So, the CAG will “save” Rafale-hit Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Monday, the CAG’s report on Rafale was handed to President Ramnath Kovind. It was to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. Without doubt it will give hunky-dory status to the Rafale deal. Congress President Rahul Gandhi, producing an email that “identifies Modi as Anil Ambani’s middleman”, calls the report “Chowkidar’s Auditor-General report”, his party expressing “no-confidence” in the report.
The perception battle ahead of general elections is building up in real earnest. The Congress party is building it around the Rafale deal, turning it into an election issue, attempting to make ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ ring all around, in constituencies across the country. Till Tuesday morning, only the PMO and President Kovind got to read the contents of the CAG report. Once tabled in Parliament, it will be in public domain. This CAG will not go against the Supreme Court ruling on Rafale.
And whether it “saves” Prime Minister Modi or not, the Opposition will not relent on its attacks on Modi vis-a-vis Rafale. To put it in perspective, Rahul Gandhi leads the Rafale charge against Modi but a consortium of sorts, including opposition parties and sections of the media, is giving heft to the onslaught on Modi’s alleged Rafale lies. Do Presidents read CAG reports? Maybe not in their entirety, but definitely in snatches, skim over highlighted sections or better still a summary.
The Prime Minister has the PMO to give him the gist of the report. So, Narendra Modi must know if the CAG has “saved” him as alleged by Rahul Gandhi. As far as the Congress is concerned, Rafale is election issue and “Chowkidar Chor Hai” is slogan to win GE 2019. At Rahul Gandhi’s rallies, there is a special way it’s done: Rahul stands at the podium and shouts “Chowkidar” and the crowd finishes it with the earsplitting “…Chor Hai.” The audience loves it and Rahul Gandhi is thespian!
The big difference between 2014 and 2019 is that Rahul Gandhi became party President from being party Vice President. And the difference made all the difference! The transition from half-baked to full-time politician; the confidence that comes with looking the audience in the eye and delivering punch dialogues, Rahul Gandhi traversed the full course and today can deliver punchline for punchline. And if a sly wink drops eyelid and raises eyebrows, it’s Viola!
That said, CAGs have a soft corner for the NDA. The one during the UPA regime added zeros by the tens to give the impression and perception that the Manmohan Singh regime was corrupt beyond redemption. It helped Narendra Modi turn the zeros into a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. A Delhi court later ruled the CAG report on 2G was pure bunkum. If the CAG “saves” Modi, then it will be kaput for Constitution and Democracy as we know it, says the Congress.
Four and half years of Modi rule has dented confidence in constitutional institutions: The CBI and Enforcement Directorate are caged parakeet; and the CAG is for all purposes tame watchdog. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has expressed “no-confidence” in the CAG report. The first Hindu expose said the PMO was guilty of holding “parallel parleys” in the deal. “Stop flogging a dead horse,” retorted Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman in atrocious Hindi. But a couple of days later, The Hindu raised the dead horse to life with another ladling of oats!
This time, it was about the Modi government waiving anti-corruption penalties in the deal and deciding against payments through escrow accounts. The second “expose” deepened belief that the Modi government has a lot to hide. “The Euro 87-billion deal between India and France involved major and unprecedented concessions from the Indian government,” said The Hindu report. The Congress is now asking the PMO “who are you trying to shield?” Monday, Rahul Gandhi tweeted “Prime Minister Narendra Modi facilitated loot.” Tuesday, he called Modi “Anil Ambani’s Middleman.”
Aditya Aamir is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.