No doubt, politics has a lot to do with perception, image and rhetoric. But a mature politician must base these on facts. When the hullabaloo of the presidential polls subside, the facts will speak for themselves. Let’s look at some of the more germane ones.
In 2002, the Congress proposed KR Narayanan’s name for re-election. The ruling NDA turned it down, citing the convention of ‘no repeat term’ for an incumbent President, which was followed consistently after our first two-term President. In May 2007, when Vajpayee proposed Kalam’s name, the Congress pointed out the same precedent. The NDA then rightly withdrew Kalam’s name and proposed Shekhawat instead. Yet, after the momentarily-created UNPA proposed Kalam’s name, the NDA mischievously joined the bandwagon and asked the Congress to explain why it opposed Kalam. Having proposed Shekhawat, the NDA obviously had no locus standi to ask that question.
Well after the Pratibha Patil-Shekhawat battlelines were drawn, the UNPA jumped into the fray, only to embarrass the UPA. Its short-lived Third Front initiative died a premature death when its proposed nominee declined. Can this sequence justify any other conclusion except that anti-Congressism was allowed by both the non-existent Third Front and the NDA to supercede all standards of dignity for the high office of President?
Rajni Patil tried to include GN Patil, Pratibha Patil’s brother, as an accused in the murder of her husband. The lower courts, the high court and the apex court did not do so. The widow then asked the inquiry to be handed over to the CBI. The high court judgment of February 2007 records that the State of Maharashtra, under Congress-NCP rule, promptly agreed to do so. If this is the conduct of a person trying to cover up for her brother, then one has to find new definitions of rationality! Second, the anti-Patil campaign portrays her as an accused in the murder. This is fantastic. She is neither an accused in court nor ever before mentioned as having been associated with the murder. And, till date, her brother has not been accused in any proceedings.
The BJP booklet, ironically titled Insightful, makes two allegations. The first is the murder charge. Second, it mentions large loans allegedly given by Patil’s cooperative bank to her relatives and suggests Patil’s complicity. Consider the following misrepresentations:
(a) On pages 1, 2 and 4, the report refers to Patil as the founder-chairperson of the bank. Fact: The founder-chairperson was one Ms Sonalkar in 1973. Except for a month, from March 16 to April 24, 1990, Patil was never chairperson. Patil ceased to be even a director from 1994.
(b) The author of the booklet, Arun Shourie, gives a chart on page 3, along with a table listing some 12 names who he alleges are the relatives who got loans totalling Rs 2.24 crore. Fact: The correct amount is Rs 32 lakh. It was lent to two relatives, not 12, and if one includes relatives who are guarantors, then the total is six. This money is recoverable from the borrowers with interest in the normal course. All other amounts had been repaid long ago. The Dy. Director’s records show this. The BJP should explain the source of this table.
(c) The booklet (on page 5) states that as recently as on January 22, 2007, the bank’s board authorised Patil to nominate the entire Board of Directors of the bank, thereby suggesting her complete control upto 2002. Fact: It has been verified from the Deputy Registrar of the area that no such board resolution exists.
(d) The booklet repeatedly refers to RBI reports against the bank. Fact: This is a classic case of selective references from official sources to camouflage large references to unofficial private sources. More than 80 per cent of the allegations in the booklet are from a representation of the bank’s Employees Union, which had later filed a writ petition that is still pending. The contents of this employees’ memorandum is weaved in and out with a few stray parts of the RBI report. No part of the RBI report directly or indirectly indicts or gives findings against Patil.
Though there are no findings, charges, conviction against Patil, she is nevertheless ‘tainted’. Yet. LK Advani, charged under Section 53 IPC, is not tainted! This is truly Alice in Wonderland logic.
How many possess Patil’s record in public office? She has spent over four decades in public life; over 25 years as an MLA; held almost every ministerial post in Maharashtra in over 15 years except that of CM; been a Lok Sabha member; Rajya Sabha member & deputy chairperson; three times head of MPCC; and the only sitting Governor of India. If one excludes Shekhawat’s Vice-Presidential term, does he have a better record?
Is it not curious that a person about whom allegations are pouring in daily has not faced them for the last several decades, despite holding extremely high political offices? Are we being unfair? Or is it that this being only the second presidential election after the maturing of the Indian media, every issue has been exponentially exaggerated by political opponents through the media?
Abhishek Singhvi is MP, National Spokesperson and Senior Advocate.