Sahara papers: Rahul Gandhi flogs dead horse again, shows why he'll always remain a political apprentice

In an earlier article, Firstpost had written how Rahul Gandhi's threat of causing an "earthquake" against Narendra Modi was likely a damp squib (as it later proved to be) but nevertheless a smart political strategy. The argument was that the Gandhi scion possesses so little credibility that even if his allegations turn out to be nothing more than comic relief, he would still have little to lose by way of political capital.

The Congress vice-president didn't belie expectations and was roundly ridiculed but if one thought that would teach him a lesson not to sow wild oats by way of political strategy, one is likely to be disappointed. Rahul belongs to that rare breed of politicians each of whose tactics results in unmitigated gain for their rivals. Not for nothing has he been called BJP's greatest strength and an unflinching ally.

Rahul Gandhi. File photo. PTI

Rahul Gandhi. File photo. PTI

Shortly after the Mehsana flop, on Thursday, he tried to flog the dead horse once again, reiterating the graft allegations against Modi and challenging him again to "come clean" after media reports emerged of Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) dismissing the 'Sahara papers' as "loose sheets" of no consequence, thereby reinforcing the Supreme Court ruling on the "material" that has so far generated much sound and fury and little else.

After threatening an earth-shattering tsunami for the better part of an aborted Winter Session, the Congress vice-president had finally delivered on 21 December a rehashed old allegation by way of "concrete proof of prime minister's personal corruption", one that the Supreme Court has rejected on multiple occasions.

The 'Sahara-Birla papers', which Gandhi had referred to during a rally in Gujarat, are in reality a set of purported I-T documents that formed the basis of a PIL filed by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on behalf of an NGO. A two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and JS Khehar had on two occasions dismissed the so-called "computer entries" showing alleged payoffs to then Gujarat chief minister as mere insinuations and "fictitious" documents with "zero" evidentiary value.

On Bhushan's demand, during the first hearing on 25 November, that the court order an inquiry by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) into the "diaries" which date back to 2013, the bench said: “Anybody can make any number of entries today in the world. Today, a person may make 100 entries in the book or computer about 100 persons. So an investigation should be made?", according to a report by Economic Times.

Calling the value of the documents "zero", the bench had directed Bhushan to appear before it with "credible evidence" on 14 December on which day the Supreme Court delivered another rebuke, cautioning the petitioner that unsubstantiated allegations against constitutional functionaries won't be taken lightly.

“This is becoming very abnormal for us. What we told you (petitioner)… give us smallest material. We will deal with it… How will a constitutional authority function if you are going to make such allegations? We don’t see even the smallest material to substantiate your accusations,” the two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and JS Khehar, who took over as the 44th CJI on Wednesday, told advocate Bhushan.

The hearing in the case has been adjourned for 11 January but meanwhile, The Indian Express reported on Thursday that the tax panel has granted Sahara immunity from prosecution and penalty following raids conducted on November 2014 during which "diaries" listing alleged pay-offs to politicians were recovered.

The ITSC has concurred with the firm's claim that the loose sheets and entries that form part of the 'Sahara papers' have zero value. Shortly after the report was published, Rahul, who is holidaying abroad, tweeted his demand that the prime minister should not "fear an investigation" if his conscience is clean and hinted that the immunity granted to Sahara was in reality an immunity for Modi.

It doesn't matter that the materials have been dismissed by the highest court of the land or declared 'dead' by tax panels. If Rahul says so, Modi must be ready for a probe. Little wonder that the Congress vice-president's perennial political apprenticeship shows no sign of ending.

Published Date: Jan 05, 2017 20:53 PM | Updated Date: Jan 06, 2017 00:52 AM

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