Relief to Rahul and Cong, but….

The Supreme Court’s stay on the Gujarat court’s verdict in the defamation case against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday might have brought cheers among the party’s rank and file as he will be reinstated as member of Parliament. And, the apex court has struck a balance in pulling up the lower court’s illogical order without substantiating the concrete reasons for a two-year conviction, which led to the Wayanad MP losing his Lok Sabha membership. The court also chided Rahul for being irresponsible as a parliamentarian in making remarks against his political adversaries. Now the onus is on the lower appellate court to justify its action of such a harsh punishment. Till then, the conviction remains stayed. That shall lead to the Parliamentary Secretariat to act now in reinstating him as MP. Whether it will do it with the same speed as it did in unseating Rahul within hours of the appellate court’s verdict, one has to wait and see. Legal experts feel that the LS Secretariat has no other option and cannot excuse itself till the appellate court justifies reasons for its verdict. Against that backdrop, the LS Secretariat may revoke Rahul’s expulsion on Monday as the preceding two days are holidays. During these two days, how Gujarat’s appellate court acts will be another interesting factor. Once the LS Secretariat revokes Rahul’s suspension, it is the responsibility of the Chief Election Commission to remove the Wayanad constituency from the ‘vacant’ list. Thus, the other constituent bodies bring back the semblance of discipline in the democratic function of institutions as per the Constitution, giving room for any blame game, based on the apex court verdict.

Thus far, the jubilation and celebrations among the party men, across that grand old party is justified. And senior leaders like Abhishek Manu Singhvi or Manish Tiwari or P Chidambaram or the party’s spokespersons boast of ‘victory of the judiciary’ or the slogans like ‘Satyameva Jayathe”, too all are justifiable. Their confidence, perhaps, is borne out of the apex court judges’ observations that the appellate court has failed by delivering such a harsh judgement. And similar questions were indeed posed against the SC verdicts by the same Opposition and Congress in the past when it has not come in their favour. So the judiciary is always under attack by all and sundry. Yet, they have no other option but to accept that ‘justice’ can only get through the legal process. Now, the question that arises from the SC’s stay is that will it   restrain politicos to be cautious hereafter in attacking their rivals or give a licence to do so because the apex court restraining the lower courts not to  be harsh on the leaders to avoid their  constituents from suffering.

Sounds bizarre. Yet such ‘interpretations’ of the SC verdict in the Rahul case are bound to be made in public domain. The other question that the media has already started discussing the impact of the apex court verdict is going to make Congress much stronger ahead of the upcoming LS polls to reestablish its claim over leading the Opposition against the mighty Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This is in the wake of the setback of the newly-formed Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) bloc – it received in the Lok Sabha on Delhi Ordinance and its clearance in the RS is now a formality as the other two regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Yuvajana Sramik Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), besides Telugu Desam Party (TDP), throwing their weight behind the NDA, which makes the passage smooth.

Hence, the real challenge before the I.N.D.I.A. bloc is to keep its flock together till the next year’s general elections and go ahead chalking out their ‘common agenda’ and ‘seat sharing’ process, to begin with during its third sitting at Mumbai this month-end. How far, the major claimants among the regional parties, with reasonable representations in the LS and RS and having sound constituencies in their respective states, opt to ‘accommodative’ to the Congress, which as of now holds in less than half a dozen states? Disappointment among those who worked to cobble the Opposition unity like the JDU’s Nitish Kumar, or TMC’s Mamata Banerjee, is visible. Even the DMK Chief MK Stalin too not averse to throwing his hat in the leadership ring, though as of now he looks backing the Congress. How long and how far, the I.N.D.I.A., block refuses to come up one among them will be the ‘face’ to take on mighty Modi, who in all popularity charts continues to be the undisputed ‘darling’ of the Indian electorate as the only ‘hope of the country’ as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi has failed in all his attempts in the past, including in the 2014 and 2019 LS polls. Added to that the apex court, while giving some relief to the Congress and its leader by staying the defamation case, it has also delivered an impacting verdict that is on the Gyanvapi mandi-mosque dispute. The SC bench said it would not like to interfere with the scientific survey being ordered by the Allahabad High Court for the ASI to conduct a survey and come up with historical data to judge the two warring groups’ claims and counter-claims.