ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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It must be conceded that in the field of foreign policy Jawaharlal Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi was more astute than her father. While she must be given full credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Bangladesh, the debits she left behind started the destructive process in our polity. It was her manipulations of democracy that started its downward descent, a process that has expanded exponentially and diversified in every conceivable direction with the passage of decades. Thanks to the seeds sowed by her, we can, today, boast of being one of the most degraded and rogue democracies of the world.
She won her elections to Parliament by gross violation of prevailing election laws. She went into the witness box and gave false evidence, which was disbelieved. Her election was set aside by the high court. She appealed to the Supreme Court and lost. Instead of respecting law, the Constitution and judicial decision, she acquired the persona of a dictator, and decided that her salvation lay in completely subverting Indian democracy, and attacking the Constitution of India. She declared Emergency, imprisoned all her political rivals and critics, suspended human rights and made justice inaccessible to victims. Even when nine High Courts ruled that despite Emergency, courts could protect human rights, she got from the Supreme Court the notorious ADM Jabalpur judgement, making the judiciary completely impotent as defender of citizen's rights. She destroyed the Republic and all the self-respect of Indian democracy in the comity of nations. She ultimately held elections not because the spirit of democracy had revived in her, but because the sycophants surrounding her convinced her that she had won a lasting place in the heart of all the people of India who had forgiven her sins, however grave, and would re-elect her as PM. The people proved them wrong. After losing political power she refused to apologise and resorted to corruption and bribery to bring down the Janata government. It is true that she found wiling collaborators in the Janata Party, but it does not bring any credit to her for political integrity.
The most pernicious legacy left behind by Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi to India's political ethic, that we see in its full blown form today, is the lumpenisation and criminalisation of politics, mainstreaming and institutionalising corruption in governmental and social systems, and distorting and subverting the term "secularism" by pitting it against the majority community, deepening vote bank politics, and trying to divide the country once more on the basis of religion.
The best Prime Minister that India has had till today, is the one that Congress Party never talks about, whose picture is never seen in their literature, and whose outstanding contribution has never been acknowledged. Lal Bahadur Shastri's tenure was short, curtailed by unkind providence, but his two great achievements need to be highlighted to the people of India. Way back in 1961, as Home Minister, Shastri saw the steady rise of corruption to the highest decks of our political life, and realised that India's problems, particularly its appalling poverty find their source in corruption. He appointed the Committee on Prevention of Corruption under K. Santhanam, one offshoot of which was the constitution of the Central Vigilance Commission. Have we ever heard the Congress leadership speak proudly of these contributions? Naturally not, because he was not from the dynasty.
His second achievement, completely concealed from today's voter, was even more magnificent. After the 1964 Indo-Pak war, he leveraged India's dominant position to heal the Kashmir ulcer created by Nehru's ceasefire folly, and attendant Indo-Pak problems, by a few simple sentences in the Tashkent Declaration — that both India and Pakistan will settle their disputes through peaceful means, not attempt to change the existing status quo by force, and not even indulge in propaganda for changing it. This was unprecedented. But, Indira Gandhi, victorious in the 1971 Indo-Pak war for Bangladesh, holding 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, allowed the clever Bhutto to talk her into releasing them under the so called Simla Agreement, which apart from being otherwise useless, contained the final clause that the two Prime Ministers will meet to find a final solution to the Kashmir problem. What Shastri had made final and unalterable, Indira made tentative and negotiable, almost as if she was determined to revive the Kashmir ulcer. History shall never forgive her for this crime against the nation.
Rajiv Gandhi, the young and modern grandson of Nehru, son of Indira Gandhi became the imprimatur of dynastic democracy. This Nehru-Gandhi dynastic entitlement gradually started getting replicated across the country and spread to other political families of India. Today, this legacy has become a political tradition in our democracy, a lasting contribution of the Congress dynasty.
Rajiv, the idealistic young man with a dream, assiduously continued the corrupt and lumpen political tradition. His prime ministership started with an uncontrolled, state sponsored Sikh massacre and genocide, resulting in the death of thousands of innocent Sikh men and women, and destruction of their property, for which the only remorseless response he could offer was, "when a giant tree falls, the mother earth below shakes." As on date, no Congress leaders who perpetrated and led the anti Sikh riots have been punished, and some continue to enjoy important positions in government today. As I have repeatedly stated, it is only the greatness of the Sikh community that they have forgiven the Congress. The Gandhi family can never wash their hands of their sins of sponsoring, and now protecting the genocide leaders. They may have been able to secure friendly judges in India, but class action suits filed by Sikh organisations in the US for protecting perpetrators of Sikh genocide continue to haunt Sonia Gandhi even today.
Rajiv's achievements on the corruption front were inadvertent. Before departing from this world prematurely, the words Rajiv Gandhi, Bofors, Quattrocchi, and commissions had become bracketed together in common parlance. The science of practising corruption with guaranteed protection against the arm of law and punishment, has become the forte of Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi. Her first great success, achieved after great perseverance and commitment, was the burial of the Bofors case, with able political assistance provided by both opposition and ruling parties, and the right CBI directors. Bofors was the first of the "foreign hand" kind of defence related scams, a forerunner and inspiration for several more to follow — Scorpene, Tatra, Agusta Westland, Rolls Royce — that we have seen practised in the last ten years of the UPA government, under the chairpersonship of Sonia Gandhi, with a trusted Defence Minister, A.K. Antony. And mind you, like Bofors, the first information of these scams almost always seemed to come from the foreign press.
Rajiv Gandhi, despite his dreams for India and pretensions to modernity succumbed to communal and vote bank politics with his stand on the Shah Bano case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Shah Bano be given alimony by her divorced husband. Muslim fundamentalists agitated that it was an encroachment in their Personal Law. Under their pressure, in 1986, the Congress, which had an absolute majority in Parliament at the time, passed an Act that nullified the Supreme Court's judgement in the Shah Bano case. This can only be seen as retrogressive obscurantism for short-term minority populism, betraying the welfare and protection of Muslim women in India. This legacy of the Congress has incrementally evolved to proportions that can today, in most moderate language, be termed only as anti-national, anti-Muslim, communal and divisive vote bank politics, using every trick of the trade to divide the majority and minority communities, and ensure that minorities and the vote banks they constitute, remain in a position of dependency forever.
Rajiv's disastrous foreign policy and fatal misadventure in Sri Lanka, not only cost him his life, but left another ulcer in India's southern maritime border with Sri Lanka. The double dealings with the LTTE and Jayawardane, and the humiliation of the IPKF have led some political analysts to term Rajiv's Sri Lankan misadventure as the Vietnam of India.
These destructive legacies of the Congress Party, more particularly of the Prime Ministers from the Nehru Gandhi family have embedded themselves deeper and deeper into India's body politic, and have become full blown under the ghost prime ministership of Sonia Gandhi in UPA 1 and 2. We have during the last ten years seen our democracy reduced to a game of dice in Parliament, where numbers are bought, sold, and traded. Criminalisation of politics and corruption have reached unsurpassed limits; looting the nation's resources by elected representatives has become their entitlement; constitutional institutions have been subverted to serve the corrupt government, through a system of cronyism and corruption partnerships, and rewards and appointments; rule of law has been substituted with the rule of the jungle, might over right; and divisive communalism has replaced secularism as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The Congress Party has ruled India for almost 55 years since independence, and the Nehru Gandhi dynasty for 37 years, 47 if one includes Sonia Gandhi's ghost prime ministership. Many of our young voters were not born or were too young to know about the atrocities that have been unleashed on India, that I have detailed above. Let them enquire further and judge for themselves the debits and credits bequeathed to the nation by the Congress Party and its dynasty.