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National Herald: Sonia and Rahul get bail, revel in their victimhood

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 1:56 IST

The hearing

The politics

  • The Gandhis are playing the victim card
  • Rahul Gandhi accused PM Narendra Modi of trying to silence the Opposition through false allegations

More in the story

  • What are the Gandhis trying to achieve?
  • Who said what

The build-up proved to be more dramatic than the outcome in today's hearing in the National Herald case.

It took trial court judge MM Loveleen just 5 minutes to grant bail to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi and all the other accused in the National Herald case.

The real significance doesn't lie in what happened in court but what happened outside.

The spectacle

It is evident that the Congress wants to use the legal battle to project a narrative of victimhood and consolidate its core supporters.

Read- National Herald: Sonia, Rahul vs Swamy. War of words continues despite bail

The party turned the hearing into a political spectacle. From the morning party leaders had been making a beeline to show their solidarity with the leadership. Those who had access to Sonia Gandhi, went to her residence at 10 Janpath. Those who didn't, went to the party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.

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Photo: Atul Yadav/ PTI Photo

Many party workers and supporters gathered outside the Patiala House court where the hearing took place.

On Twitter, Congress supporters and volunteers began tweeting with the hashtag #SatyamevJayateSoniaRahul soon after the leaders were granted bail by the court.

The party's aim seems to be to show the Gandhis as normal citizens who have humbly submitted to the might and mercy of the law.

Soon after the hearing, the Gandhis went to the party headquarters to address the media along with former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

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Photo: Chandan Khanna/ AFP Photo

"Today we did what any law-abiding citizen should do. The laws applies to everyone. I have no doubts that truth will prevail," Sonia said, speaking in Hindi.

Then she targetted the ruling NDA but did not mention any names.

"I am completely aware of the intentions of the people behind the case. These people have been trying to attack us. We have been facing this for generations. The Central government is deliberately targeting the Opposition and making full use of the state machinery to do so," she said.

Also read- #SoniaRahulHazirHo: disliking Nat'l Herald deal doesn't make it criminal, says Salman Khurshid

It was Rahul who took the attack to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Like Sonia, the Congress vice-president also gave his statement in Hindi.

"Narendra Modi levels false allegations and thinks that the Opposition will bow down, I and the Congress will not bow down," he said.

"The family has always had to fight political vendettas. They (Sonia and Rahul) took it forward. It is a good thing. This shows their commitment towards the people of this country," said a senior Congress leader.

"The support for the family and the leadership was self motivated. Sonia ji didn't ask anyone to come and join her today," he added.

As many as 30 buses carrying Congress supporters came to Delhi from Sonia Gandhi's constituency, Rae Bareli. There were buses from Rahul Gandhi's seat Amethi as well.

"We are not just Congress supporters. We are family. Agar ghar ke mukhiya ko court jana pade to ghar wale saath hote hein (if the head of the family has to go to court, the family will naturally have to come along)"

The hearing

The court granted bail to all the accused in the National Herald case: Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Suman Dubey and Oscar Fernandes.

Another accused Sam Pitroda, couldn't make it to court because of illness and was granted exemption by the court.

"One application was moved on behalf of all the accused. The court was kind enough to grant bail and put no condition except for surety. Dr Subramanian Swamy argued to put travel restrictions on bail but judge didn't agree," said Kapil Sibal who had appeared for the accused.

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Photo: Atul Yadav/ PTI Photo

The list of those who gave surety for the accused can be seen as indicative of the Gandhis' trusted circle within the Congress:

1. For Sonia Gandhi - AK Antony

2. For Rahul Gandhi - Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

3. For Motilal Vora - Ajay Maken

4. For Suman Dubey - Mallikarjun Kharge

5. For Oscar Fernandes - Ghulam Nabi Azad

Addressing the media after the hearing, Swamy justified his demand for travel restrictions and used it to take a dig at Rahul Gandhi.

"These people have a habit of disappearing. They have disappeared for more than 50 days in the past. So they should not be allowed to leave without your permission. This is what I told the court," Swamy said

Congress wants to show Gandhis as normal citizens who have humbly submitted to the might of the law

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who also, appeared for the accused, criticised Swamy for his demand.

"It is quite sad that Swamy said that there should be restriction on travel. Court didn't agree...All this hype and hoopla was unnecessary. Dr Swamy insisted for passport conditions which was totally unnecessary for those who are deep rooted in our society," he said.

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Photo: Atul Yadav/ PTI Photo

For Swamy too, the press address was a forum to score his own political points. Despite the bail, Swamy sought to emphasise on how the Gandhis had been humbled.

"The accused were not allowed to sit. Motilal Vora was allowed after taking permission because of his age. I wanted the date for examining the accused in court to be in January. But they requested for 20 February. I agreed only after Kapil Sibal said please," Swamy said.

Singhvi later took a dig at Swamy saying that he hopes Swamy is being compensated for his efforts. His referrence was clearly to the bungalow in Lutyen's Delhi that had been allotted to Swamy.

Why did the Congress opt for bail instead of jail?

BJP supporters would have wanted the Gandhis to go to jail and they would have celebrated on the streets.

Apparently, the Congress leadership had contemplated going to jail to gain public sympathy. Congress supporters knew that this would have been a repeat of 1978 when another mother-son duo Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi appeared in front of the Shah Commission.

Then what made them change the strategy?

Had the Gandhis gone to jail, the BJP would have projected it as a huge victory.

Now, the BJP has gained nothing. Instead it is being blamed of playing vendetta politics through Swamy.

Perhaps, it is the Congress which has eventually succeeded in scoring political points through the case.

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First published: 19 December 2015, 17:11 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.