Combative stand by Sonia-Rahul duo against govt raises fears of a Winter session washout
“I am Indiraji’s (Indira Gandhi’s) bahu (daughter-in-law) and am not scared of anyone,” said a frail-looking Sonia on Tuesday. The Congress president had just returned from the United States – where she was undergoing a medical checkup – only to be received by news of Delhi high court rejecting her plea to quash the trial court summons in the National Herald case. The case created a political storm with the Congress paralysing Parliament, accusing the government of “political vendetta” against its president and vice-president, Sonia and Rahul, a charge strongly denied by finance minister Arun Jaitley, who asked the mother-son duo to face trial.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The government dismissed Sonia’s warning, saying it had no role in the case, and accused the Congress of mixing up a court decision with politics. The trial court hearing the case fixed December 19 for appearance of Sonia, Rahul and others after they pleaded “please give us a date of your choice and that of the convenience of Dr Subramanian Swamy.” The senior Congress leaders interpreted her assertion as the BJP digging on death knell and almost an imminent washout of the winter session. They said the government can no longer expect any kind of cooperation to get the Good and Services Tax (GST) Bill and other key legislations passed in Parliament after such vindictiveness. The party leaders said the recent case was part of a series of attacks mounted by the BJP government on its leaders be it Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh, former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan PCC chief Sachin Pilot and Gujarat leader Shankarsinh Vaghela or former finance minister P Chidambar’s son Kartik.The equally combative Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also asserted that he would not back off even an inch from what he was doing. “I absolutely see a political vendetta. This is the way Central government functions. “Let them (govt) do what they want. I will do what I want. I will not back off even an inch,” Rahul said.Parliament remained stalled throughout the day with repeated adjournments as the Congress MPs stormed the well in both the Houses creating a ruckus with anti-government slogans in protest of the case, though as a strategy nobody from the party answered to repeated query by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan in the Lok Sabha and deputy chairperson J Kurien in the Rajya Sabha to know about the issue.Trinamul Congress members, who kept standing in the Lok Sabha in support of the Congress, told the House in the post-lunch session after an adjournment that they too were protesting at the vindictive government putting the opposition leaders in jails.During one such adjournments, Sonia sat in the Central Hall surrounded by a large number of journalists for nearly 40 minutes but tactfully skipped questions claiming she was observing ‘maun-vrat’ (silence), except once when she expressed concern over the Lok Sabha Speaker not allowing Congress group leader Mallikarjun Kharge speak on the Dalit issue. Later in the day, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed solidarity with Sonia saying it makes her “sad” and “feel bad” that she was asked to appear in court. “Sad that Sonia was asked to appear in court. Persons who have been in politics for such a long time, it is not good that they appear in court. I feel bad about it,” she told reporters in Kolkata. What Sonia Gandhi apparently referred to stems from the historic trial that Indira Gandhi was put through between 1977-1979 when she had to make several court appearances in cases misuse of power, corruption and electoral malpractices that were slapped on her during Janata government’s rule.She was also arrested a couple of times. On 3 October, 1977, she was arrested. But the very next day, she was released by the magistrate unconditionally as the charges against her couldn’t be proved. Again, in 1978, she was found guilty of breach of privilege and contempt by the parliamentary privileges committee and sent to jail for a week. In 1979, she made another appearance before the court on charges of electoral malpractices. This time she was granted bail. But these spate of arrests and court appearances helped her revive her political career as these events brought her to the front pages of national and international dailies making her look like a victim of the Janata government’s resorting to political vendetta and reaped the benefits in 1980 when she won the Lok Sabha elections to put the Congress back in power.