EDITORIAL: Muckraking history

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - The plea to the Supreme Commander from over 150 former military officers to avert their being dragged into unsavoury electoral politics has apparently had no positive response.

Matters have sunk to such a level that four former Admirals (two of them went on to head the Navy) have mustered the moral courage to openly dispute the Prime Minister’s claim (for which he received supporting fire from the defence minister and the finance minister who has also handled the defence portfolio) that in 1987 then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had abused the aircraft-carrier INS Viraat as a “personal taxi” during a family holiday to an island in the Lakshadweep archipelago.

The civil servant who had served as Commissioner of the island-chain at the time has also refuted Mr Narendra Modi’s claims.

It is not known if the logbooks of the former flagship have “survived” the decommissioning of the vessel: they might have authenticated the position, provided someone still in service replicated the “guts” of his predecessors ~ Admirals Ramdas, Arun Kumar, Madanjeet Singh and Pasricha ~ in ensuring that the Navy marched to a professional, apolitical drum.

That is something which can no longer be taken for granted, given “developments” in the Army and Air Force, and the reality that the appointment of the incoming-CNS is already under a cloud.

The childish fuss over Rajiv’s controversial “holiday” has only political relevance to politicians, who selectively muckrake history. Nirmala Sitharaman supports the revival of the Bofors scandal, ignoring the reality that the Vajpayee government declined to appeal against the court order which had cleared Rajiv.

Has the Vajpayee-Advani era been so quickly forgotten by the present storm-troopers of the BJP? Mercifully the Gujarat riots of 2002 has not been resurrected as an election issue ~ the nation has had an overdose of negative politics.

The home ministry’s notice to Rahul over alleged British citizenship was not before the apex court on Thursday, but their Lordships’ sharp rebuke to a politicised “social worker” speaks volumes for the disgust people are feeling at the degeneration of the electoral debate.

The ministry would do well not to pursue a “dead” matter, even if it was re-raised by perpetual nit-picker Subramanian Swamy.

Some years ago a seasoned civil servant had opined at an informal gathering that no institution was more sensitive to shifts in the political wind than the Supreme Court of India. Was Thursday’s order on Rahul’s citizenship somewhat prophetic? While only the way the numbers crunch a fortnight hence will prove decisive, it is becoming rather evident after five phases of polling that some of the winds have dropped from the BJP’s sails.

The party now talks of an NDA majority, and is making some overtures to smaller parties. The Congress and its allies also seem more enthused than a couple of months back, so who knows? Only the voters.

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