Rahul Gandhi’s desperate plea to the United States to intervene in India is an affront to any nationalist who takes pride in rising India. This also explains there is something wrong with the Congress leadership and that they appear to have completely surrendered in the fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The abominable comment came during Rahul Gandhi’s online interaction with Harvard University professors and former US Secretary of State Nicholas Burns. He claimed that there was a wholesale capture of the institutional framework by the ruling dispensation and the US was not speaking against it. “I don’t hear anything from the US establishment on what is going on here in India,” he said.
How can a person who aspires to become the Prime Minister of India heap such an insult on the dignity of an average Indian? But before we try to understand Rahul Gandhi’s statement, we must not lose sight of the fact that this is not an isolated statement from the Congress.
This episode reminds me of the statement made by senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on a Pakistani television channel in November 2015, where he appealed to Pakistan to bring the Congress back to power in India for a better relation between India and Pakistan. A week prior to that, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had praised the then Nawaz Sharif government and criticized the Modi government for problems in Indo-Pak relations. And all of this on Pakistani soil.
The Congress was peeved at the astounding success of Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and were upset and angry. Aiyar is the same person who had said that Modi would never become the Prime Minister but was free to sell tea at the AICC headquarters. Such was the arrogance. Senior Congress leaders were smarting under the insult that a Modi victory had heaped on them and the aura that surrounded the dynasty.
The Indian National Congress had been formed as a safety valve so that the anger could get dissipated and the British Empire could survive by making a few adjustments here and there. Although India got independence, the tendency to look to the British for approval was palpable. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi chose the well-bred and Western-educated Jawaharlal Nehru over Sardar Patel to be India’s first Prime Minister. Nehru adopted the policy of non-alignment, but Congress leaders always looked towards the erstwhile USSR for support. What happened to then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent is still shrouded in mystery.
The tendency of Congress leaders to look to the West and other powers to strengthen their position in India is not new. But they seem to have forgotten that the world order has changed. There used to be a time when it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. But now the UK wishes to develop a congenial relation with India for its own good. The United States is powerful but it needs India the same way as India needs it. Those days are gone by when these important countries would be comfortable only with the Gandhi family or someone bred in the West.
Before making such an obnoxious appeal, Rahul Gandhi should have remembered how the Obama administration bent over forwards to extend a red-carpet welcome to Modi when he became Prime Minister. The US was forced to reverse its policy of denying a visa to Modi when he had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
This should also be seen in the context of the 65 Opposition members of the Indian Parliament, that included seven from the Congress, writing a letter to then US President Barack Obama, asking him to continue the visa ban on PM Modi. But Modi had not applied for a US visa. The people of this country had decided to make him the prime minister and forced the US to invite Modi.
The Congress and Left echo system created the same narrative when Donald Trump lost and Joe Biden won the US presidential race. They calculated that the Indian Prime Minister would have a tough time now that Trump was out. They made their fight so personalized that they forgot that India’s domestic politics do not shape the US’s policy. Modi was clear that he was dealing with the US President and not individuals. And so was the case with the US administration. Both Modi and Biden struck a chord of mutual respect and Indo-US relations seem to be on a new take-off, much to the envy of certain Indian leaders.
The new Quad initiative by the US and India, featuring in the itinerary of the first visit of US Defence Minister Lloyd Austin, also speaks a lot for those who want to understand strategic partnership. Austin’s other two visits were to trusted allies Japan and South Korea. India is not an ally of the US but a partner that can be trusted.
In such a situation, what prompted Rahul Gandhi to imagine that the US would interfere in India’s affairs to install him as a leader of substance? The US makes a prompt assessment of everything happening in this country. They know that Modi is getting stronger through a due democratic process. The people of this country have complete trust in him. But Rahul Gandhi and other leaders are failing to mobilise public support against the Modi government. Rather than trying to get the support of people, other parties are spending time criticizing the Prime Minister at a personal level.
The stand of the new US administration under Biden was clear when it supported the farm legislations in India and made the same arguments that the Modi government has been giving. This was despite the tweets by Greta Thunberg and Rihanna. Governments across the world understand the problems faced by democratic governments in pushing through reforms. This happened in the UK and the US too.
The last straw of hope for these shameless Indian leaders is the issue of human rights violations. The UK-based Amnesty had to go out of India not because it reported alleged human rights violations, but because it was violating Indian laws and doing unethical things. Thousands of NGOs have shut down because they refused to be accountable to the Indian system.
There is not even one incident of human rights violation where the Indian State has given any defence. The country has robust institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, a free press and the fiercely independent judiciary. But Rahul Gandhi finds fault with these institutions. In the age of digital media, no party would complain that the media is biased or manipulated. But Rahul Gandhi says the media is not independent. Not to forget that the Congress runs an English national daily called The National Herald. But if people do not read that considering it is garbage and spews venom against PM Modi, one cannot fault the Indian Prime Minister or the government for that.
In his interview Rahul Gandhi said, “To fight elections, I need institutional structures, I need a judicial system that protects me, I need a media that is reasonably free, I need financial parity, I need a set of institutional structures that allow me to operate as a political party. I do not have them.”
Rahul Gandhi is crying foul and trying to project as if the party is losing due to the manipulation of the entire system by the Modi government. This is the same process that had delivered victory to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, to the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, to Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, and to the TRS in Telangana. So, can anyone take Rahul Gandhi’s allegations seriously?
One incident of an EVM being carried in the vehicle of a BJP worker’s wife has been made to look like the entire election process is getting rigged. The car of the election officials had broken down and they had taken the help that was easily available. The fact that the vehicle belonged to the wife of a BJP candidate from another constituency came to light much later and the officials taking the lift were unaware of it. The Election Commission has acted tough and suspended four officials for violating the protocol of transporting EVMs, even as it held that there was no tapering and the lock was intact. The Commission also ordered repolling at that particular booth. Yet it has not satisfied Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress leader and his followers are trying to undermine trusted democratic institutions which are respected the world over. The Election Commission of India is one such that has also cooperated with other countries to conduct elections there. A few countries also use EVMs manufactured in India in their electoral processes. Questioning the Commission would mean undermining institutions elsewhere too.
The same is the case with our judicial system which is respected the world over for its fairness. Remember what a District Judge in London had said about former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, who had testified in the case of the extradition of Nirav Modi. He had termed Katju “an outspoken critic with his own personal agenda”. The judge called his evidence “less than objective and reliable” and said, “There is no cogent or reliable evidence that the judiciary in India is no longer independent, or capable of managing a fair trial even where it is a high-profile fraud with significant media interest”. Rahul Gandhi suffers from the same syndrome as Katju.
When the UPA was in power, Sonia Gandhi, as chairperson of the alliance, set up Congress fixers in the government to malign the image of Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Amit Shah, who was the state’s Home Minister. The CBI was set up against the IB and witnesses were created to fix both of them. These are well documented now. But Modi as Chief Minister never attacked the investigative agencies and faced the grilling of the SIT (Special Investigation Team) for 10 hours.
Nobody knows better than Rahul Gandhi and his mentors that these institutions can be misused. But none of these things are being said against any member of the Gandhi family. In fact, even core supporters of Modi say that the government was being too soft on the acts of commissions and omissions by these people when they were in power. The truth is Modi does not need to fix them. Law agencies are working at their own pace and the common man can hope that the guilty will be punished. Modi does not need to do all this to win elections. He is winning because people have developed faith in him as a leader who can be trusted. In the decadent and moribund politics of India known for corruption and chicanery, Modi has rekindled hope and emerged as a symbol of regeneration. Recognising this would help Rahul Gandhi reflect on lost opportunities and re-craft his political roadmap.
The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.