Politics

Chor Machaye Shor? Behind Rahul ‘Goebbels’ Gandhi’s Rafale Bluster 

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. (Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Rahul Gandhi’s volubility on Rafale is easier to understand, and the ‘Goebbels’ technique used by him suggests that there may be nothing behind this belligerence, no proof, no ground reality.

From Wednesday’s “debate” in Parliament on the Rafale deal, one thing is clear: Rahul Gandhi won’t let go, never mind the lack of evidence or the Supreme Court verdict in the case.

He is following a simple, yet time-tested, line that has been recognised from the time of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief. Repeat a lie a hundred times and many people will believe it is the truth. All you need to do is claim new evidence. Yesterday (2 January) it was a “tape” involving the Goa Health Minister and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar, tomorrow it will be something else, and the Gandhi dynast has already hinted that there may be more tapes. Thus, allegations will be replayed endlessly in the hope some of it will stick.

Proof of no proof, Rahul “Goebbels” Gandhi will have three things to say in every “debate”, every press conference: chowkidar chor hai, Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani. To add masala, he will challenge the Prime Minister to a verbal duel, label him as one without guts, taunt him for not holding press conferences (as if Rahul Gandhi’s pressers ever yielded anything meaningful) and indulge in other kinds of slander.

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In Rahul’s context, it is worth remembering two terms: Chor machaye shor, it is the thief who will often yell thief to deflect attention away from himself. So, if he plans to scream chowkidar chor hai, any amateur psychologist will understand that he is trying to deflect attention away from himself. So, the real question is what is Rahul trying to shift attention from?

Two possibilities are the National Herald scam, where he and his mother, along with two other family retainers, shifted multi-thousand crore properties from Associated Journals to their private trust with almost no investment of their own. For all practical purposes, it is an open-and-shut case of mala fide action, and at some point, an honest judge should be able to call a spade a spade. Thus far, no court, including the Supreme Court, has stayed the Gandhis’ efforts to get an income tax reassessment done in relation to the year of the Herald property deal. Mother and son are out on bail and they will face criminal proceedings in a lower court in this case.

The other reason is the extradition of Christian Michel from the UAE last month. While Congress-linked lawyers have been giving Michel legal support, his custodial interrogation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate is surely giving mother and son real worries about what Michel may ultimately disclose. Some of the motivated leaks indicate that some damage may have been done.

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When it comes to Rafale, there is no smoking gun in the government-to-government deal, no talk of middlemen, as in the Bofors or AgustaWestland scams, both of which pointed at some Sonia Gandhi linkages. The only weak link in the Modi government’s armoury is the induction of Anil Ambani into the offset part of the Rafale deal, but clearly even here there is no proof that will hold up in any court, the Supreme Court having already examined the issue.

Bofors did not ultimately send any of the Gandhi-linked middlemen to jail. The National Herald case can drag on indefinitely, with the courts playing along in the delays. The AgustaWestland deal, despite several damning clues that point to a Gandhi role in the award of the helicopter contract, and suspicions of payoffs to middlemen, has not yet gathered clinching evidence (or so it appears) despite the extradition of Michel. It stands to reason that the Rafale case can never go anywhere, since the proof here is completely missing unlike Bofors, Agusta and National Herald.

About the only thing we have as “evidence” is former French president Francois Hollande’s statement some time ago that Anil Ambani’s induction was at the insistence of the Indian government – something that both the current French President and the Dassault CEO have denied. But if you parse even Hollande’s statement (read here), he merely said that the French government had no hand in the choice of Ambani. It was the Indian government and Dassault who may have had a role in this choice. This does not mean the Indian government insisted on Dassault taking on Ambani.

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In fact, it is more than likely that the Anil Ambani entry is related to an understanding he and his older brother Mukesh reached some years ago where they dropped the non-compete clause against one another. This enabled Mukesh to enter telecom again. Did he hand over the defence field to his younger brother as compensation?

The Rafale-Ambani deal has this as background: after the Tatas tied up with Lockheed Martin for defence partnership, Dassault began talks with Mukesh Ambani, but, at some point, Mukesh dropped out of the race, and Anil entered the picture. One can speculate that the exit of one and the entry of the other brother cannot be a mere coincidence. Perhaps, this was the payoff Mukesh offered in order to get his brother to agree to his re-entry into telecom, which led to Anil’s exit from Reliance Infocomm, given its poor financial shape. But we will get not such confirmation from either brother on this.

Another angle in the Rafale deal, which partially explains Rahul’s Goebbelsian talk, relates to who was earlier in the race for the offsets deal: a firm linked to Robert Vadra.

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This is what The Economic Times had to say about this: “At one time, tainted firm Offsets India Solutions, whose promoter allegedly had links with Robert Vadra, Congress party President Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law, tried to enter the fray and had applied ‘considerable pressure’ for a slice of the (Rafale) work, according to key negotiators. OIS virtually shut down after promoter Sanjay Bhandari fled to London in February 2017, following a probe into his business functions in India.”

When you put all this in perspective, Rahul Gandhi’s volubility on Rafale is easier to understand. The Goebbels technique used by him suggests that there may be nothing behind this belligerence, no proof, no ground reality.

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