After the ED’s summons to its top leaders, the Congress on 1st June,2022 hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of hatching a “cowardly conspiracy” against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and said the party will not be cowed down by such “vendetta” politics and attempts to suppress the opposition. Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and Abhishek Singhvi said the party will fight hard “legally, socially and politically”.
Is there anything new in this? Congress and its spokesmen know it. Still, they mouth these platitudes aware that it will go to the dustbin of history, yet again. Let us be fair. Congress alone is not guilty of this ‘conspiracy theory’ disease. Flip the roles of parties. The present ruling dispensation has not been innocent of embracing this facile virus.
Why do these political parties, uniformly, switch their stances, based on where are they placed in, in governance terrain? Are they fooling themselves? Or convinced that they can pull wool over our eyes? Do they assume We the People are so naive that any prosecution of such kind ought to be persecution.
In fact such ‘political conspiracy charges does not belong to India alone. Donald Trump accuses of Democrats of ‘witch hunting. Imran Khan does it in Pakistan. Less said the better about Sri Lanka. And who can forget the rantings of Benjamin Netanyahu @ Bibi when his government was trumped in Israel.
What is the common thread running through these ‘conspiracy theories’. They are of multiple genre. But, leaders of one party accusing the party and leaders in power of ‘going after them’ is on expected lines. We are used to it. We don’t give it credence. Yet, we are sick of it. We would like our politicians on any and every side of the aisle to give us a little bit of intelligence. We feel insulted.
We are not sure that such prosecutions are ever taken to their logical conclusions. Rarely, if ever, as Madam Jayalalitha & Co being brought to book after twenty five years of the long winding ways. Yes, Lalu Prasad Yadav or a Chautala May cone and go in between. That is our grievance.But these ‘conspiracy’ defences continue unabated.
To pivot a wee bit intellectual from these mundane and puerile defences, research suggests that it has now been refined by politicians at both ends of the spectrum. In the middle, we feel asphyxiated. At least, let us be comforted that there is a decipherable basis driving this phenomenon. And this too shall pass, but of course, shall continue forever too.
A couple of Professors who studied this conspiracy theorising, in 26 countries, are quoted in ‘Nature Human Behaviour’ as “ Conspiracy mentality describes the tendency for individuals to endorse conspiracy theories, defined as beliefs that a certain group of people are secretly working together to achieve a malicious goal”
The authors investigated the relationship between political affiliation and the tendency to support conspiracy theories while controlling for the theory that conspiracy mentality increases among a specific political party when their preferred political party is not in power. They found a consistent relationship between political orientation and conspiracy mentality. A perceived loss of control of a political party does influence conspiracy mentality. So much for ‘political conspiracy’.
ED summons follows a case that dates back to 2018 (which in turn has 2011 origins), when the Income Tax department had asked Young Indian Private Ltd, in which Rah Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are major stakeholders, to pay the income tax on the income of the company.Following this, the Young Indian had moved the high court seeking a stay on the income tax proceedings against it. However, the High Court rejected the appeal and in the Rs 249.15 crore proceedings against it.
Young Indian challenged the order of the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeal) before Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), and its second appeal was disposed of by the ITAT, by orders dated March 31, 2022, confirming the order of the assessing officer and first appellate authority holding hat benefit of Rs 395 crore accrued to Gandhi family, as against the benefit determined at Rs 414.40 crore by the the Income Tax Department, giving small relief of approximately Rs 17 crore to the Gandhis.
The revenue aspect of this issue was under investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,2002, as a sequel to cognizance of a complaint by a Delhi Magistrate Court. And the ED summons have come pursuant to these developments.
Is it not bewildering that the Congress spokespersons mechanically touted the ‘political conspiracy’ hypothesis, yet again? It is not, dear reader. For INC and the Gandhis are not to blame. This conspiracy theory is as old as the hills. It is a Political Pandemic with no Vaccine in sight. The loss of power of the political party has affected the ‘conspiracy mentality’, as the good professors have concluded from their study.
You see, Congress and its spokespersons are blameless. As We the People are perceived to be gullible. Its Politics Stupid!
(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)