India’s October Revolution?
Next week the courts will be in session. The future of Mr Dayanidhi Maran may be decided. More crucially, the future of Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram may also be decided. If the Supreme Court decides that there is need for the CBI to investigate the minister, it might be very difficult for Mr Chidambaram to continue in office. In the event, it is most likely that the crisis will escalate to rope in people at the very top. Mr Chidambaram would not like to be singled out. Earlier I had written to point out that Section 10 of the Prevention of Corruption Act could implicate the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Home Minister and Law Minister as abettors of jailed former Telecom Minister Mr A Raja and thereby make them vulnerable to criminal prosecution. During a TV debate noted lawyer Mr Harish Salve confirmed that it would be very difficult to implicate Mr Chidambaram without involving the other three senior leaders too.
However, given our political culture it is unlikely that the abetment of corruption would be taken seriously. Politicians, media and the public seem to consider only direct financial beneficiaries of corruption to be guilty. In the days ahead public attention most likely will focus on the money trail of the 2G scam. Could Mr Chidamabaram throw any more light on that?
In recent days the rift within the cabinet has burst into public view. Media has made much about the differences between Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr Chidambaram. However these differences could be but the tip of the iceberg. As far back as April 4, 2007 I had pointed out that there was a visible rift between 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course Road. The unnatural and wholly undemocratic arrangement of a Prime Minister functioning under the shadow of an extra constitutional authority was bound to create in the government tension and even paralysis. During UPA-1 the alliance with the Left was a constant source of friction between the PM and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Issues unrelated to that acted as catalysts for friction.
I wrote at that time: “An emotive issue has arisen to divide the UPA government at the very top. The issue is Ottavio Quattrocchi… after news of Quattrocchi’s arrest broke on the night of February 23 … there seemed to be a tug-of-war within the government over how to handle the issue… the differences have assumed the dimensions of a rift between the PMO and 10 Janpath.” Later, on 23 May, 2010 I again wrote: “The conspiracy to change the government within the next few months is under way… It remains to be seen whether a clash between the two (warring) groups is ignited to create a major political realignment. In his press conference yesterday the PM said he would not retire. Has anyone asked him to retire? Before winter we should know. ”
Last winter came and went. Nothing happened. But things have continued to get worse. Are the chickens finally coming home to roost? Before this winter will we see any traumatic change? By popular media perception no serious fight within the government is possible because Mrs Gandhi is all powerful and the PM is a helpless pawn. That may be so. But I would like to draw attention to a photograph taken last Sunday when Mrs Sonia Gandhi made her first public appearance after her illness during Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Happily, in appearance she looked quite healthy. After visiting Rajghat she went to the Central Hall of Parliament where many leaders had congregated. There a photograph was taken published in the newspapers. It showed the PM standing cheek by jowl with Dr Subramaniam Swamy to his left, Leader of opposition Mrs Sushma Swaraj to his immediate right and next to her just a yard away from the PM stood Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The PM and Dr Swamy were grinning. Mrs Gandhi was looking away with an uncomfortable expression.
Dr Swamy’s tirade against the alleged corruption and foreign bank accounts of Mrs Gandhi is unrelenting. He attacks her on TV, through the Internet and on Twitter. Was the PM extraordinarily insensitive to stand next to Dr Swamy while smiling broadly to the acute embarrassment of Mrs Gandhi? Or was he sending a message to the world? I can’t decide. What do you think?
By Rajinder Puri