It hardly takes rocket science to conclude that the optics of the circus that was staged — with CBI sleuths scaling walls, hashtags and media frenzy — before former home minister P Chidambaram was arrested favour the ruling BJP and its declared war on corruption. Another simple deduction is that the Congress has lost both instinct and gumption to mount the political programme required to convince the people of their counter-charge that the BJP is carrying on a witch-hunt.
Indeed, if the Congress and Chidambaram are to persuade people that his arrest is part of political vendetta, it would take a political gesture a la Indira Gandhi refusing bail and insisting on being handcuffed for her arrest in 1977. Requisitioning a battery of high-profile lawyers to exhaust legal options hardly amounts to a political response. It is an exercise in legalese that pertains to the specificities of the case in question, and, not the case that the Congress and Chidambaram are presently making — that the criminal justice system and a pliant media are being used to victimise the Opposition. Conviction in such a proposition that posits a serious charge against the ruling dispensation requires equally serious and considered political action. Chidambaram’s arrest is a milestone in the BJP’s drive against political corruption which targets Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Virbhadra Singh and N Chandrababu Naidu among others. In the face of this drive, what would have spelt conviction from the other side is a dignified surrender by Chidambaram to the authorities immediately after the Delhi High Court’s rejection of his bail. As a politician, he needs to appeal to the ‘collective conscience of the people, not just of the courts’.
Also, Twitter outrage by top Congress leaders cannot be a replacement for political action. The Gandhis must come out of their comfort zone and unveil a coherent political narrative if they are to convince the nation that high-profile arrests are aimed at covering up the government’s failure on the economy front. Or else, the BJP will continue to score on its theme that “political corruption” only plagues the Opposition.
Poornima Joshi Associate Editor