Row Over Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Exposes BJP’s Lack Of Ruling Mindset And ConMedia’s Style Guide Vis-A-Vis The Gandhis

Row Over Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Exposes BJP’s Lack Of Ruling Mindset And ConMedia’s Style Guide Vis-A-Vis The Gandhis Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with Congress president Sonia Gandhi during Dussehra celebrations in 2014. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The BJP president wants the Gandhis to merely ‘apologise’ for allegedly committing a fraud rather than asking the government to launch an investigation.

    It shows the party lacks a ruling mindset even after two thumping majorities and six years in power.

Those who thought the words ‘corruption’ and ‘Rajiv Gandhi’ wouldn’t be uttered together after his death and sweeping of Bofors scandal under the carpet were mistaken.

The whole country is today discussing corrupt practices that the Gandhi family is alleged to have indulged in via the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), whose chairperson is Sonia Gandhi and whose board of trustees include both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, apart from top Congress leaders close to the family.

The annual reports of the RGF from 2005-06 onwards reveal some disturbing facts.

The foundation received donations from foreign entities — governments (including those of enemy nations like China), diplomats (including a US diplomat at a time when India-US were forging the nuclear deal), non-government organisations which have successfully lobbied for certain policies when the Congress party was in power during 2004-14 (Child Rights and You which partnered with RGF from 2005-06 to 2007–08 is a big advocate of controversial Right to Education Act which was implemented in 2009).

What is more disturbing is that the RGF also received money from government agencies. Basically, the party which was in control of the government diverted taxpayers money from there to the coffers of the party’s foundation. Even if there is no corruption involved, the unethical behaviour is damning enough.

On top of all this are donations made by big corporations which also later benefited from the government's policies (For example, Unitech which donated to RGF and later got 2G license by dubious methods or Reliance Industries which is considered close to the Congress party).

The whole RGF operation reminds one of questionable practices of The Clinton Foundation.

The latter received money from foreign governments, corporations and doubtful organisations (just like RGF) which became a topic of huge controversy in the 2016 Presidential elections.

Peter Schweitzer, a journalist, published an expose in the form of a book titled Clinton Cash which quickly became a New York Times bestseller and sold tens of thousands of copies. This was followed by a documentary which did a lot of damage to Hillary Clinton’s reputation and helped Donald Trump paint her as crooked and corrupt.

“In 2000, Bill and Hillary Clinton owed millions of dollars in legal debt. Since then, they’ve earned over $130 million. Where did the money come from?,” reads the synopsis of the book.“In Clinton Cash, Peter Schweitzer follows the Clinton money trail, revealing the connection between their personal fortune, their ‘close personal friends,’ the Clinton Foundation, foreign nations, and some of the highest ranks of government.”

RGF is to the Gandhis what TCF is to the Clintons, with one very important caveat: the latter amassed wealth in anticipation that Clintons will again be in the White House while the former did so while being in charge of the government for a decade. This makes RGF and the Gandhis that much more deplorable.

Apart from the graft of the Gandhis, the RGF-Gate exposes two more things.

First, it has revealed the lack of ruling mindset of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“People of India donated their hard-earned money to PMNRF to help their fellow citizens in need. To divert this public money into a family run foundation is not only a brazen fraud but also a big betrayal of the people of India,” tweeted BJP’s national president JP Nadda.

“One family’s hunger for wealth has cost the nation immensely. If only they have devoted their energies towards more constructive agenda. The Congress’ Imperial Dynasty needs to apologise to the unchecked loot for self-gains!,” he added.

So, as per the leader of the ruling party, the Congress committed a brazen fraud by diverting public money into a family foundation. What is the leader’s prescription for this high crime against the people of India? Apologise!

If the roles were reversed and the Gandhis were in power and such allegations were made against the BJP, the latter would’ve been summoned by the CBI and the ED by now.

We needn’t go far back into history to see how the Congress behaves when in power.

The hounding of Arnab Goswami by the Maharashtra government, where Congress is the least significant partner, should be proof enough. Congress understands that it won’t be able to prosecute Goswami but that’s not its main concern. After ruling for decades, it understands that harassment is punishment enough.

On 23 June, Baba Ramdev launched Coronil, which he claimed would cure Covid-19. Yesterday, Congress’ Rajasthan government sent a notice to NIMS Jaipur hospital, where Patanjali had conducted trials on patients. This is the classic operating style of Congress. It walks the talk, while the BJP fears to even talk the walk.

Six years in power and two thumping majorities later, the party still lacks the ruling mindset.

Second thing that the RGF controversy has revealed is the Congress-sympathetic media’s aka ConMedia style guide vis-a-vis the Gandhis.

Most of the media outlets have not reported the revelations regarding RGF as facts. It is a fact that the Chinese embassy in India donated to RGF. It is a fact that PMNRF donated to RGF. It is a fact that government agencies during Congress rule donated to RGF. It is a fact that many private corporations donated to RGF.

But the ConMedia hasn’t reported these facts as they are. Most outlets have rather chosen to report the BJP’s allegations on RGF as the main story, which should actually be a side angle.

“BJP says Rajiv Gandhi Foundation took funds from China, Congress says ‘stop living in 2005’,” headlines The Print. Oh, it is the BJP which says RGF received funds from China. The Print can neither confirm nor deny. It is very neutral.

It will report it like a normal bickering between two parties rather than a significant story of unethical and corrupt practices that it is.

‘“PM Relief Fund Diverted To Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Brazen Fraud": BJP’ is the neutral headline run by NDTV, an outlet often accused by netizens of sitting in Godi (lap) of Congress while calling others as Godi media.

“PM Relief Fund money given to Rajiv foundation, says BJP”, says the headline in Hindustan Times.

Prime Minister’s relief fund diverted to RGF during UPA rule: JP Nadda”, is the neutral headline in The Indian Express. Usually, the paper loves to dig into such seemingly corrupt practices and is famous for publishing a series of reports on various issues by doing investigative reporting spanning months. Apparently, the courage disappears when it comes to investigating corruption allegations against the Gandhi family.

Even The Times Of India paper, whose sister organisation Times Now channel broke the story about China donating to RGF or PMNRF funds diverted to the foundation, decided to go with the ConMedia style guide.“BJP targets Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Sonia”, says one headline.“Congress diverted PMNRF funds to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation: BJP Chief Nadda”, tells another.One more headline in the Times reads: “BJP slams Congress, questions party over China’s donation to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation”.

One would think that since everyone is reporting in exactly the same manner, they all could be using a copy by a wire agency. But they are not.

All of these are independent reports by these publications and surprisingly on similar lines following the exact same script. The only thing that seems to be common in these publications is their sympathy for the Congress party and Gandhi family and not journalism.

Arihant is Senior Editor, Swarajya

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