By Neeraj Mahajan
Rahul Gandhi has the right to make mistakes, like his illustrious father. Whenever he makes a mistake while giving a speech or lands up in trouble, especially when talking to middle class, lower middle class and people in the rural areas– senior Congress party leaders momentarily look the other way as well as ‘forgive and forget’ his silly mistakes. As a result, he doesn’t learn from his mistakes and recurrently keeps committing them – one after another.
A glaring example of such embarrassing, tactless faux-pas committed by him; include a slogan, “Gully gulli mai shor hai, chaowkidar chor hai.” Well, whosoever taught this to him either did not realize the political history behind its origin or the context in which this slogan was first used.
For the sake of people who were either too young or not born in the mid 80’s – this slogan was first used to besmirch the image of Rajiv Gandhi — his distinguished Air India pilot-turned politician father for his alleged involvement in the infamous Bofors scam (Rs. 1500 Crore) – the biggest arms deal in Sweden to supply 410, Howitzer 155mm artillery field guns. Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi– the 6th and the youngest Prime Minister of India at the age of 40 in 1984 to 1989. Being a “novice in politics” he too committed several mistakes which his friends and well-wishers chose to forget. This was more so because there was hardly anyone in the Congress party who could stand up and openly raise his/her voice. The Congress party was then suffering from its biggest flaw – ‘lack of inner party democracy.’
Bubbling with youthful exuberance, energy and swash-backing style Rajiv Gandhi got into a tiff with his finance minister, V. P. Singh, who accused him of allegedly accepting bribes worth millions of dollars in the Bofors artillery guns (Swedish), HDW submarine (Germany) and other big-ticket deals sanctioned during his time. This is in a way confirmed by former CBI director Dr. A P Mukherjee in his book, ‘Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi-Jyoti Basu-Indrajit Gupta.’ According to Mukherjee, Rajiv Gandhi wanted the kickback received in the defense deals to be used for meeting the Congress party expenses but eventually had to pay a heavy price in the process.
In his book, Mukherjee who was closely associated with the three prominent leaders during that time —perhaps for the first time— spells the beans about the mental make-up, style of functioning and personal qualities of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu, and Indrajit Gupta. “I owe it to posterity to narrate the full and complete disclosure of all that transpired between the two of us”, the former CBI director is quoted as saying in the book. According to Mukherjee, Rajiv Gandhi who considered him to be a close-confidant took him into confidence and revealed that he had come to know that some unscrupulous senior officers, bureaucrats, and ministers were making money in defense deals. Rajiv’s Gandhi wanted to plug this leakage and instead divert the flow of fund to the Congress party’s treasure chest just like the western countries where business houses openly contribute funds to political party’s which thereafter are responsible for proper accounting and auditing. Another startling revelations by Mukherjee who was at an ideal, vantage position to perceive and evaluate the behavior of the three dramatis personae, is that Rajiv Gandhi more than once, offered his Prime Ministership to Jyoti Basu, at the time when the Bofors scandal, was proving to be his biggest headache and rocking the parliament. It may be recalled the Bofors Scandal in the 80s and 90s was one of the hottest political debates of the century.
This was why V. P. Singh, left Congress party to form Jan Morcha (renamed later as Janata Dal) and the other opposition parties under the banner of National Front. The National Front coalition won the 1989 elections by a margin of around 50 seats and V. P. Singh, was sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister of India, with the outside support of BJP and left parties like CPI and CPI (M).
This exactly was the background in which a slogan,‘Gully gulli mai shor hai, Rajiv Gandhi chor hai’ or ‘Gully gulli mai shor hai, Pradhan Mantri chor hai’ – was coined for the first time. As a result, people who hear Rahul Gandhi’s version of the slogan – find a disconnect and are reminded of the time when the slogan originally became a part of the political milieu. But still, seemingly this did not deter Rahul Gandhi an MP and President of the Congress party, to lobby and get the Modi government to confer the Bharat Ratna– India’s highest civilian award posthumously to Rajiv Gandhi, three decades ago. This was notwithstanding the fact that Former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani described Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister as ‘lackluster and mediocre.’
But, while Rahul Gandhi virtually gets away with almost anything— Varun Gandhi his first cousin and another specimen from the same illustrious Gandhi family– frequently gets spanked on his backside.
A case in point is how Varun Gandhi, a BJP MP was rebuked when he raised the contentious issue of increasing the salaries of MPs.
Addressing a gathering at the local Model Women’s College, thirty-nine-year-old Varun Gandhi— the MP from Sultanpur Lok Sabha constituency raised the issue of increase in MPs salaries and exemption from revealing their personal assets. Significantly every single citizen from the President, Vice President, Governors, Judges, civil servants, as well as other government, public sector, and corporate employees are eligible to get a regular hike in salary based on their sincerity, loyalty, honesty, and trustworthiness. But the salaries of MPs have been increased only seven times in the last 10 years.
However, the Union government has proposed changes in the law to end the practice of Members of Parliament giving themselves a hike in salary by casting of votes. In the last budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed a new law to standardize the MPs salary and provide for automatic revision every five years taking into account the inflation during that period.
Significantly the salaries of the President and Vice-President have been increased to Rs 5 lakh and Rs 4 lakh per month respectively. The State Governors, too, are expecting a rise in their salaries.
According to Jaitley the practice of sanctioning their own remuneration, monetary allowances and perks have been the subject of a big public debate and criticism. “I am, therefore, proposing necessary changes to refix the salary, constituency allowance, office expenses and meeting allowance payable to MPs with effect from April 1, 2018,” Jaitley said on the floor of the parliament.
As of now the MPs draw a basic salary of Rs 1,00,000 (up from Rs 50,000), Constituency Allowance (from Rs 45,000 to 70,000) and secretarial costs (hiked from Rs 45,000 to 60,000).
But no sooner did he blurt this out; Varun Gandhi got a call from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). ‘Why are you increasing our troubles?’ the voice on the other hand asked.
However, Varun Gandhi refusing to be clean bowled, and counter-attacked by exposing the flaws in the system of education in UP where the schools provide the backdrop for all kinds of religious, political and marriage functions and even rituals like funeral are performed on campus. And the children play or doing– anything that does not involve studies.
According to him, this is the cause why Rs 3 trillion spent on education every year gets flushed down the drain. Significantly about 89% of the money is spent on buildings which cannot be covered under the head — education.
Called him an ignored or neglected Gandhi– it is a fact that Varun Gandhi is the most unwanted member of the Gandhi clan. If this is not true, then what is?