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Heads we win, tails you lose - The Economic Times

Diwakar ()
February 1, 1998

Title: Heads we win, tails you lose
Author: Diwakar
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: February 1, 1998

One cannot have his cake and eat it too, goes the saying. Its
validity is universal. The Congressmen, however, seem to think
otherwise. They think that they are above the limitations that
lesser mortals suffer from and seem to be absolutely confident
about their ability to defy everything and get away with that.

Their self perception of being super mortals, not bound by
anything, laws of nature including, can be the only reason why Ms
Sonia Gandhi should seek to occupy the high moral ground over the
Bofors matter. Or, why should she have made the claims she has
made regarding the role of Rajiv Gandhi in connection with the
anti-Sikh riots as well as the Babri demolition.

For her to swing into the combat mode on the Bofors is indeed
audacious. That the Congress(I) has left no stone unturned to
prevent and sabotage an honest investigation into the Bofors pay-
offs is a fact known to all. This, however, has failed to
restrain Sonia Gandhi, who may wish to argue that the pains that
the Rajiv Gandhi government took were meant only for saving the
nation's time find energy from being wasted on an inconsequential
matter. She will also like us not to read any meaning into the
manner in which the Congress(I) government allowed Quattrochi
couple, who are among the five recipients of the pay-offs, to
leave the country just when the trail of investigations had
reached their doorstep. And she would like us to believe that
Madhavsinh Solanki was acting on his own when he in February 1992
asked the Swiss authorities to bury the matter.

Not only that, she is trying to tell us that the success of Snam
Progetti, the Italian MNC that Quattrochi represented in this
country, in wangling one contract after another after the return
of Indira Gandhi to power in 1980 had nothing to do with his
connection with the Gandhi household. In one case, for the Thal
Vaishet project, Indira Gandhi government preferred to forego the
World Bank's aid and awarded the contract to the Italian firm at
the expense of the C F Braun whose bid had been adjudged the best
by the experts. This despite the fact that, in those days, unlike
in the present times, there were not many independent avenues
available for financing a power project. This was certainly not
an isolated instance, but only marked the beginning of a pattern
that saw Snam Progetti along with the Danish concern, Haldor
Topsoe, emerging within no time as technology providers to public
sector power projects at the cost of much more reputed names in
the field.

One has to be naive to the core to believe that Indira Gandhi's
decision on the Thal-Vaishet project had only to do with her
determination not to accept any diktat from the World Bank.
Especially, in the light of facts such as that the Gandhi
children used to stay with the Quattrochis whose access to the
Prime Minister's Office and residence used to leave even the most
powerful of the Congress(I) leaders green with envy. It is
difficult to believe that the A B Bofors which was mired in deep
financial trouble deposited $ 7 million in the Swiss account of
Quattrochis without being sure of the role that the Italian
couple played in swinging the howitzer deal in their favour.

If all these have not detained Ms Gandhi from trying to catch the
Bofors bull by its horns it is not because the information we
have received so far does not confirm what was always suspected.
But because she knows that there is no way the 'proof that she
has challenged her rivals to produce can be made public until the
time elections are over. The government, which has promised to
the Swiss authorities that it would not make the document public,
knows very well that it can accept the gauntlet flung at it by
Sonia Gandhi only at the risk of jeopardising the investigations
and release of papers that are still with the Swiss. Quattrochis
and their patrons would obviously be tremendously thrilled if the
government were to accept the bait. And since it cannot give them
that pleasure, Sonia Gandhi feels free to claim the Gandhis have
been subjected to a campaign of vendetta and dare her rivals to
prove her wrong. Can there be a better instance of a 'heads I
win, tails your loose' strategy?

However, it is not the only example of political dishonesty that
is being peddled by Sonia Gandhi.
Her apologies for the demolition of the Babri Masjid or the anti-
Sikh riots fall in the same category. Sonia Gandhi informs us
that Rajiv Gandhi was prepared to die to save the Babri Masjid.
She is only trying to create a smoke-screen over the complicity
of the Congress(I) and Rajiv Gandhi government in the sequence of
events that culminated in the destruction of mosque. It is easy
to recall that how Rajiv Gandhi failed to get the Congress(I)
government in Uttar Pradesh to file an appeal against order of a
lower court allowing darshan. And that it was a Congress(I)
government that signed a deal with the VHP to allow shilanyas at
the disputed site by getting around a high court order for
maintaining the status quo. The personal complicity of the Rajiv
Gandhi in the cynical project of the Congress(I) which was trying
to balance its surrender to fundamentalists' pressure by a show
of respect for the sentiments at the other end of the communal
spectrum was established just two days when he launched his
electoral campaign in the name of Ram Rajya. The Congress(l) and
Sonia Gandhi, however, feel that Muslims would forget this now
that they have been mollified with the denial of ticket to
Narasimha Rao and apology for the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Sonia Gandhi and her acolytes in the Congress(l) are obviously
assuming so many things. They consider voters to be credulous,
immature with terribly short memories. Or else, they would not
have expected Sikhs to forget the Congress(I)-sponsored pogrom
against them and the manner in which Rajiv Gandhi justified that
They obviously think the Sikhs, after the belated regrets offered
by Sonia Gandhi, would be convinced that Rajiv Gandhi was opposed
to the communal campaign the Congress(I) ran in 1984.

The party is taking a big risk. They have tried to have their
cake and eat it too earlier as well such as over the Mandal and
Mandir issue. It instigated the anti-reservation agitation while
swearing by its commitment to the implementation of the Mandal
Commission report. On the question of Mandir also, it tried to
placate both the Hindu and Muslim communalists. It, however, fell
between two stools and ended up losing the votes of Muslims as
well as of a substantial section of Hindus. On the Mandal issue,
too, it antagonised the backwards while the upper castes cast
their lot with the BJP. There is no guarantee that it will
succeed this time. Many of those who are turning out for Sonia-
darshan may not necessarily change their assessment about the
Congress party and its performance.

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