Some of the political pundits who operate between Gurgaon in Haryana on one side and Noida in Uttar Pradesh, on the other, have been very impressed with Rahul Gandhi's big speech, which he made late last week.
But there are several reasons which clearly point out that Rahul's big speech should be treated like just another speech and nothing more. In his speech Rahul Gandhi talked about giving “the country anti-graft bills which will transform the country,” and which will lead to “punish[ing] the corrupt and protect[ing] the honest.” A very noble thought indeed.
But look at the way the Congress party government in Haryana is treating the IAS officer Ashok Khemka. The government has recommended a CBI probe against Khemka for awarding a contract worth Rs 8 crore to a Gujarat based company. Over and above this, news reports suggest that a second chargesheet will be filed against Khemka, by the Haryana government. Khema has been accused of incurring a loss of Rs 22 lakh to the Haryana Seed Development Corporation of which he was the managing director between 15 October, 2012 and 4 April, 2013. Yes, you read the right. A loss of Rs 22 lakh.
As is well known by now Khemka exposed how the Haryana government went out of its way to help Rahul's brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, to acquire land at cheap rates. Vadra later sold the land to DLF to make massive profits. (You can read a detailed analysis on this here).
So does this mean that Rahul's statement of “punish[ing] the corrupt and protect[ing] the honest,” applies to everyone else other than the Gandhi family? And those who dare to expose the shenanigans of the family, will be hounded like Khemka has been?
As Pratab Bhanu Mehta writes in The Indian Express “Gandhi’s fiery AICC speech also vested too much in speeches and less in action. An anti-corruption stance is not very convincing when your own government is hounding Ashok Khemka and blaming the CAG and CVC.”
Also, why has Rahul suddenly woken up to corruption, a few months before the next Lok Sabha elections are due? Where was he when the Commonwealth Games scam, the 2G scam and the Coalgate scam happened? Holidaying in Europe?
Further, what does Rahul have to say about the CBI plea to drop criminal prosecution against Ashok Chavan, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, in the Adarsh Housing Society scam? That CBI is an independent organisation, which operates on its own? A special court in Mumbai rejected this plea.
Or what does he have to say about the Maharasthra government first rejecting the report by the judicial commission on Adarsh Housing Scam and then only partially accepting it. The Judicial Commission's report pointed out that the Adarsh Society enjoyed political patronage of former chief ministers, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde (the current home minister of India) and Ashok Chavan.
As pointed out earlier, the Maharashtra government accepted the report in parts. While it accepted allegations against Ashok Chavan, it decided to give a clean chit to the late Vilasrao Deshmukh and the current home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
Rahul also talked about “people demand[ing] honest and efficient governance,” and the Congress party “respond[ed] by getting the Lokpal Act passed.” The Lokpal Act in its current form has been doing the rounds for the last few years. Can Rahul tell us why did it take the Congress party so long to get it passed? Are the recent election results, where the party suffered an electoral humiliation, the main reason for it?
Rahul also took potshots at his main rival Narendra Modi of the Bhartiya Janta Party and said “Democracy is not rule by dictate. It is not rule by one man. It is rule through empowered elected representatives.” Very good point indeed.
But if Rahul is so concerned about democracy then when was the last time the Congress party had elections for the post of the President and Vice President?
As Ashutosh Varshney writes in Battles Half Won – India's Improbable Democracy “An interconnected problem is the lack of intra-party democracy. Inter-party competition is vigorous, but intra-party competition is not. Party officials are appointed by the leaders, not elected by party members. During 1920-1973, the Congress party used to have regular elections, a practice dropped since then.” A Gandhi family scion who has inherited the throne should be the last person talking about democracy.
All these reasons make it very clear that Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party being very serious about corruption, doesn't cut much ice. The Gandhi family scion needs to realise that ultimately actions speak louder than words.
As MJ Akbar put it in The Times of India “Corruption is a slippery slope for anyone in power. Congress should have stuck to its familiar narrative of populism and stability, for such advertising can be backed by evidence.” So, if Rahul is serious about corruption, then he should let the law of the land investigate the land dealings of Robert Vadra for a start and ensure that the Congress governments do not hound honest bureaucrats like Ashok Khemka. Then there will be real evidence to back his words. Of course, that is easier said than done.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Updated Date: Jan 21, 2014 19:08 PM