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Rajmata's rulebook - The Indian Express

T.V.R. Shenoy ()
January 31, 1998

Title: Rajmata's rulebook
Author: T.V.R. Shenoy
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 31, 1998

ou can fool all of the people some of the time," Abraham
Lincoln mused, "and you can fool some of the people all of the
time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Sonia Gandhi should be content if she succeeds in fooling all of
India in the run-up to the general election, the cynical
calculation being that it doesn't matter if voters wake up later.
By then the Rajmata of the Congress will have a blank cheque for
five years.

This explains her amateurish attempts to brush over Rajiv
Gandhi's wishy-washy stance on Ayodhya and her crocodile tears
over Operation Bluestar. "History is bunk!" said Henry Ford, and
the "inspiration" of the Congress seems determined to prove him
right. But now the Rajmata isn't rewriting history as much as
trying to recreate it.

Thirteen years ago, Rajiv Gandhi was marketed as the r Clean
of Indian politics. He spoke of wiping out the "power brokers"
in the Congress. Now, Sonia Gandhi is desperately trying to be
seen as a 'Mrs Clean'.

'Mr Clean didn rid his party of those "power brokers". And
you don't have to put 'Mrs Clean' in the Prime Minister's chair
to discover that she is just being as hypocritical. Just take a
look at the list of Congress candidates.

I pass over the choice of R.K. Dhawan for New Delhi as he is
clearly Sitaram Kesri's man. But how about Deepa Kaul in Rae
Bareilly? Or Jaffer Sharief in Bangalore? Or, lest we forget,
Satish Sharma in Amethi?

Let us start with Deepa Kaul, an unfamiliar name to many. In the
finest traditions of nepotism, she turns out to be Rajiv Gandhi's
cousin, a daughter of Shiela Kaul. But we shouldn't hold her
relatives against her, should we? True, but Deepa Kaul's name
features in a CBI probe.

Shiela Kaul, once Union Urban Development Minister, is being
investigate in connection with the allotment of commercial
property. What isn't widely known is that the list of
beneficiaries includes two boys, Vivek and Ashish, who just
happen to be Deepa Kaul's sons. But the surnames were carefully
omitted and a wrong address was provided. Naani yaad dila denge!
-was an immortal Rajiv Gandhi remark. His aunt certainly did her
best to ensure that Vivek and Ashish would remember their
generous naani forever.

Shiela Kaul testified in the Supreme Court that she had forgotten
that the beneficiaries were her grandchildren! Perhaps the poor
naani feared that her grandsons had inherited the family weakness
of poor memory and needed concrete reminders.

Given that Rae Bareilly is seen as the Nehru-Gandhi clan's jagir,
Sonia Gandhi definitely had a hand in picking the Congress
nominee for the seat. Her choice is a pointer to her bent of

Now to neighbouring Amethi, where Satish Sharma is the Congress's
flag-bearer. By the way, why does everyone refer to him as
'Captain'? That is an honour reserved for officers of the armed
forces. Surely you wouldn't describe the general manager of
Indian Airlines as 'General'!

Assuming an undeserved honour is the least of Sharma's sins,
which include gifting petrol pumps and gas agencies with wild
abandon. Among the "needy" were a director of the Bank of Baroda,
the wife of an IFS officer, and a woman who gave a false
affidavit claiming to belong to a scheduled caste. The Supreme
Court acidly remarked that he had treated the Petroleum Ministry
as his "feudal property". ("It was standard practice," was
Sharma's defence - a reminder of the Congress traditions that
Sonia Gandhi wants restored.)

The CBI has completed the investigations on 15 of these
allocations. But the Gujral ministry is still to grant sanction
though the chargesheet is ready. Of course, Gujral has a well-
publicised dislike for "witch hunts"...

The abuse of ministerial discretion may be the tip of the
iceberg. There is currently a wide-ranging investigation into
Satish Sharma's entire assets. For good measure, allegations have
also been raised against his wife, Stere, a crony of Sonia Gandhi
(and a fellow exile from Europe). The Rajmata claims to have a
soft spot for Amethi. Is this how she proves it, by leaving the
constituency to a man who has been the subject of Supreme Court's

It might be argued, of course, that Satish Sharma isn't a
Congressman born and bred, but merely one of Rajiv Gandhi's
cronies from outside politics. But that dishwater argument
scarcely holds for Jaffer Sharief, does it?

Sharief is a Congressman of the old school. Quite predictably, he
was the subject of an investigation because he owns assets
utterly out of proportion to his known income. The probe is
complete and the chargesheet is filed. Jaffer Sharief is, also,
incidentally, a central figure in another enquiry dealing with
unauthorised foreign travel by his personal staff.

Did 'Mrs. Clean wield the broom on her trip to Bangalore? Not
a bit of it! She brazenly dared Gujral & Co to release the
relevant papers on Bofors, knowing perfectly well that they
cannot do so without breaking the agreement with the Swiss
authorities. But in Jaffer Sharief s case the chargesheet is
ready, yet she didn't say a word about cleansing the Congress of
this "power broker".

Conventional wisdom has it that Sonia Gandhi has openly entered
politics in a last-ditch attempt to bury the Bofors
investigations. Because 10, Janpath knows, who better, that the
Bofors trail doesn't stop with an Italian called Quattrocchi.

Nor is Bofors all that the Nehru-Gandhis need to keep under
wraps. Some weeks ago, I spoke of the property controlled by
Sonia Gandhi in the form of one trust or the other. Since then, I
have been hearing many more interesting facts about these trusts.
Did you know that one transaction managed under the Rajmata's
stewardship was so good that one trustee, the late Sri Seshan
(once Pandit Nehru's aide), chose to quit?

But Sonia Gandhi's motives may not be totally self-centred. She
is also fighting for all those poor, persecuted Congressmen such
as Shiela Kaul, Satish Sharma, and Jaffer Sharief.

In fact, going through the list of Congress candidates handpicked
by Sonia Gandhi makes me sorry for Ottavio Quattrocchi. With his
qualifications he could certainly have obtained a Congress ticket
if only he had taken citizenship in this country!

Sonia Gandhi has been waxing eloquent about bringing back the
good, ol days. Let us recognise her promise for what it is - a
vow to restore the corruption institutionalised by the Nehru-

So now you know why the falling morale of the average Congressman
rose with their goddess's arrival. Let me give you the slogan
coined to celebrate the occasion: "Sonia Gandhi aayee hai,
puraana bhrashtachar laayee hai!"

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