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Campaigning with monumental lies - The Observer

Dina Nath Mishra ()
January 22, 1998

Title: Campaigning with monumental lies
Author: Dina Nath Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: January 22, 1998

he media has been extraordinarily excitable, more than willing
to do business on our terms. Frankly, it has been eating out of
our hand. No hard questions have been asked... It has no option
but to fall in for glamour/charisma themes... So far, only the
junior reporters have travelled to Sriperumbudur, Bangalore,
Hyderabad. We predict that soon senior editors would be joining
the campaign trail'.

The above is an extract from memo on "Image manufacturing Inc"
about "positioning/packaging Sonia Gandhi in the next four weeks"
to the Sonia establishment. What is inside the package? So far we
have seen three big lies.

In the first very meeting at Sriperumbudur, Sonia Gandhi said "I
became part of India 30 years ago, when I entered Indira Gandhi's
house as her eldest son's bride". In the Bangalore meeting, she
dared the government to reveal the names of all those who had
received bribes from Bofors, if only to prove Rajiv's innocence.
In the Hyderabad meeting, she recollected, "Rajiv told me they
would have to kill him first before they touched Babri Masjid".

Let us take the first one. There can be no doubt about her
Italian origin. She claims that she became Indian 30 years back
when she married. But the fact remains that she became citizen
of India in May 1982. Why she resisted the Indian citizenship for
15 long years? And what ultimately compelled her to register
herself as naturalised citizen of India?

In the 70s, the Gandhi family had devised a method of siphoning
of the money of Maruti Udyog Ltd. She was made director for some
technical consultancy services for Maruti. She also dealt in
insurance business of the huge Maruti Udyog establishment
including that of its workers. As per the rules, no foreigner is
entitled for these earnings.

When Sanjay Gandhi died in 1980, Indira Gandhi thought it fit to
groom Rajiv Gandhi for politics gradually. Till then she resisted
the Indian citizenship and retained the Italian one for obvious
reasons.

Her identity as foreigner was uppermost in her mind all these
years. Her reluctance to enter politics was also due to this.
After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi she always thought that
Indian people will not accept her. It is only after India
Today's opinion poll, a couple of months back, ranked her second
after A B Vajpayee in popularity that she changed her mind and
decided to campaign for Congress.

As late as the Sriperumbudur rally, her identity as a foreigner
had troubled her. that explains her vague statement about being
part of India for the last 30 years, glossing over the fact that
she did not care to take citizenship for 15 long years.

She resisted the membership of Congress even after the
assassination of Rajiv Gandhi for six long years. Only last year
she took the primary membership of the Congress. Within a week of
campaign, party president Sitaram Kesri has been reduced to
cipher. Huge cut-outs of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi,
Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka announces that the dynasty is back. She
presented herself as the centre-point of the family by mentioning
about the family "to which I belong".

Demoralised Congress leaders are already tom-toming the glorious
days of the Nehru-Gandhi era and indulging in competitive
flattery PCC chief K V Thangabalu, has shamelessly likened
Sonia's decisoin to campaign to amata Gandhi's decision to join
the freedom struggle=94. Janardhan Reddy went a little further in
saying that "from Moti Lal to Priyanka the family symbolises a
saga of public service=94. All these years when Congressmen were
inviting the dynasty to enslave the party. Now the Congress has
achieved it.

But whatever the packaging, Sonia's campaign is not going to
alter the arithmetic of the 12th Lok Sabha in any meaningful way.

The second big lie was uttered about Bofors at Bangalore. On the
very next day, head of Sweden's National Bureau of Investigation
Sten Lindstorm said, "Sonia Gandhi should lead the way and tell
India and Sweden what she knows about Bofor's bribe. ...The
bribes have been traced to her friend and this is not something
out of the blue. The friend in question is a Italian businessman,
Ottavio Quattricchi. He is the beneficial owner of a Geneva
account (No. 254.561.60W) in what was formerly the United Bank of
Switzerland. Bribes paid by Bofors landed in this account and
Quattrocchi instructed the bank to send the money to an account
in Guernsey, Channel Islands. Quattrocchi, first a friend of
Sonia Gandhi and later a regular feature in that household, fled
>from India in 1993=94.

It is a well-known fact that Quattrocchi had free access to the
then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's residence. Security persons
were instructed accordingly as was the case with Chandraswamy in
N Rao's days. The CBI has number of photographs and other
documents to prove the relations between Quattrocchi and Sonia
Gandhi.

Her big he was compounded when she told that five governments
have come and investigation lingered on. Barring V P Singh's 10
months and AB Vajpayee's 13 days, all these governments were
either of Congress or supported by Congress, which could not have
dared to annoy Sonia Gandhi. In fact, during Rao's period Madhav
Singh Solanki lost his ministership as the letter he carried to
Swedish government to scuttle the Bofors investigations was
exposed in Parliament.

Why the bravado then? She is fully aware of Swiss government's
conditionality that it would not send further papers if
confidentiality of the documents was broken. That explains the
second big lie of her campaign.

The third big lie is about Babri Masjid and her recollection of
what Rajiv told her. The fact is that the looks of Ram
Janmabhoomi Mandir was opened when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime
Minister. He was fully aware of the developments. Further, a lot
of top level negotiations took place between VHP leaders and the
then chief minister N D Tiwari and the then Home Minister Buta
Singh before Shilanyas of Rain Janmabhoomi Mandir was done.

It is in this background in 1989 Rajiv Gandhi started his
election campaign from Ayodhya and promised Ram Rajya. And now
Soma Gandhi wants the country to believe her memory. This big lie
was targeted to recapture at least a chunk of Muslim vote bank.

All these three issues have been debated in the public for long
and people have definite views about linkages of Bofors kickback,
Rajiv's role in Shilanyas and her foreign identity. Whatever
sympathy she had before she came out is being eroded by herself
as she has employed monumental lies during her first phase of
campaign. She is losing her credibility which was supposed to be
there during her silent years.


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