The Rafale verdict by the Supreme Court of India is a big blow to the Opposition and the Congress Party. The Supreme Court’s decision to throw off the petitions has taken the sting of the Rafale campaign which was kicked off by the Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
He was able to cast a seed of doubt in the electorate’s mind on the issue of purchase. Though Rafale was never an issue in the Hindi heartland elections where Congress won but it did put Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his entire Cabinet on the edge. It made BJP defensive and the party was seen defending every jibe thrown by the Congress. BJP which made the anti-corruption campaign as its political shield for the first time became politically vulnerable.
It made it difficult for them to attack Congress in the same breath. Congress felt a Bofors moment in the case until the matter went to the court where hara-kiri was committed.
Today, Congress is adamant that it wants a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the issue and the court’s decision to not to intervene in the matter does not mean that corruption has not taken place.
The decision to not to evaluate a case on a key ground is not akin to corruption not taking place, will be very difficult for the entire Opposition to explain to the voters.
It will have no political resonance. The fact that the matter went to the judiciary for political resolution was the biggest undoing of an issue whose ultimate intention was to check Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha campaign. The demand of the Congress will be met by skepticism and BJP will never agree for a JPC; it will treat the Supreme Court’s verdict as a clean chit.
SC’s decision has finished the doubt which got entrenched in the political discourse. In fact, the heat would be on Rahul Gandhi who will have to come out with a cogent explanation. It is, for this reason, Rafale will never become a solid and credible electoral issue for Congress again. On top of it, Congress may come across as insincere when it comes to defence and national interest. Chowkidar Chor Hai may remain a catchy line but would lack the punch which came with it.
It also tells us the peril of running to the court again and again on political issues. In politics, issues have to be fought on the ground. When courts become means to an end for a swift political resolution to affect public opinion, political parties walk into traps.
A judgment comes with its own wisdom. The Rafale issue is one such example of it.
Even Bofors died a death in the court of law only after it was milked politically by former Prime Minister VP Singh. It could never become an electoral issue again. The same is the case with Babri Masjid. It helped BJP one time but did not give the party a second chance to consolidated Hindu vote till Narendra Modi milked anti-corruption campaign to BJP’s advantage.
It also puts Congress in a bind. It can neither disown the charge nor afford to waste further time on it. They will have to carry the Rafale issue like a dud weapon in its political armour. It is a great respite to BJP after disastrous Assembly election results. It gives Prime Minister Modi enough political elbow room to attack Congress much more ferociously.
Nothing is certain and permanent in politics but today’s decision creates a new challenge for the Congress Party to corner Narendra Modi. Sticking to small business, agrarian distress and farmers issue may serve Congress party much better in Lok Sabha elections.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)