After over 48 hours of panic over the allegations levelled by Shri Arvind Kejriwal of India Against Corruption (IAC) against Shri Robert Vadra, the husband of Ms.Priyanka Gandhi and the son-in-law of Mrs.Sonia Gandi, the President of the Congress, the Congress has cooled down and worked out a strategy of tiring out the IAC in general and Shri Kejriwal in particular.
2. It is reported that the initial panic was triggered by Mrs.Sonia Gandhi herself which led to the unwise intervention of a number of senior Ministers in support of Shri Vadra and the tactless remarks of Shri Vadra in his FB.
3. After this initial spectacle of chicken-like panic, Ms.Priyanka Gandhi, who is concerned over the likely impact of the allegations and the subsequent crisis management on the credibility and political future of the family and the Congress, reportedly stepped in to calm down the panic.
4.A new set of crisis management advisers not haunted by memories of the old Bofors controversy against Rajiv Gandhi, took advantage of certain evolving characteristics of L’Affaire Vadra. Firstly, there has been no smoking gun so far. Secondly, there has been no paper trail. Thirdly, Shri Vadra’s alleged involvement was with a listed company and not with shady individual businessmen, either in India or in the diaspora abroad. Fourthly, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, during his first two Press conferences, seem to have fired all his bullets without seriously hurting Shri Vadra. He does not appear to have any more unused bullets at his disposal. And, fifthly, by announcing beforehand that he would be exposing another prominent personality on October 16, Shri Kejriwal has set a trap for himself. Whether he targets another prominent personality or tries to re-use the same bullets against Shri Vadra, he will dilute the public focus on the Sonia Gandhi family.
5. Congress circles feel that the allegations made by Shri Kejriwal are nothing but re-cycled versions of allegations made by a national business daily earlier this year. Those allegations were not taken note of by the conventional media---print or TV----, but were noted and exploited on the Net by a group of NRIs, which has been carrying on a campaign against Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and her family and in favour of the Hindutva organisations. This NRI group kept the allegations re-cycled through various means and these have now been picked up by Shri Kejriwal and his IAC. It is claimed that in addition to these re-cycled allegations from the Net, there have been no new allegations in the charges levelled by Shri Kejriwal.
6. These Congress circles draw attention to the intriguing coincidence between the campaign against Mrs. Sonia Gandhi unleashed by Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, on the issue of her foreign travel expenditure and the campaign against Shri Vadra over his wealth unleashed by the IAC group. They suspect that the same group of pro-Hindutva NRIs is the inspiring force behind both the campaigns.
7. The initial panic was also caused by the dramatic projection to the viewers by the TV channels of the charges made by Shri Kejriwal against Shri Vadra. This panic has also since subsided. They point out how the TV pendulum dramatically swung towards Anna Hazare during his fast in August last year and then equally dramatically swung away from him when there were signs of agitation fatigue in Mumbai where Anna went for the second stage of his campaign. They are hoping that the TV pendulum, which has swung towards Shri Kejriwal, would similarly swing away from him if he keeps re-cycling old allegations.
8. The new strategy of the Congress is to give a long rope to Shri Kejriwal and not to do anything in panic. Unless Shri Kejriwal is able to come out with a smoking gun or new evidence, this strategy might work.(12-10-12)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @SORBONNE75)