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Karan Thapar   July 27, 2013, HT


The recent angry exchanges between the Congress and the BJP hide more than they reveal. Whilst it’s true politicians often don’t speak the truth and rarely the full truth, on this occasion what they glossed over is far more important than what they said. Here’s a peek into what they left deliberately unsaid.

First, Narendra Modi. He told Reuters he has been given a “thoroughly clean-chit” by the Supreme Court’s Special Investigation Team (SIT). Alas, that’s only part of the story.

What Modi didn’t add was that the Supreme Court appointed an amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, to independently assess the SIT’s clean-chit. Ramachandran concluded that the allegations against Modi need to be heard in court rather than disposed of by an investigation. Whilst the SIT chose to disregard Ramachandran’s conclusion, the magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad accepted a protest petition by Zakia Jafri. It’s being heard on a daily basis.

Two conclusions follow which Modi didn’t mention. The “thoroughly clean-chit” is under serious question and the last word has yet to be said.

Second, Modi didn’t reveal what the Supreme Court has said of him. The argument that this is only obiter dicta does not hold for the most damning comment comparing him to Nero. That was part of the Zahira Habibullah Sheikh and Citizens for Justice and Peace vs State of Gujarat and others judgment pronounced on April 12, 2004. Here are the Supreme Court’s exact words: “The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected. Law and Justice become flies in the hands of these ‘wanton boys’. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice.”

Third, when the BJP repeatedly casts aspersions on the CBI it forgets that in the Ishrat Jahan case it was appointed by the Gujarat High Court at the specific request of the state’s advocate general. So when the BJP claims the CBI is motivated it’s actually criticising the Gujarat High Court’s supervision.

Now, let’s come to the Congress. It claims to be India’s most truly secular party. Sadly, its track record reveals embarrassing inconsistencies.

Let’s focus on some from Rajiv Gandhi’s five years as prime minister. Today, more than his mother or grandfather, he is the party’s icon. However, the Congress would find it hard to defend what he did.

First, in 1986, within months of its pronouncement, he reversed the Shah Bano judgment. It was a deliberate attempt to appease conservative Muslims because he was scared, after adverse by-election results, that the Congress could lose their vote. Then, in 1989, when he feared this had turned Hindus against him, he facilitated the shilanyas and sent home minister Buta Singh to participate. Weeks later he began his general election campaign from Faizabad promising Ram Rajya.

However, Rajiv Gandhi also made sectarian appeals to India’s Christian minority. The Congress manifesto in January 1989 for the Mizoram election promised to promote ‘Christian socialism’. This was a blatant attempt to get the church on its side. It succeeded but it was hardly a shining example of the Congress’ secularism.

Of course, none of this was revealed by either the BJP or the Congress. But then you wouldn’t expect them to incriminate themselves. However, the next time the BJP claims a clean-chit for Modi or the Congress trumpets its secularism, you’ll know there’s more to either story than we’re being told.

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