, not to speak of millions of unprotected workers toiling in informal sector. For them it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage two square meals a day. Just offering promises to grant some freebies when they will form government won’t work. What is needed is massive mass mobilisation but basic masses have very little faith in their credibility as the historic farmers’ movement showed. Election-centric agitation is no answer to Modi’s juggernaut as the BJP government is using police agencies and other supposedly independent institutions to cement his grip on power.

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Vol 56, No. 8, Aug 20 - 26, 2023