The current slugfest between the BJP and the Congress over the Sahara and Birla diaries is a living embodiment of Rahat Indori's couplet: Jhooton ne jhooton se kaha hai, sach bolo (liars are asking liars to speak the truth). Since Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of accepting "Rs 40 crores from Sahara" at a rally in Gujarat's Mehsana, both parties have come up with arguments and allegations that make politics resemble the Ivy League of hypocrisy.
Consider Rahul Gandhi's case first. After threatening to expose Modi in Parliament, bring about a quake, he has done a Kejriwal 2.0 by rehashing some of the allegations made by the Delhi chief minister in the state assembly. The papers he is quoting to attack Modi are a compilation of the who's who of Indian politics.
Hidden in the Sahara files and the Birla papers are names of politicians from across the political spectrum, including those of Congress leaders, some UPA-era stalwarts and the then Delhi chief minister, now the party's face in Uttar Pradesh. There are some oblique references to the then minister of environment and forests Jayanti Natarajan too in the diaries. Gandhi's selective outrage perfectly qualifies as a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
If Rahul Gandhi were really serious about a probe, he could have at least done an encore of his famous act of tearing up the legislation that UPA wanted passed to shield convicted politicians, allow them to contest polls. But, Rahul has performed the sorry spectacle of running with Sheila Dixit and hunting for Modi.
The BJP's conceit, deceit and denials are even more shameful.
In April, the ruling dispensation had launched a brutal assault on Congress leaders and former PM Manmohan Singh because their names appeared in several conversations between middlemen accused of influencing the AgustaWestland chopper deal. On the basis of the conversations — not evidence — that mentioned in the proceedings of an Italian court, the party had asked the Gandhis to come clean on the deal.
Is the Sahara and Birla diaries case any different? The selective allegations made by both Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi against the prime minister are also based on papers that were seized by Income Tax officials during raids on these groups.
The Sahara papers were seized by I-T officials in a raid on the corporate office of its chairman. The documents showed details of proposed and actual payments made allegedly to different people, with details of place and timing. These documents were made part of the probe after following the procedure laid out under the law. In short, they have official and legal sanctity. Similar documents with details of alleged payments were recovered from raids on CEO of the Aditya Birla group in 2013.
So, why can't the BJP ask its leaders to do what it advised the Gandhis in the AgustaWestland case: Come clean, face a probe. Or is this a case of BJP being presumed innocence and the Congress being declared guilty without a probe? Remember also the BJP's double-standards in raking up the "J-tax" (alleged kickbacks to Jayanti Natarajan) during the 2014 election campaign based on entries in the Birla diaries and then laughing them off when the charges boomeranged on them.
As Indori said: Ghar mein jhooton ki mandi lagi hai, darwaze pe likha hai sach bolo.
In this concert of lies and hypocrisy, truth could be drowned, but not hidden. Everyone in India knows that politicians take donations (in unaccounted cash) for contesting elections. Huge chunks of this money come from the corporate sector under various pretexts but is divided up as contributions from individual donors. Any party that claims it fought the 2014 elections with legitimately collected and properly documented donations just knows the art of lying and fudging better than the other. In the hamam of political funding, every party is naked. By pointing fingers at each other, through selective allegations and charges of bribery, the Congress and the BJP are living another Indori couplet: Ungliya sab par na yu uthaya karo, kharch karne se pehle kuch kamaya karo.
Though Rahul Gandhi is trying to kick up a storm — his only option since he is on verge of political extinction — it is unlikely to lead to a concrete result because his intentions are steeped in hypocrisy and subterfuge. It would just lead to some noise, allegations, counter-allegations and then would be forgotten.
The BJP, would, of course brazen it out. Like it did when Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje faced allegations of impropriety in the Lalit Modi case. Like it did when it rode the storm on the Vyapam scam and resultant spate of suspicious deaths.
Several years ago, when LK Advani's name appeared in the Jain hawala diaries, he quit parliament and returned only after his name was cleared by the Supreme Court.
Over the past few decades, laws of morality in politics have undergone a drastic change. Instead of trying to be Ceaser's Wife, politicians now believe in the pragmatic philosophy of claiming innocence-till-proven-guilty. The BJP, once a party that talked of shuchita, pardarshita and asmita in public life, is defined more by pragmatism and opportunism, instead of morality and ideology.
So, behold the spectacle of two liars fighting for truth. It is the defining feature of our polity.
Updated Date: Dec 22, 2016 15:48:29 IST