When he had just become PM, India in the throes of newborn independence; Nehru had been passing through a crowd absorbed in chanting. Amidst the chants came the cry – ‘Death to Gandhi!’ Nehru had stepped out into the crowd and confronted the masses, shouting back – ‘Kill me first!’ Now, the prodigal great-grandson is faced with the opportunity to stand up for Mahatma Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi had recently been hit with the Supreme Court verdict: either apologize for the remark that he had earlier made, or face trial. The remark being along the lines of ‘RSS killed Gandhi’ or was at least very much involved in doing so. Cue the defamation suit. Immediately the reply shot back from the Congress camps that Gandhi was unlikely to apologize and did not display any signs of regret over his comment. Thus, the likely outcome is possibly him facing a defamation trial in the near future. This, in my opinion is a great boon for the Congress party, no matter how the trial goes.
Firstly, the trial will certainly dredge up a lot of evidence about the Gandhi murder, hence successfully uprooting the entire campaign of silencing the government is trying to do. For instance, in Rajasthani textbooks – there is no mention of how Gandhiji dies. For all students may know, he may have died a natural death in peace. No chance of this belief now, as a trial would force the regular masses to open up the historical archives, out of which almost everything is in favor of the Hindutva movement being involved in the Gandhi murder. From Savarkar to Godse to Gowalkar, every figurehead of the RSS movement will be called into question. Undeniable evidence from Gopal Godse will be taken into context, and the youth will be forced to read up on the Court’s statements to keep up with politics – one of the statements released already being that Rahul’s remark was ‘historically accurate.’
The above reasons are why perhaps the trial may not proceed at all. RSS may not wish to continue the trial due to all this uncomfortable information being dredged up. The Sangh has recently been trying to ‘appropriate’ Sardal Patel into their movement, when Patel was the most venomous in his abuse to the RSS after Gandhiji’s murder. I will quote M.O. Mathai in saying that Patel was also terrified for Nehru’s life, and he practically forced the former to change houses after the Mahatma’s assassination. In pursuing this case, the Sangh and its conspirators would lose a freedom fighter they recently brought over to their ‘cause.’ Furthermore, there’s the option that Congress fights the case back rigorously and wins by behest of evidence: the idea imposed into the general masses then will be that RSS did indeed kill Gandhi. This is important – to the Congress.
Congress was once ‘Gandhi’s Party.’ As in, the Mahatma. Over the past sixty years, thanks to both the Congress themselves as well as the Opposition, the party has been gradually distanced from that image. It has not done much against the defamation of both Gandhi and Nehru by the opposition, and the current President Sonia – whilst abused by BJP in ad hominem attacks too often to count, has not filed a case against them. By fighting a case against the RSS – with Congress playing the ‘defenders’ of Gandhi, it is a way for them to shift the binary to us versus them. In this case, us being Gandhi, and the Congress.
This will, if even in only small ways, shift public perception toward Congress – at least the secular crowd. India is still Gandhi’s India. We may defame him, we may write lies of him, but Gandhi-ji is ingrained in us to the extent that those seen to be fighting in defence of him will be seen as (dare I say) heroes. This trial gives Congress the edge it had in its’ early years – Gandhi. Then there are those good souls casually supporting the BJP who would never dare to abuse Gandhi; will this trial not confuse and polarize them in a manner that may prove beneficial to the Congress?
But who gains the most is the prodigal grandson, Rahul. By making the remark, then steadfastly refusing to apologize for it; he has set in motion open warfare between him and the RSS. If we’re being brutally honest here; the secular crowd is not in love with Rahul. Perhaps they see him as a reluctant prince, perhaps they dislike his innocence, or perhaps they have other reasons. But by pitting himself directly against the RSS, and dragging Mahatma Gandhi into the case he is certain to garner the support of the secular crowd – Gandhi vs. RSS, as it is sure to be polarized into, is an easy battle to pick sides on.
Rahul getting some much needed support is good for the aforementioned Congress, but even better for himself – perception makes a politician, and Rahul playing his cards right could present him in a far better light than he’s been shown in for the past decades. He has recently begun to exercise extreme sarcasm when it comes to the Modi government with remarks such as ‘Modi-ji knows everything,’ and is beginning to shed the wide-eyed innocent approach. This adamant refusal to bow down to the movements trying to shield the murderer of the father of the nation: could put a feather in this suddenly donned ‘fearless’ cap.
And if found guilty? The Indian Judiciary’s punishment for defamation case is an imprisonment of maximum two years, a fine, or both. If Gandhi goes to jail for a couple of weeks (and let’s be real, they won’t jail him for more than that), public opinion and positive uproar would shift even more toward his favor. Note this: he isn’t going to jail for a corruption case, or for any personal misdemeanor, he’s going to jail for Gandhi. Like the freedom fighters one did – see? I might even go so far as to say that the ‘patriotism’ and nationalism the BJP has touted for the past two years could be snatched back by the secular crowd.
Of course, it depends on how he argues, and how he responds in the coming weeks. It’s primarily on Rahul and the Congress’ shoulders to carefully use fact (which is on their side) to negotiate their case and bring out old hidden truths. Furthermore, they have to keep the media in a constant uproar and polarize them; not by religious lines as the BJP wish to do but by virtue of the Mahatma. Politics is a vicious game of chess, and Congress better use its’ neglected pawns and bishops to steer. But personally for the reasons I’ve outlined, I think that whatever happens to the case, it’s an undoubtedly positive outcome for the slowly stirring Congress.