M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.
With some of the "friends" it has, the BJP is in scant need of enemies. The latest self-goal was scored by Giriraj Singh, an individual who appears to follow the George W. Bush dictum of thinking with the glands rather than the brain. His remark that the widow of Rajiv Gandhi may not have been his eventual successor (or indeed his wife) were she of "Nigerian" extraction rather than European, is not merely tasteless, but untrue. Rajiv Gandhi was not among those who judged individuals on the basis of skin colour. He was eclectic in his choice of friends, and showed no discrimination on the basis of criteria as superficial as skin tone. Indeed, among his closest friends were individuals who would accurately have been described as dusky, but possessed of immense charm. There may have been multiple qualities in Sonia Maino, which won the heart of the elder son of India's reigning "Empress", Indira Gandhi, but skin colour was not among them. To claim otherwise is to reveal the slave mentality of Giriraj Singh himself, who has clearly not escaped from a colonial-era awe of the white skin that the globalised Indian community has moved far away from. The influx of images of living (and other) rooms in homes of "white" people during the 1980s (when Rajiv Gandhi liberalised television as he freed telecom) was followed by floods of citizens of this country travelling and settling down in countries with a majority of "whites". Once there, they discovered that human beings were human beings, and that differences such as colour were soon forgotten. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the "white" populations in Europe and North America have within them a significant proportion of idealists, individuals much freer of superficial biases than a Giriraj Singh.
As those who for some time have pointed to aspects of Sonia Gandhi's actions know, a potent way of discrediting such comments has been to portray them as being based on racial prejudice, specifically on a "dislike of white people". Such a defence has served boosters of Sonia Gandhi well in smudging the motivations of the very small number of individuals — including individuals of the mettle of Tavleen Singh and Suryaprakash — who have consistently drawn attention to those parts of the Congress president's record that have gone unmentioned by her party's spokespersons. Giriraj Singh's remarks will be used by publicists of Sonia Gandhi with frequency, exactly the way it is being done now. The possession of a colonial-era slave mentality by the BJP MP, who clearly regards a white complexion as a sign of perfection and black as the opposite, has done immense harm to the cause of those who seek to raise issues about the UPA chairperson that are far away from superficialities such as skin colour, issues concerning personal and family wealth and participation in decisions of government. Rather than the focus being on such seldom-raised matters, television and print commentators are in a full-throated roar about the racially insensitive remarks made by an individual who is a poster boy for a 19th century rather than a 21st century party.
It had been expected that the coming to office of the Narendra Modi government on 26 May 2014 would be followed by the government divulging information about the Congress president, which would prove with facts the numerous negative mentions of Sonia Gandhi by several BJP leaders while on the campaign trail. Thus far, negative information divulged has been zero, exactly as was the case when Atal Behari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh was the PM. Even details about Robert Vadra have gone unmentioned, notably by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. Was it that Tavleen Singh, Suryaprakash and the handful of others (who constantly drew attention to what they saw as uncomfortable facets of the Congress president's record) were wrong? Is it that Sonia Gandhi is blameless, that she is actually living and moving around in circumstances as straitened as her election declarations make her out to be? Are the reports of luxurious homes in foreign countries of close relatives also wrong? What about the foreign travels of Sonia Gandhi and the means of their funding?
Judging by the silence emanating from official channels, it would appear that the Congress president is in fact blameless, and therefore is owed an apology by those who thought (and wrote) otherwise. The apparent lack of success of the BJP dispensation in coming up with any evidence to the contrary provides Sonia Gandhi with a strong platform to make a political comeback, for she can now claim that the many direct and uncomplimentary charges hurled in her direction by the BJP were false and indeed motivated by racial hatred. The impossible is taking place with the Congress making a comeback as surely as it did during 1976, when Morarji Desai was Prime Minister of India. At that point in time, the Shah Commission came up with zero against Indira Gandhi that was related to personal corruption. This time around, even a cursory effort at uncovering alleged wrongdoing does not seem to be being made, thus leading to the conclusion in the minds of voters that Sonia Gandhi is innocent of the charges made against her by the BJP during the campaign trail.
By his remarks on the ethnicity of Sonia Gandhi and by the way in which he has defamed an individual as liberal as Rajiv Gandhi as being influenced by skin colour, Giriraj Singh has provided a handy excuse for supporters of Sonia Gandhi to discredit the few who remain critical of her. The Congress can now claim (with much higher credibility than before) that the allegations made against Sonia Gandhi have been motivated not by the public interest but even by racial bias. While abusing Giriraj Singh in public, Congress functionaries should thank him in private for bringing back to life what were once assumed to be the dying embers of a party humiliatingly rejected by voters just a year ago.