We know what it is.
The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha.
The swiftness of the act. Or even before we talk about it, the purported cause of this action. The conviction of Rahul Gandhi by a court in Surat, Gujarat and the punishment? Two years in jail for allegedly defaming the ‘Modi’ community.
Is it really about a crime that Rahul Gandhi had committed?
Are we serious that the comment that he made in the course of an election speech was defamatory to ‘a whole community of ‘Modis’ when he in half-jest asked why is that all these thieves, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi and also the chief, Modi, have ‘Modi’ in common? Are our standards of public civility so high that this jibe from Rahul Gandhi was found criminally offensive by the court to give him the maximum punishment of two years for this?
Those who are sanctimoniously sermonising that Rahul exceeded the limits of discourse when he made this joke are those who openly call for the extermination of Muslims, of teaching them a lesson through voting.
If Rahul Gandhi’s speech demands this punishment then the top leaders of the BJP would rot in jail for many lives. But no. Our courts have two sets of standards: one for Rahul Gandhi and Umar Khalid and the other for the BJP leaders who give an open call to shoot the traitors.
The word ‘traitor’ in the Hindutva lexicon is reserved for Muslims and opponents of the regime. The courts feel that the call for shooting was actually a joke. When they abuse, threaten you smilingly, it should not hurt you, is what the courts say.
But Rahul Gandhi has to set an example. He cannot be allowed to joke? Is it that abusive language is permissible for the politics of Hindutva but civilised people like Rahul Gandhi should not indulge in lighthearted talk? Is it their responsibility to maintain decorum in public discourse?
It is not that.
Everything is as transparent as it can be.
Only a two-year jail term could have given the Lok Sabha authorities an alibi to oust Rahul Gandhi from the house ‘lawfully.’ The presence of Rahul Gandhi in the house was turning into a pain in the neck for the government. It could not, after a point deny him an opportunity to present his side in the controversy that the government has manufactured over his speeches in London. He was critical of the government and realistically despondent about the health of democracy in his country.
He called Indian democracy a public good for the world and said that its demise would also impact the world negatively. But he knew and he said so that the answer has to come from within because the problem has not come from outside. It is our problem, he was categorical, and we have to find a resolution ourselves. The government and the BJP with the help of the pliant media tried to misdirect this remark and turn it into an anti-India abuse.
Rahul Gandhi demanded that since the members of the government have levelled charges against him in the house, it was only fair that he be allowed to clarify. But the BJP said that he had to tender an apology before he could be allowed. The treasury benches kept disrupting the House to deny him an opportunity to speak. But it could not have lasted for ever. At one point he had to be given the floor to speak.
What better then than to oust him using another legal route? That has been done. The jurists are trying to understand the logic behind the order. They say that the case doesn’t fulfil the requirements of the defamation law. That the maximum punishment is even bizarre. Also that the speed with which the Lok Sabha secretariat moved to snatch his membership has left people dizzy.
All this is however to tell everyone that all means would be used to perpetuate the injustice of the majoritarian government that Narendra Modi heads. Since Rahul Gandhi has been challenging him with a clear conscience, he has to pay a price.
That has been extracted from him. But is it Rahul Gandhi who will suffer or the people?
Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University.