Thursday, September 16, 2021
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If Congress can’t claim political martyrdom today, the Modi government has only P Chidambaram to thank

For all practical purposes, the Modi government was in a terribly precarious position. The arrest of political opponents, even with good cause and no interference from the central government per se, generally has catastrophic political ramifications.

Several unsuspecting citizens remained glued to their television sets all of yesterday as the Chidambaram drama unfolded. After being missing for almost an entire day post the Supreme Court rejecting immediate relief from arrest in the INX media scam case, P Chidambaram went missing. The CBI sleuths couldn’t find him at home. He then emerged at the Congress Headquarters giving a firm message that Congress stood with him firmly. The cat and mouse game finally drew to a close post 9 PM at night when the sleuths scaled the boundary walls of his house and arrested him.

There are reports that Chidambaram was hiding in his washroom and the sleuths had to break the door down in order to arrest him. In the meantime, much to the delight of The Hindu journalist, Congress goons lynched a man who, amidst the drama, shouted ‘Chidambaram Chor Hai’. Finally, when Chidambaram has whisked away in a car, Congress goons, in an almost coordinated effort, tried to block the way and a couple of them even jumped on top of the car.

After all of this, Congress is attempting to play the martyr. They sing the same old tune of political vendetta and whine about how Modi is a fascist. They claim innocence despite the Court observing that Chidambaram is the ‘kingpin of the scam’.

For all practical purposes, the Modi government was in a terribly precarious position. The arrest of political opponents, even with good cause and no interference from the central government per se, generally has catastrophic political ramifications. A country that has seen the most vindictive politicians lead it, would most certainly assume that the power-drunk political class is going after their political opponents without good cause.

One recalls the anger that started brewing against Congress after Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency and started locking up political opponents with no good cause. Indira Gandhi did lose after the Emergency was imposed, but soon after, she won again owing to the massive sympathy wave created in her favour after she was arrested.

For both sections, arresting a political opponent meant an electoral loss.

Then, we saw an era where the Congress government hounded Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in fabricated cases. The narrative of the case was built to further the ‘saffron terror’ narrative. The aim was rather simple. To ensure that the majority and any leader that might capture the imagination of the majority population is demonised to an extent that they never rise to the top echelons of power. Congress had always believed that the minority population is their core votebank.

In the end, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi submitted to every torment that the Congress government heaped and emerged victorious. Proven innocent.

However, there were two stark differences in the cases of Indira Gandhi and Modi/Shah.

Indira Gandhi rode back to power because, in the 70s and 80s, power meant the Gandhis. It was difficult for the country, that had gained independence 3 decades ago, to entrust the reins of governance to anyone else. By the time the Congress government started exerting its power, even with the entire media machinery firmly selling their propaganda, the country had grown politically wiser.

The resounding defeat handed to Congress in 2014 and again in 2019 bears testament to it. Indira won again after her arrest because the country could not see beyond the Gandhis and no viable opposition truly existed, until Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Congress was defeated because Amit Shah and Narendra Modi submitted themselves to the law and emerged victoriously. They rose like the Phoenix and proved, that Congress was merely settling political scores. The judgement as much as said so in clear terms.

As history bears witness, the Modi and Shah duo was walking a tight rope. Explaining the elaborate scam layer by layer to the people is generally the job of the investigative agencies who merely release the FIR and allied documents. The rest of it, is ideally the job of the media. With majority established media firmly in Congress’ favour, the job was even tougher.

There was, however, a couple of things that Modi had going in his favour. One was his impeccable reputation and the fact that his supporters and voters elected him on the promise that the corrupt would be brought to book. Second, the people harboured an inherent mistrust for the Congress as far as their track record with corruption was concerned.

Third, and the most important, was the conduct of P Chidambaram. He made himself available to law enforcement agencies as long as the anticipatory bail was in place, as soon as the courts denied bail, Chidambaram ran like a petty criminal who had been caught.

In essence, it was Chidambaram’s behaviour that has given the Modi government the greatest out and the negated any sympathy wave that might have accrued to either Chidambaram or Congress at large. For the former Finance Minister and Home Minister to be dragged out of the toilet where he was hiding is optics that screams GUILTY.

Had Chidambaram submitted to the law enforcement agencies, even if he was found guilty, unfortunately, Congress as a party could have hoped to gain some amount of sympathy and political martyrdom. Chidambaram effectively killed those chances with his conduct.

The rope that had to be walked by Modi and Shah was a tight one. Explaining a rather layered scam to an inherently emotional population was a tough task. If today, Modi and Shah have gained politically by a move that is historically considered suicidal even if the ones in power are right, it must thank Chidambaram.

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