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The battle between AAP and the Congress

I have no idea whether the government intends to arrest Manish Sisodia.

But judging by past precedents, this is not unlikely. These things have come to follow a predictable pattern. First, there are official or semi-official exclamations of shock and horror as we are told that a very big scam has been discovered.


After a couple of days, there are raids which don’t necessarily recover anything of value but make for breathless TV coverage. Stage three is the arrest itself. The arrested person is hugely influential, the agencies tell the court. He can destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses if he is given bail. Oh right, says the judge, and promptly sends the accused off to jail.


   Perhaps something will come of the case, one day. Perhaps it won’t. But for the time being, the purpose has been served. The man is in jail. The scandal is on the front pages.


   Frankly I don’t understand how strong the evidence against Sisodia is. Nor does anybody else I have spoken to. Perhaps the CBI has yet to fully reveal what it has. So, I’m not going to make any comments.


   My concern here is with a consequence of the case against Sisodia: the battle between AAP and the Congress. The Congress has long claimed that the agencies have become a repressive political arm of the government machine. Every rival party of consequence will be subjected to raids and arrests for alleged economic offences. It is, the Congress has said, a complete misuse of the agencies to intimidate and harass the regime’s political rivals.


   To be fair to the Congress, it took this position long before the agencies got involved in the National Herald Case (which was not a government initiative at all but started out as a personal crusade by Subramaniam Swamy) and summoned Rahul and Sonia Gandhi for questioning.


   But when that did happen, the Congress took to the streets, courted arrest and denounced the agencies. The opposition would not be intimidated by such tactics, it declared.


   Then, the Sisodia saga began.


   You could expect that, as a party that has loudly proclaimed that the agencies are being misused by the government to harass non-BJP parties, the Congress would join in the chaos of disapproval and condemn the agencies once again.


   Far from it.


   The Congress has said nothing remotely critical of the agencies. In fact, it has celebrated the raid on Sisodia and welcomed the FIR against him. This is a huge scam, say Congressmen. AAP is full of crooks. These charges are the proof.


"It was India Against Corruption that ripped the heart out of the UPA and cleared the way for Narendra Modi." 

   Can the Congress keep calling the agencies the vindictive Gestapo of the government every day and then suddenly, when Sisodia becomes the target, declare that the agencies are doing the right thing because it believes that AAP runs a scam-ridden government and that Sisodia is probably guilty?


   The Congress has no real answers to questions about its double standards. The most you will get by way of a response is abuse of AAP: it is no more than the ‘B’ team of the BJP, it is an RSS creation; its leaders are dodgy characters ; Arvind Kejriwal is a horrible man who kept his mouth shut when Sonia Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate; and so on. Not all of this makes sense: if AAP really is a BJP front then why is the BJP targeting it?


   But there is a historical grievance at work here. Halfway through UPA II, the Manmohan Singh government was crippled by corruption allegations. Many of them had their origins in a series of dubious CAG reports which have not stood the test of time. (That ‘presumptive loss’ figure in the 2G scam must be the biggest lie told to the Indian people in decades. )


   These allegations destroyed the UPA. But they also created the AAP. We sometimes forget how AAP grew out of India Against Corruption, a media-hyped, so-called mass movement, allegedly led by Anna Hazare (remember him?) that claimed that corruption had now reached such levels in that only a Lok Pal (remember that?) could set  things right.


   It was India Against Corruption that ripped the heart out of the UPA and cleared the way for Narendra Modi. As time went on, nearly everybody of consequence who had once been part of that movement was thrown under the bus, starting with poor, deluded Anna Hazare, and AAP emerged as a political vehicle for Arvind Kejriwal and his close associate Manish Sisodia.


   Nobody in the Congress has forgotten or forgiven AAP for the things its leaders said and did during that period. The allegation about it being the ‘B’ team of the BJP is clearly unfounded but it has its roots in the way in which Kejriwal functioned as a pilot car for Narendra Modi, emptying the roads for his eventual accession. And there is a widely held belief that the crowds at India Against Corruption meetings were provided by the RSS.


   The Congress’s view is: who cares if the charges are valid or not? Kejriwal and Sisodia knew that the things they said about Manmohan Singh and the UPA were lies. But they never let the truth come in the way of their ambition. So why should the Congress afford them the consideration and support that they refused to grant anyone else?


   I think the Congress is wrong. Justice cannot be about revenge. But I can see where it is coming from.


   As the government works its way towards arresting Sisodia, all political parties must pause and reconsider their positions.


   Kejriwal is one of India’s shrewdest and slipperiest politicians. But he always walks a tightrope. He is against communalism but he won’t speak out against injustices to Muslims. He stands for honesty in public life but there are serious corruption charges against his ministers. He thinks the agencies are being misused but won’t say a word when the Congress is targeted by the same agencies. At some stage, he risks falling off his tightrope.


   The Congress must decide whether it makes tactical sense to applaud the actions of the very agencies that are being used against it because it does not like the people who the government is out to get. Who is its real enemy: the BJP or the other opposition parties?


   And the BJP needs to work out how far it can take its so-called campaign against corruption. Yes, many politicians are corrupt. So nobody is surprised when the agencies pursue them. But a day will come when more and more people will ask: is every BJP politician honest? How come it is only the non-BJP politicians who get raided? And how is it that the corrupt politicians who join the BJP suddenly become immune to any kind of investigation or prosecution?



Posted On: 25 Aug 2022 11:17 AM
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