‘I am the daughter-in-law of Mrs Indira Gandhi.’ I have not been able to comprehend this remark by Congress president Sonia Gandhi even after two weeks. The question is that of Rs 90 crore which the defunct National Herald had obtained from the government and had not paid back. A court has adjudged the non-payment as an act of ‘criminality.’
Sonia’s son, Rahul, has gone to the extent of characterising the court judgment as ‘political vendetta’ by the Modi government against them and the Congress party. It is a court judgment. How does the government come in the picture? Because of public horror, the Congress is changing its stance and delinking Rahul’s remark with the court’s judgment. Former Congress law minister Kapil Sibbal has given in to Rahul’s irresponsible observation and called it as the government vendetta by the BJP against Congress. He is not convincing because Rahul’s remark came a day after the court judgment. Indeed, both Sonia and Rahul have politicised the loan which they apparently do not want to repay. Both, the mother and son, have dragged in the Modi government and the BJP unnecessarily. How do the party and the Prime Minister come in the picture?
Sonia Gandhi is behaving in the same manner as her mother-in-law did. Had Sonia been in power, she would have followed in her mother-in-law’s footsteps and imposed emergency to suspend the Constitution, to gag the press and to detain one lakh people without trial. After losing at the Allahabad High Court, which disqualified Indira Gandhi for six years for having used the government machinery, Indira Gandhi went berserk. Instead of submitting her resignation from the Lok Sabha, she imposed the Emergency and had the law relating to election amended retrospectively so as to cover her illegal election. She got it endorsed by the Parliament, which practically had no opposition because she detained the opposition members without trial so as to have a smooth sailing in Parliament. What the Congress party has not yet realised is that the opposition is as important in a democratic polity as the ruling party. The basic question which needs to be answered is that the independence of institutions gives strength to the democratic structure. An attack on them is an attack on the institutions which protect the rights of people.
Concept of pluralism
Whatever the sins of Modi government, it cannot, however, be blamed for the laws which were passed earlier to dilute the concept of pluralism. The real culprit is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has the Hindu Rashtra as its aim. This damages the very concept of secularism, which the democratic India has enshrined in the Constitution. The Modi government is influenced by the extremist RSS. BJP is afraid to take any step that may challenge the basic structure of the Constitution. For example, it dare not touch the concept of pluralism because the party realises that the majority of Indians would not tolerate the Hindutva, which is the anti-thesis of secularism. It is, however, unfortunate that the Modi government should bring about an era of intolerance, which is hurting not only the Muslims but the intelligentsia on the whole. The effort to push the country to the Right does not in any way help the nation which requires more and more investment by the government in the different sectors so that the pace of development picks up.
In this context, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj should be congratulated. She has broken the stalemate with Pakistan. True, she has taken the initiative to change India’s stand not to talk to Pakistan unless it stops terrorism. But her step is in the interest of India. One wishes it should have been taken earlier. Many years have been wasted unnecessarily. Her initiative has been applauded throughout the country. New Delhi respects the people’s wishes and wants to live with Pakistan like normal neighbours. The problem is with Pakistan, which is dominated by extremist religious elements and the armed forces. Islamabad is under pressure not to take the path of friendship. Yet it should be realised that there is no other option. Whether this happens tomorrow or day after, this is the only way available to both countries. The sooner they realise, the better it would be for the people of India-Pakistan. Some elements on both sides realise this. But their strength is nowhere equal to the radicals and therefore, does not count.
Almost seven decades have passed in fruitless estrangement. Unfortunately, it is taking the shape of hostility. The two countries have fought two full-fledged wars and a short one at Kargil. Thousands of soldiers have died on both sides. Kashmir is the symptom, not the disease. The disease is the absence of trust. Now to bring about an atmosphere where they live like normal neighbours if no friends is the crux of the problem. Pakistan has to change the text books and circular in schools and colleges so as to do away with religious intolerance. Radical Muslims are as bad as radical Hindus.