The merits of the case aside, will the optics of Rahul Gandhi’s three days in a row trek to the Enforcement Directorate’s Office help his flagging image as a leader? The jury is divided on that one, but the joke within the BJP Headquarters is that since Rahul Gandhi is unable to establish himself as a leader, they have given him an issue on a platter to try and resurrect him. For, as far as the BJP is concerned, it is convinced that as long as Rahul is the face of the Opposition, it has nothing to worry.
Be that as it may, the sight of Congress leaders of all shapes, sizes, rank & file descending to the streets in the sweltering summer heat and facing lathi charge and police arrest has certainly brought life back into the party. Of course it would have been better had the party chosen an issue with a more universal appeal, such as price hike or jobs than just fighting for the Gandhi name but then again this is the Congress that we are talking about. Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajput lashed out at the government in defence of his leader stating that `sarkar bhi apki, ED bhi apki (both the ED and the Government belongs to you) but he could have add
ed sadak Congress ki (the streets belong to the Congress). Given the fact that Rahul’s elevation as party president is a given, the theatrics on his behalf will cement his place within the party as a continuation of the Chintan Shivir agenda. In that limited sense the trek to the ED office may pay some political dividend.
But while this may work to boost morale within the party, does it have any impact on the aam-admi? Does it refurbish Rahul’s image outside the party? Perhaps not, because Rahul is still to strike a chord with the public at large. In terms of optics, he has done well to answer the ED’s summons and not dodge them through legalese for that would have meant he has something to hide. However the public is still to see him as a `victim’. The merits of the case are a bit confusing for the common man to understand. Here the BJP is much smarter at communicating. They have summed up their charge sheet in one line – `By paying 50 lakhs the Gandhi family managed to get its hands on Rs 2000 crore of assets.’ This has various Congress spokespersons tripping on their maths as they try & explain the following: How the company Associated Journals Limited was formed in 1937 by a group of freedom fighters and Congress leaders to counter British propaganda ; and National Herald was one of the three papers it brought out. According to Congress leaders, it was the party that supported AJL which had a loan of Rs 90 crore outstanding against it, most of which had been raised by the Congress shareholders. In 2010, a non profitable company Young India Limited with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi on its board of directors bought AJL for Rs 50 lakh, taking on the Rs 90 crore debt. Soon after BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy moved court claiming that the entire transaction was a move to acquire the Rs 2000 crore assets of National Herald. Dr Swamy’s case is pending in court. The ED however is looking into a case of money laundering by the Gandhis.
Now this is a complicated story, which the general public has little time to follow. What stands out is that Rahul Gandhi is being summoned by the ED on a money laundering charge. The BJP is also accusing the Congress for interfering with the workings of an official agency and that too for someone who is a mere MP and not even a party official. Will the Congress drum up enough sympathy for its leader by painting this as `vendetta politics’ is the key question ? Newly elected Rajya Sabha MP and Congress General Secretary, Randeep Surjewala has called the entire agitation a `sach ka sangarsh’ (fight for truth). Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot claims that ‘Rahul is only one man in the entire country who is taking on the PM and that is why the ED has sent notices to him.’ Trying to explain the Congress line of defence Gehlot added, “it was Congress leaders who wanted to revive the National Herald which is why a non profit company was floated, and eventually the loan of Rs 90 crore has been paid off in 100 installments. Moreover since Young India is a non profitable company no director can profit from it” Gehlot also pointed out that none of the assets of National Herald or AGL have been taken over by Young India as is being alleged by the BJP. Well the Congress is making its case, both in front of TV cameras and on the streets, but so far it has not been able to move the rest of the opposition to support their leader.