Of late, certain inconvenient facts about both the BJP and the Congress are being bandied about by leaders of the rival political parties. It might be edifying to recall some of the allegations levelled and to examine their implications. By way of example, one can cite Rahul Gandhi’s three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the Rafale deal. They are: (1) Did the Prime Minister get the necessary clearance from the CCS before he negotiated and committed to the purchase of Rafale aircraft in France? (2) How much did the PM agree to pay for each aircraft? (3) Why did the PM bypass HAL and prefer to favour a private entity with no previous defence production experience? One recalls the very recent commitment made by the Defence Minister to answer all questions relating to the Rafale deal. She has now reneged on that commitment. And neither the Prime Minister nor any of his Cabinet colleagues has anything to say about the Refale deal. This is rather unfortunate, considering that we are citizens of a democratic country. There is no reason to protest the Prime Minister’s disinclination to talk about any of the sensitive operational matters relating to the Rafale aircraft because such information does indeed relate to national security. But how can the cost of each aircraft (purchased with public money) be concealed from the public on the plea that even this information is an official secret? Even if the suppliers of the Rafale aircraft had insisted on having a clause in the agreement that the price of each aircraft should not be made public, India should have made it very clear that the public had a right to know the cost of acquiring the Rafale aircraft, and hence such a clause was repugnant to the Indian government. Perhaps the real reason for not making the cost of the Rafale deal public is that it was inordinately high. This, in turn, could be due to the fact that the Indian signatory to the agreement could have been the principal beneficiary of the deal. As a consequence, the cost of each aircraft might have turned out to be exorbitant because it also included hefty kickbacks.
The other major grouse of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism of the Congress and its performance in the last 70 years should have been made in Parliament in the course of the Prime Minister’s reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address instead of being made in public meetings. This criticism of the Prime Minister by Rahul Gandhi is hardly surprising considering that Prime Minister Modi blamed the Congress for the country’s partition and the Kashmir problem and also accused it of serving the interest of just one family, of arrogance, of loot through corruption and of the muzzling of democracy. These are allegations with substance, and it is naturally embarrassing for the Congress to hear them being reiterated in Parliament. The most inconvenient of these allegations is the one of dynastic rule. And though India has also had Prime Ministers not belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the Congress has always been reluctant to have a party president from outside the dynasty. As a result, the most important political party of the country has been turned into a family party over the years. Even when it had Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, it chose someone who had never been elected. After all, it is much easier for the family to exercise control over an unelected prime minister than over one can always go back to his/her constituency to get elected by the people. With such a scenario, the Congress can only pretend to believe in democracy. Over the years, it has forgotten what real democracy stands for. As such, the allegation of the Congress having muzzled democracy rings true, no matter how loud the protests might be. As for loot through corrupt practices, the Congress has encouraged this practice for so long that when it accuses other political parties of corruption it is a case of the kettle calling the pot black.
No Need for Diamonds
On his visit to Tripura on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the people of the State to abandon the ruby (Manik) in favour of the diamond. There are times when even the Prime Minister of our country functions no better than a mere political campaigner. In urging the people of Tripura to throw out Manik Sarkar and his party and to opt for the BJP at the forthcoming State elections later this month, Prime Minister Modi had no way of talking about corruption, since Tripura was the least corrupt State of the Indian Union. So he chose to pretend that other States of the Union, where the ‘diamond’ is supposed to be already in use, are better than Tripura. This is precisely the kind of misleading election campaigning that the Prime Minister of a country must sedulously avoid. The nation knows what Manik Sarkar has done for Tripura. People know how clean he is. His very lifestyle and his modest bank account says it all. Also the fact that the electorate has voted him back to power repeatedly over a period of 25 years. There are very few politicians who can claim the same level of public support that Manik Sarkar has commanded. The Prime Minister’s claims of dictatorial rule and the denial of fundamental rights in Tripura are bound to be rejected by the electorate. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister, instead of giving credit where it is due, should be picking holes in an administration that has done very well for its people. One expects the Prime Minister to give credit where it is due instead of running down a State government merely because it is doing better than most BJP-run States.