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Capital Grapevine  

Lacking credibility, Rahul should not pin hope on Rafale to deliver electoral nirvana

Instead target vigilante groups, arrests of civil rights activists, rising petrol prices, etc.

Rafale, Rafale,Rafale. Like a broken record, Rahul Gandi seems to be stuck on Rafale. And, not unlike a broken record, what he says is jarring on the nation’s ears. You know why? Because he has not gone beyond throwing hints of a scam without providing even a wee-bit of evidence. That is why no one even among the parties which are viscerally antagonistic towards the present regime have paid little heed to his desperate cries for notice. Ordinary people, of course, couldn’t be bothered less, dismissing the charge of a scandal against Prime Minister Modi as a disingenuous attempt to tar his image with the same brush of corruption with which most Congress leaders of stature high and low stand tarred in the court of public opinion.

The point is simple. Rafale cannot be Modi’s Bofors. Because not even Modi’s worst enemies suspect him to be corrupt. Modi’s mother and brothers are proof that his stint as chief minister for multiple terms and now as prime minister has done nothing to lift them out of their miserable lower middle class status. The extended Modi family continues to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

On the other hand, let us not mince words. Nobody after Motilal Nehru has worked for a living in the extended Nehru-Gandhi family. Okay, Rajiv Gandhi was a pilot with the Indian Airlines, but his monthly pay-packet could not have been enough to sustain his life style even for a day. Consider this. His fellow pilot, Captain Satish Sharma, was obliged to live in a ‘barsati’ with his Spanish wife, mother and other family members till Rajiv brought him into politics. Captain Sharma’s transformation from a rented second- floor barsati to multiple, swanky, Italian marble-tiled farm houses, --- yes, houses, --- was quick.

Thus, to flesh out the charge of bribery in the Rafale deal is a huge challenge for Rahul Gandhi. Incidentally, neither he nor his sister have had to work for a living. And what a life of luxury and leisure they live, flying in great comfort at the drop of a hat to the swankiest corners of the world.

To emphasize the venal character of the Gandhis and other Congress leaders is only to emphasize the point that Rahul enjoys little or no credibility with the ordinary people. They don’t seem to take him seriously. Unlike a slew of anti-Congress leaders who enjoyed the trust of the people when Bofors hit headlines, Congress leaders pointing finger at others for corruption only evoke derision and distrust. It is one thing to cry scam, scam, it is another to sound credible. It is remarkable that he first began chanting Rafale after meeting a group of lobbyists on his recent tour of America. Notably, Lockheed Martin was one of the unsuccessful bidders for the same Indian order which went to Rafale.

Also, consider that the Rafale deal is between the governments of France and India. No chance of a Quattorrochhi here. The 36 fully loaded multi- role combat aircrafts with the latest cutting-edge technology are to be supplied in a fly-away condition by Dassault Aviation. It is the French who have commissioned the Anil Ambani company for fulfilling the obligatory offsets programme. It is for the French to explain as to how they hired the Ambani company. It should be remembered that this Ambani brother is neck-deep in debt, forced to strip off assets to pay the banks. He can hardly be in a position to give a dime to anyone, much less to Modi or to the BJP. Rahul should ask the French why they commissioned him for the offsets programme. Hopefully, not because Anil’s entertainment company part-funded a film in which then French President Francois Hollande’s partner, the actor Julie Gayet, was the leading lady. Thus, the scandal, if any, at least of a conflict of interest, is at the French end, not here in India.

Rahul might have his own reasons to drone on and on about Rafale, especially when you lack the mental wherewithal to sift the wheat from the chaff of cloying sycophancy. Some among his tour-arrangers with dubious linkages are obviously leading him up the garden path. Who could be these people susceptible to foreign lobbies is for Rahul to figure out himself but the charge of corruption is hard to stick against Modi. Period.

This is not to suggest there is nothing to criticize about the Modi Government. Actually, there is a lot. The arrest of the civil rights activists is the latest affront to all those who cherish their freedoms. But Rahul will not open his mouth since the UPA too had been equally arbitrary going after some of the same activists. Then there is notebandi, a real man-made disaster. Or the falling rupee --- although no government could have stopped it -- ( and the fall of the currency was far steeper under UPA). How about the unfulfilled electoral promises? Talk about the looney brigade which came to the fore under Modi. But to suggest Modi is a party to corruption is foolish. It is because he is genuinely non-corrupt. Scan the entire political spectrum, everyone is tainted, including that pretender Kejriwal. But not Modi. That is his USP. You cannot chip that away by mumbling Rafale, Rafale in your sleep or in your waking hours.

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Jagmohan remained Jagmohan, Ashutosh became Gupta

So there is further exodus from the one-man Aam Aadmi Party. Former journalist Ashutosh is the latest to dump Arvind Kejriwal, though as long he was there he had aggressively defended every egregious act of the AAP supremo --- the last being the assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Parkash.

But this is not about Kejriwal’s need only for toadies and bootlickers. This concerns Ashutosh’s claim he was forced to append his Gupta surname to his name when he unsuccessfully contested the 2014 poll. He claims he was against seeking votes on caste basis. If he was, he ought to have put his foot down. He didn’t. And that says a lot about him, doesn’t it?

Ashutosh’s Tweet came following reports that Atishi Marlena has decided to drop her last name because it might confuse people she is a Christian. Predictably, some unnamed BJP members were blamed for spreading the rumor. Why is she dropping Marlena – a compound of Marx and Lenin --- now, though she has been in AAP from its inception. Again, the most progressive party committed to rid politics of all its regressive practices feels the need to play the caste card. Atishi is the party’s candidate from East Delhi Lok Sabha seat and wants the voters to know she is a Rajput and not a Christian. Kejriwal does what it takes to win power, ethics and norms be blown. Period. Incidentally, as advisor to the Delhi Government on education she is supposed to have performed a miracle, a claim on closer examination by experts found to be untrue. But, like Trump, the AAP is good at blowing its own trumpet.

By the way, if a communal and reactionary party like the BJP did not force Jagmohan to append Malhotra to his mononym, and he contested from a Punjabi-dominated New Delhi constituency, winning thrice and losing once, why couldn’t Ashutosh and Marlena stay true to their names?