By Kaveree Bamzai
This week, the Congress party filed two FIRs – in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh – against BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy for alleging that its former president Rahul Gandhi uses cocaine.
Swamy countered the FIRs with his customary bluster, calling the action “stupid” and suggesting that “Buddhu”—his almost-loving nickname for Rahul Gandhi—would fail a dope test if administered one.
But aficionados of the Tom and Jerry show that the Gandhi-Swamy saga has become may be forgiven for being overcome with a feeling of déjà vu. The Nehru-Gandhis have been old frenemies of Subramanian Swamy, ever since Indira Gandhi’s Emergency forced Swamy to go underground, donning a variety of disguises, among them NanajiDeshmukh’s Sikh driver and a Chinese man named Moto Moto—if Swamy has to indulge in racist stereotypes, at least he could do them correctly. Among his many escapades, the best known was when he turned up in the Rajya Sabha in 1976 to announce the “death of democracy” just as the Speaker was reading the obituary notices.
Yet a few years later, when Indira Gandhi asked him to speak to the Chinese on behalf of the government, he was only too willing, writes Samanth Subramanian in his excellent 2012 profile of Swamy. Speaking Mandarin is one of his many accomplishments, which include a PhD from Harvard in economics. This unevenness has defined his relationships with the other Gandhis as well.
Swamy was, by his own admission, close to Rajiv Gandhi, often meeting him at 2 am or 3 am at night for various discussions. He was critical in forming the association, which saw Chandra Shekhar briefly becoming Prime Minister in 1990. It was a tea party in 1999 he hosted for J. Jayalalithaa (who called it a “political earthquake”) with Sonia Gandhi as a special invitee at Delhi’s Ashok Hotel that saw the former pull out of the AtalBihari Vajpayee government after 13 months
Yet, his life’s single-minded purpose now, apart from becoming finance minister, if not prime minister, is to see Sonia Gandhi aka “Sonia Maino” aka “TDK” (Tadaka, a demoness in the Ramayana) in prison along with son Rahul Gandhi aka “Raul Vinci” aka “Buddhu”.
Both mother and son TDK and RG have bluffing the nation about their real Nazi Italian background, Citizenship, educational qualification and foreign bank accounts. No more they should be allowed get away with it
In a toxic arsenal, Swamy reserves a special kind of poison for them. Among the many things he has suggested about Sonia Maino is that she has stolen antiques from India with her sister Anushka, that her father was a Fascist, and worse, that she plied a trade that he believes is questionable when she was a student at Cambridge—an English language school in the town and not the actual university, he is always at pains to point out. He has suggested both she and Rahul are not Indian citizens, and most recently, that they profited from the National Herald. It is a case that he has long pursued, and one where the two are currently on bail.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have spent many speeches describing the ma-beta in disparaging terms, calling the mother a “Jersey cow” and “Congress kividhwa”, and the son “Naamdar” and “Shahzada”, but it is not a patch on the active conspiracy theories Swamy has spun around the Gandhis.
Read this 2001 theory by Subramanian Swamy: In “Sonia met Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge in 1963 and got married only in 1968” with a good part of the intervening period being “spent in London”, where a KGB bond was either created or strengthened.
In his letter on 3 March 2001, Swamy had asked Minister of State for Personnel VasundharaRaje to direct the CBI to look into his allegations that Sonia was soft on the Tamil Tigers, the PMK and the “pro-LTTE and secessionist DravidaKazhagam”. LTTE cadre also acted as “runners”, Swamy told India Today, to facilitate a smuggling operation.
He pointed to a CBI inquiry of 1993 into a consignment originating from Chennai port that violated the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972. The artefacts were, the CBI recorded, meant for one “Guide Zanderige” of Verona, Italy. Swamy said that this man is an employee of the Mainos and was procuring goods for “Etnica in Rivolta or Ganpati in Orbassano”, shops “owned by her (Sonia’s) family”.
That’s not all. He also wrote to the law ministry seeking action against Sonia—who he says voted in the 1980 election but got Indian citizenship only in 1983—under Section 10(2)(b) of the Citizenship Act.
A similar allegation was made by Swamy in late 2015 about Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship in a letter to Prime Minister Modi. Swamy claimed Rahul Gandhi had declared himself a British citizen to float a private company in London. “The name of the company is BACKOPS Limited and the Director and Secretary of this company was Mr. Rahul Gandhi, presently Lok Sabha MP,” the letter stated. In 2013, however, Swamy had alleged that Gandhi was an Italian citizen. “Rahul Gandhi can never become the Prime Minister…He is an Italian citizen. I will bring out this in details very soon,” he said.
What explains Swamy’s anathema towards the Gandhis? Veteran journalist M.D. Nalapat who has known Swamy for over 30 years, told ThePrint that it all boils down to 1999.
“After Jayalalithaa withdrew support from the Vajpayee government, Swamy was looking at recreating the Chandra Shekhar government. He didn’t blame Rajiv (Gandhi) for the fall of the Chandra Shekhargovernment, he blamed people around the prime minister. But he had expected Sonia Gandhi to follow through on her promise of Congress support from outside or inside a probable United Front government. But then he switched on television one day and found Sonia Gandhi laying claim to government formation with the infamous ‘We have 272’ comment,” Nalapat explained. “As you know, she couldn’t form the government, there was a general election and Vajpayee returned as prime minister. That was the trigger that broke their relationship,” he said, adding that he then forever saw Sonia as being power-hungry.
Ironically for someone who is now in the BJP (he joined in 2013), Swamy possibly disliked Vajpayee even more than Sonia. The story goes that after the 1977 elections, when Swamy was not made finance minister in the Morarji Desai government, he blamed Vajpayee who he claims spread a rumour calling Swamy a CIA agent. Swamy, whose Twitter profile says “I give as good as I get”, responded by describing Vajpayee as a drunk who was so intoxicated at an official party in Delhi that he was publicly upbraided by then prime minister Morarji Desai.
The BJP may not reward him with the portfolio he most craves, finance ministry, but the party cannot ignore the work he has done in destroying the myth of invincibility around the Gandhis.
Jaya Jaitly, his one-time colleague in the Janata Party, told ThePrint that Swamy is “the little boy in the classic tale who stands by as the ceremonial procession goes past, daring to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. The entire Congress party is self-destructing because of its decades-long fixation on the Gandhi family”.
Anyone who has ever underestimated Swamy’s doggedness has usually lived—or perhaps not lived long enough—to regret it.
Witness the criminal complaint he filed against Jayalalithaa in 1996, which led to her conviction in 2014. Or the letter alleging that the former intelligence chief had asked Department of Telecommunications to tap the phones of politicians and businessmen in Karnataka in 1988, which led to the resignation of then Karnataka chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde (which Swamy described, rather colourfully, was like catching a padre in a brothel, according to Roxana Swamy in her book Evolving With Subramanian Swamy: A Roller Coaster Ride). Or the fact that he sued IIT Delhi for wrongful dismissal in 1973, and finally not only won the case but also the salary owed to him between 1972 and 1991 with 18 per cent interest in 2019.
It may take a while but the six-time MP does end up on the winning side.
By Amir Sultan
In his book In the Land of Israel novelist and writer Amos Oz classifies a tragedy into two types; one being the Shakespearean and the other Chekhovian. He writes,
“…there is a Shakespearean resolution and there is the Chekhovian one. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there is some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered but still alive.”
William Shakespeare and Anton Chekhov (read as Chie-Kof) were both playwrights and dramatists. Both of them in their works have tried to shed light on various aspects of human nature. However, Anton Chekhov as seen by the renowned novelist Amos Oz gives us a better understanding of the tragedies happening with us. His portrayal of tragedy is what most of us go through. As the quote states that the Shakespearean tragedy ends with death as a solution to all problems and issues that a man faces. Demise of a person(s) like in Romeo and Juliet is what defines a tragedy. In comparison to it, Chekhovian tragedy is epitomized with life, life worth not living.
One of the aspects of modern life that typifies a Chekhovian tragedy in our time is substance abuse. Substance abuse is one of the huge problems that our generation is facing. Globally, according to World Drug Report (2017) there are 29.5 million people who are substance abusers. The number that is almost equal to the population of states like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates and many other countries.
It’s self-evident that all people are sober. Living life in light, joy and to its full, but suddenly some of them get introduced to a kind of psychoactive substance say marijuana, heroin or LSD that starts to bring a perpetual change in their life. First the body resists it by producing aversive reactions and this is the time when a person can refrain. But if s/he persists to take the substance the body of a person starts to crave for it. Moreover, the withdrawals and the incentive of pleasure produced by it hinder the process of contemplating and positive thinking resulting in sustaining of act willingly or unwillingly.
All this time the physiological, psychological and social aspects of human life are in a continuous shattering flux. Physiologically, the body weight gets reduced, sleep cycle is disturbed, changes in appetite patterns appear, functioning of vital organs like heart, liver and kidneys gets disturbed, and at times patient gets infected with viruses like HCV and HIV. Anxiety, restlessness, irritability, mood disorders, hallucinations and delusions and last but not the least a chronic psychosis is the harm caused to our psychological aspect by drug abuse.
There are innumerable changes seen in the social life of a substance abuser. From disturbed family relations, abuse with children, mistreatment with parents or a spouse, to disturbed financial status marked with a reckless spending and gambling. Besides, continuous drug seeking behaviour which leads to inefficacy in terms of occupation, school, vocation or sometimes complete sacking from a job, making the person’s life and the life of people around him wrenchingly miserable.
During this saga of self-deterioration, the person tries to look at his lived life through the glasses of past, present and future and founds himself disillusioned as he learns that substance abuse is not fun, embittered as he feels the bitterness of the act, heartbroken at the thoughts of mistreatment to himself and to the near ones and dear ones, disappointed because of not fulfilling the dreams he had seen and absolutely shattered but still alive, in other words, going through a Chekhovian tragedy.
(The writer is a Psychology Postgraduate from University of Kashmir and presently working as a Mental Health Counsellor at Drug De-addiction and Rehabilitation Center PCR Batamaloo. He ca be reached at: [email protected])
ICJ ruling and Into-Pak relations
By Marvi Sirmed
Just as Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, president of International Court of Justice (ICJ), started reading out the much-awaited verdict in the Kalbhushan Jadhav case, both Indian and Pakistani media, quite predictably, started pronouncing high-pitched victory of their respective countries.
Pakistan had claimed that its security forces had arrested Kulbhushan Jadhav, the 49-year-old retired Navy officer, from Pakistan’s Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he entered Pakistan via its border with Iran. Jadhav was subsequently sentenced to death by the Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017, just over a year after his arrest. India, however, claimed that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after his retirement from the Indian Navy.
India followed this by moving the ICJ on May 8, 2017 for the “egregious violation” of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan. Islamabad repeatedly rejected New Delhi’s plea for consular access to Jadhav, claiming that India was merely interested in getting at the information gathered by its “spy”. India also sought to suspend the death sentence of Jadhav and ordered his release from Pakistan’s custody. Pakistan had challenged the admissibility of India’s petition on three grounds: alleged abuse of process; alleged abuse of rights; and India’s alleged unlawful conduct. All three grounds were rejected by the court.
India’s plea to suspend the death sentence and order the release was also rejected. But Pakistan was asked to give immediate consular access to Jadhav as well as ensure his right to free trial under the domestic judicial mechanism of Pakistan. This gives both the countries enough ground to celebrate their respective victories.
The question now is how the verdict will impact the already strained relations of the two countries? While the verdict gives the opportunity to both the governments to maintain aggressive posturing, it has no practical bearing which way Pakistan may eventually choose to decide.
While the verdict of ICJ is not binding upon either party in the strictest of legal sense, it certainly sets a favourable stage for India to continue to portray Pakistan in a negative light internationally, in case the latter does not comply with the verdict. Pakistan, on the other hand, might comply in the end, but not before getting something in return.
The retired army officers in Pakistan, who are usually referred to as ’defence analysts’ when they come to TV studios and spell out what is considered to be the “thinking” of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, continue their usual antics while aggressively emphasising that Pakistan is not bound to comply with the ICJ verdict. But if recent history is to be at all taken into account, to take their word is akin to falling right into their trap.
In the backdrop of recent economic troubles and political instability Pakistan has been facing for the last one year, it is beyond any basic sense of logical play to expect the nation to allow the aggression to linger, by not granting India’s most basic ask in this case – the proverbial lowest hanging fruit, ie, consular access to Jadhav.
It might not come, however, without a price. At the exact moment when Yousaf was reading out the verdict, American President Donald Trump celebrated the “finding” and the arrest of Hafiz Saeed on Twitter, who he describes as “mastermind” of Mumbai terror attacks. Saeed, however, has been living in plain sight all this while. He was never absconding in the first place. In fact, shortly before his (re)arrest, he was released on bail from his previous arrest. By playing this up, it betrays the mutual advantage it serves to USA and Pakistan.
When Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Trump next week, he would arrive having already earned some brownie points. The so-called arrest of Hafiz Saeed might ease some tensions at FATF. USA will be in a position to claim winning yet another milestone in its war on terror. If Pakistan offers to graciously comply with the ICJ verdict, it might raise its ask too. The stick raising mood in White House has already changed to a carrot granting one. Bringing India to the table of comprehensive dialogue, after managing to elbow it out from Afghan peace process, doesn’t look like abad bargain.
But if Jadhav gets consular access, India would have the golden opportunity to demolish Pakistan’s claims of the “terror confession” by Jadhav. He would now most definitely claim confession under duress.
At the moment, the key decision makers in Pakistan do not want to disobey the court verdict. Their compliance of earlier Indian plea to delay the sentence bears witness to it. In any case, a dead Jadhav doesn’t benefit anyone. Except may be, Jadhav’s handlers, if he is indeed a spy.
(The author is a journalist with Daily Times and member of the executive council of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan)
America & Pakistan: Back to a cosy future
By Indranil Banerjie
Geopolitical gears appear to be shifting once again in South Asia with Washington being the primary driver. The question is whether this portends a return to the cosy relationship between the United States and Pakistan as in the past?
For, if Washington is once again planning to use Islamabad as a pivot for its South and West Asia policy, then New Delhi has reason to be concerned even though the imperative for such a development is neither hostile nor anti-India.
The hard fact of the matter is that a re-engagement or revival of the strategic inter-dependencies between those two countries has a direct bearing on India. While Washington’s view is global and multi-dimensional, Islamabad’s is not — it has always been India-centric and continues to be so.
New Delhi’s greatest concern traditionally has been the transfer of military systems and technology to Islamabad. It is difficult to forget that the Pakistan Air Force dared to attack Indian targets after Balakot simply because it had American-made F-16 fighter aircraft fitted with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).
This missile was supplied to the Pakistanis by the US as recently as 2011. India protested against the sales and for good reason too. It was well known that the missiles supplied would be a game changer in the South Asian context given that this particular variant, the 120C, with its range of over 100km, would out-distance any missile currently in the IAF’s arsenal.
Right enough, when it came to the crunch in the post-Balakot skirmish, there was nothing the IAF could do but throw an aircraft at the intruding enemy and get close enough for a shot. The downing of the MiG-21 piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman proved how much of a disadvantage India was at because of US military transfers to Pakistan.
In recent years, arms transfers by Washington to Pakistan have virtually ceased due to the deteriorating strategic ties since 2016. US President Donald Trump had suspended security and other assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of repaying US generosity with only “lies and deceit”. The main problem between the two arose from differences over Afghanistan. But now with Islamabad and Washington drawing close to a deal on Afghanistan which would allow an orderly US military withdrawal, the equations once again have changed.
The Taliban, which is controlled by Pakistan’s Army headquarters, seem to have agreed to hold intra-Afghan talks and could be amenable to some sort of power sharing. Perhaps, they might even allow a small US military presence to remain in Afghanistan. However, it is clear that Washington, in its quest to quit the unending Afghan war, is prepared to cede effective control in that country to Islamabad. China could also play a role as guarantor.
President Trump has, however, made it a point to reassure New Delhi that he intends to look after its interests. This is perhaps why he took personal credit for the arrest of arch-terrorist Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, in Pakistan on Wednesday. This might suggest that New Delhi may not be left out completely in the cold in these shifting times.
But the story of change doesn’t end here. The Trump administration could be preparing to cosy up to Pakistan not because it hates or dislikes India but because it feels it might need the help of Pakistan’s jihadist generals to further its many and often complex aims in West Asia, where things are in a ferment today.
A hint of what might be in the offing was offered by the US Gen. Mark A. Milley, who was nominated by President Trump as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his response to questions for his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, the general stated: “From East Asia to the Middle East to Eastern Europe, authoritarian actors are testing the limits of the international system and seeking regional dominance while challenging international norms and undermining US interests… Our goal should be to sustain great power peace that has existed since World War II, and deal firmly with all those who might challenge us.”
He pointedly mentioned Pakistan as “a key partner in achieving US interests in South Asia, including developing a political settlement in Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical access for US forces; and enhancing regional stability”.
Significantly, he called for a strengthening of military-to-military ties with Pakistan, adding: “While we have suspended security assistance and paused major defence dialogues, we need to maintain strong military-to- military ties based on our shared interests.” So now it’s back to the good old days of shared interests!
The first-ever summit-level meeting between Pakistan PM Imran Khan and President Trump is due next week (July 22) at the White House. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who will be there, declared that this invitation constituted an “acknowledgement of the inherent importance” of bilateral ties. He was also quick to add that Pakistan was “mindful” of US priorities in war-torn Afghanistan. The times are indeed changing once again!
Perhaps Islamabad’s strategic importance, as an ultimate guarantor of “peace” in West Asia, has assumed more relevance given the rapid breakdown of Washington’s relations with Turkey, a Nato ally, over the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and other major disagreements. President Trump had warned Turkey not to go ahead with the S-400 deal, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by declaring the S-400 deal to be “the most important agreement in [Turkish] modern history.” Deliveries of the missile system commenced from July 12.
This constitutes a huge snub to the United States. But things could get worse as some reports suggest that Turkey may be planning to assault parts of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish forces supported by the United States.
Things are also not going well for the Saudis in their war against the tenacious Houthis of Yemen, who are Shias supported by the ayatollahs in Tehran. Other Arab nations are quietly leaving the Saudi war. The regime change effort in Syria too has failed.
All this is reason for Washington to be worried. Hence the move to mend fences with estranged allies. New Delhi, on the other hand, which has big plans for boosting its relations with Washington, must heed the changes that could threaten to prick its ballooning ambitions.