Alacrity with respect to the letter and the spirit of the law has been out on full display in India for the last two days. On the first, a magistrate in Surat comes to the conclusion that, as per Section 499 of Indian Penal Code, an uncharitable reference Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made about a surname three years ago defames all people who carry it. And then, under Section 500 of IPC, he sentences the politician to the maximum term the law prescribes to the effect that he loses his membership in the Lok Sabha; on day two, the Lok Sabha secretariat notifies his disqualification, again as per the law and the Constitution.
The speed with which Mr Gandhi has been thrown out of a position to which he was elected by the people even though he has legal avenues to get it reversed gives credence to the Opposition criticism that the government wants to silence its critics. Even those who offered bland comments approving Mr Gandhi’s conviction and sentencing would find it tough to back the unholy haste shown in his disqualification.
The NDA government has of late been exceptionally alacritous when it comes to the spoken word of Mr Gandhi. It wants him to apologise to the nation for stating on foreign soil that Indian democracy is under attack, and has got one entire session of Parliament washed away. It sends a team of investigators to his home to collect details of his statement in a speech in which he said women confided in him the sexual atrocities they faced, as if only those victims are left to get justice done.
The report of the National Crimes Record Bureau for 2021 which found Delhi remains one of the most unsafe cities for women and girls, and that crimes against them increased by 41 per cent compared with the figures for 2020, does not appear to bother the police though the home ministry is responsible for law and order in the national capital.
It is a fact that, inadvertently or not, the BJP leader who rushed to the court after being defamed by Mr Gandhi’s reference and earned him a conviction has offered the Congress leader a chance to relaunch himself in national politics immediately after a successful Bharat Jodo Yatra. It remains to be seen how Mr Gandhi and his party will handle the series of developments. They must refer to history and discover how a failed attempt to arrest and jail Indira Gandhi after she lost power, and her disqualification from the Lok Sabha after getting elected through a by-election, helped her return to politics with a bang.
It’s time Mr Gandhi realised that nothing can replace hard politics. His slogans neither make an instant appeal with the people nor does he have the mechanism to make them appear so. He is not a politician who can make rhetoric acceptable to the masses. Insinuations are not his strength, honest talk is. Creation of augmented realities is not his forte; real politics is. He must strengthen those faculties instead of chasing the mirage.