Accusation and counter-accusation

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has publicly accused the Prime Minister of corruption, making specific allegations against him. No other prime minister in free India’s history had to face such accusations while in office. In a way there was nothing new in Rahul Gandhi’s allegations, because these had earlier been reported in the media and repeated by the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. What is rather surprising is the weak response of the BJP to Rahul’s charges. Instead of refuting the specific allegations straightaway, the BJP spokespersons have chosen to take shelter behind counter-charges of corruption against the Congress. They have claimed that the Prime Minister is “as pure as the Ganga.”

If totally false and untrue, the allegations made by Rahul against the head of the government are defamatory. The Government and the ruling party have the right to sue the Congress leader for defamation. Unwillingness to take that course will only weaken the Government’s and the party’s position and help in lending credence to the charges. It may be recalled that when the NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power in the 1990s, allegations of corruption were made against the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani.  Advani decided then and there to resign not only from the Union Council of Ministers but from the Lok Sabha as well, till he was cleared of the charges. He was honourably acquitted. But he set a standard of public conduct by persons in authority when faced with the charge of wrong-doing. Every politician in a position of power should emulate Advani’s example.

Unfortunately, politicians in this country – irrespective of the parties they belong to – have refused to learn anything from Advani’s example. When faced with an allegation, they invariably either play up the alleged corruption of their opponents while they were in power or make ex cathedra pronouncements on the infallibility of  their leader, instead of taking the straightforward course of submitting the charges for judicial scrutiny. In the end there is much smoke but no light and the charges are neither proved nor disproved. The result is that a pall of dubiety envelopes the politician for the rest of his life. This is not fair for a practising politician but strangely most politicians – with some rare exceptions like Advani – prefer not to be exonerated of the charges and come clean but carry a shadow of doubt on their personal integrity all through their political career. What a pity!

Saturday, 24 December, 2016