The National Herald Case and Congress protests in Parliament

This post is not about details of the National Herald Case and the intricate details of the case. That has been covered in every media outlet in detail, something that this post would never be able to cover. In brief, the National Herald case was about a corporate strategy, where the National Herald, a newspaper that owns a large amount of real estate had gone out of circulation and was taken over by a new entity that was primarily owned by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The amount of money involved in the takeover was incredibly lower than the amount of assets that was owned by National Herald. This was challenged by Subramaniam Swamy way back in 2013 in a private case. Now, even though Subramaniam Swamy is now a member of the BJP, the BJP has never really got involved in the case (which is a bit of puzzlement since the terms of the case seem pretty simple and why they would not pick up an issue to trap their prime opponent is not understandable).
However, the issue has blown up in the last few days. The case was ongoing in a lower court with Swamy fighting to get the case progressing while the Gandhi’s were managing to get the case postponed by around 2 months for a fairly long period of time. However, the case has now moved to a stage where they have been called for deposition and the Gandhis are not ready to depose in the case in the lower court. So an appeal was filed in the High Court by the Congress lawyers (Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi) to stop this deposition. I don’t think that they realized that this was a battle that would rebound on them. Just before the deposition was supposed to happen, the High Court finally ruled that there would be no stay on the deposition in the lower court and did it in a way with feedback that was not comfortable to the Gandhis.

The temperature in Parliament has suddenly increased drastically because of this action. Before this decision by the High Court, the Government and the Congress seem to be inching towards an agreement on passing the much awaited GST bill, something that was not possible in the previous Parliament session because of the intolerance issue and because the BJP seemed to believe that it was comfortable in painting the Congress as standing in the path of development and the GST Bill. After the defeat in Bihar, the realization has been there in the BJP that if the Bill or other development laws are not passed in Parliament, it is the BJP that is blamed for not moving on the development agenda. As a result, there has been some give and take in the current session, but there was still some distance between what the Congress wanted on the GST Bill and the Government position.
However, the current Congress position that this judgment is vendetta by the BJP seems absurd. It was a negative mark on the BJP that they were not getting involved in this case which was obviously an illegal deal, and the case was getting postponed again and again; so to allege that the BJP has been involved in this case is not something that most people will believe. And because the case is about an alleged corrupt deal, trying to avoid the court and alleging vendetta is not going to win the Congress any favors, and behaving in Parliament that it is a vendetta is not really going to win it too many points either. However, the BJP is the party in power, and it is its responsibility to ensure that the bill is passed; so it has to reach out to the Congress and try to get it on board with the GST Bill even while not backing down on the National Herald case. A tough challenge, but it is something that the Government has to do.

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