Monday, December 28, 2015

Only politicians can bring politicians to book; so, let's welcome the era of vendettas

For more than a year now the most overworked word in our national discourse has been "development". Not any longer. The most fashionable word today is "vendetta". Everybody is on the vendetta spree. Reigning ministers, retired ministers, sons and sons-in-law are all accusing their adversaries of carrying on vendetta. All sides fire away all the time. Cannons to the right of them/Cannons to the left of them/Cannons in front of them/Volley and thunder.

The great patriot Robert Vadra was among the first to express righteous indignation over the government's vendetta against his loved ones. Another great patriot, Kartik Chidambaram, ridiculed the Enforcement Directorate for searching some business premises said to be associated with him. His father, P. Chidambaram, a certified Grand Patriot, complained about his son being harassed because he was his son.

The advantage with patriots is that they genuinely belive that the public is an ass unaware of what is happening around them. The Modi government showed this tendency when it turned against the Aam Aadmi government in Delhi from day one. That party and its leadership had lost a great deal of credibility. With their inexperience and inner contradictions, they could have been left to stew in their own juices. But the BJP just couldn't stomach the idea that a puny little party defeated it in the elections in the nation's capital.

The harassment that began from the Lieutenant Governor's office gave the Kejriwal government a measure of public sympathy. Then the arrest and jailing of state ministers for one reason or another. This was a clear case of vendetta, giving the AAP government the halo of a pygmy being bullied by a giant. The pygmy hit back and the mighty Arun Jaitley himself was caught in the cross currents. The BJP's own Kirti Azad and Shatrughan Sinha getting into the fray, the picture is far from pretty for the ruling party.

We the public should be grateful for the culture of vendetta that has broken out. This is the only way we can get an insight into how our parties and leaders have been indulging themselves at our cost. Till recently they were observing a sort of "honour among thieves" code: You protect my family's shenanigans, I'll protect your family's. Now that they are exposing one another, tons of evidence about corruption and misuse of power will come out. Investigative journalism and sting operations can only go so far. It is politicians in power who have access to files. And files hold the secrets they want to hide. Hence the unprecedented raid on Delhi CM's office. (No raid, says BJP).

The likes of Robert Vadra and Kartik Chidambaram got so much wealth-making business because of their family connections and were so strongly protected by the system that only an opposition vendetta can bring them to justice. Among Congress chief ministers Haryana's Hooda was the one who faced the most allegations of helping the nation's son-in-law. Only a non-Congress party in power can investigate and bring him to book. If that is vendetta, so be it.

The National Herald case became sensational because it brought Sonia Gandhi and her son to court. There was poetic justice in this case which no one seems to have noticed. The NH might have been founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, but it was built and sustained as a newspaper by M. Chalapathi Rau, a doyen of Indian journalism. Nehru gave all the respect to MC, but the picture changed after Indira Gandhi started giving power to her clerks and stenographers. Among these shady characters was Yashpal Kapur. Raj Thapar (who, along with her husband Romesh, constituted a power couple in Delhi, Indira being one of their close friends) described how Yashpal "that oily cupbearer, was growing in stature by the minute and his corruption was becoming legend, and his ability to get Indira sign on the dotted line was becoming bazaar gossip". (All These Years, 1991).

This slimy operator became the manager of National Herald. He harassed and humiliated the venerable Chalapathi Rau and finally got rid of him, Indira backing him. In 1983 Chalapathi died in a wayside teashop in Delhi, unrecognised by anyone around.

For the inhumanity shown to Chalapathi, atonement was long overdue. It is fair that the heirs of the dynasty were forced to stand in court and ask for bail. Sonia Gandhi should have amended her bravado statement and said: "I am Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law, I'll pay for her sins and for the sins of her oily cupbearers".