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  Opinion   Columnists  01 Apr 2023  Anita Katyal | Last of G-23 no longer pariahs; will Rahul play ‘martyr’ card?

Anita Katyal | Last of G-23 no longer pariahs; will Rahul play ‘martyr’ card?

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : Apr 2, 2023, 12:20 am IST
Updated : Apr 2, 2023, 12:20 am IST

Several theories are doing the rounds about the party’s decision to play the waiting game

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: PTI)
 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: PTI)

The delay in challenging Rahul Gandhi’s conviction by the Surat sessions court in a defamation case and his subsequent disqualification from the Lok Sabha has become a subject of animated discussion in the Congress. Several theories are doing the rounds about the party’s decision to play the waiting game. One view is to allow the “disqualification” drama to linger on as this will keep the issue in the news and help garner sympathy for the Nehru-Gandhi scion. Another suggestion is that Rahul Gandhi should go to jail for a few days and then file his appeal. It is argued that this will become a talking point in the upcoming Karnataka polls and make the Congress leader a hero. However, the more plausible reason for the delay was that Rahul Gandhi’s legal team, comprising Abhishek Singhvi and P. Chidambaram, was awaiting the Supreme Court ‘s verdict on Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal’s case who was not reinstated as a Lok Sabha member even two months after his disqualification was stayed by the Kerala high court. It is now to be seen how the legal team proceeds after Mr Faizal’s membership was restored hours before the Supreme Court hearing. While busy conferring with the party’s legal eagles, Rahul Gandhi has also started looking for alternative accommodation as he has to vacate his official bungalow by April-end.

Congress leaders in the G-23 grouping, who were pressing for organisational reforms and a full-time party chief basically because they had a problem with Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, are apparently no longer viewed as dissidents. The last standing members of G-23 — Manish Tewari, Prithviraj Chavan and Anand Sharma — were among the 35 leaders chosen by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to address a series of Democracy Disqualified press conferences across 35 cities on March 28 and 29. Mr Tewari was fielded in Thiruvananthapuram, Mr Chavan in Bhopal and Mr Sharma in Bengaluru. The latest turn of events could also see Mr Tewari’s return as a party spokesperson. Though his name was always on the party’s list of spokespersons, the communication department stopped fielding Mr Tewari for the party’s official press briefings after the G-23 controversy. Mr Tewari redeemed himself after he moved an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha last week seeking a discussion on Rahul Gandhi’s unconstitutional and unlawful disqualification. His inclusion in the list of leaders chosen to address the Democracy Disqualified press conferences suggests a truce has been called between Mr Tewari and the party.

High-profile bureaucrat Amitabh Kant, earlier the head of Niti Aayog and now the G-20 sherpa, was effectively deflated during a recent discussion on former Cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar’s book, As Good As My Word: A Memoir. Responding to a question from the audience, Mr Kant put his best foot forward in defence of the hype over India’s presidency of the G-20 summit. He  pointed out the series of official meetings preceding the summit were being held in different cities, providing an opportunity to the state governments to showcase the sights, culture and cuisine of their respective states. In addition, he said, the infrastructure in these cities had been upgraded with provision of better roads, sewerage and so on. Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who was moderating the discussion, agreed with Mr Kant, saying urban renewal had certainly got a big push and went on to cite the example of Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, where he lives, which has got a new pavement. Clearly, the residents of Mayur Vihar had to wait for the G-20 summit to get a freshly-laid pavement.

Besides instructing the Delhi Police to register a case against the pro-Khalistan supporters who recently demonstrated outside the Indian high commission in London and took down the Indian flag from the building, the home ministry is also looking at the option of cancelling the passports of the Indian nationals and the OCI cards of others involved in the incident. It is learned that Home Minister Amit Shah took a grim view of this incident and that he insisted the Delhi police investigate the matter since the high commission building is Indian property. Over 300 protesters have apparently been identified from video clips and CCTV cameras in the vicinity. The home ministry believes it has a case to proceed against those involved since some of them are Indian nationals.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla was apparently upset by last week’s news reports that the Congress planned to proceed with a non-confidence motion against him for not allowing Rahul Gandhi to respond to the charges levelled against him by the treasury benches and not agreeing to a discussion on the Adani issue. Mr Birla’s office machinery relentlessly worked the phones, calling up journalists and their bosses, to find out the source of this report. However, these efforts proved futile as no one was prepared to reveal the name of the Congress leader who had briefed press persons about this move. Mr Birla has, so far, prided himself on the efficiency with which he conducts the Lok Sabha proceedings, often pointing to how productivity had gone up since he took over. As it is, the ongoing session has spoilt his record but a no confidence motion would make it worse.

Tags: rahul gandhi, lok sabha membership, congress party, adani