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Murky Waters In India

Rahul Ghandi

Rahul Gandhi attacked a position of his own Congress Party this week, joining the BJP in opposition to a bill allowing convicted lawmakers to run while their appeals are pending. The New York Times reports:

The Congress Party’s vice president, Rahul Gandhi, in a brief and dramatic press conference in New Delhi spoke out strongly against the ordinance to protect the tainted members of the Indian parliament and state legislatures…

“My opinion of this ordinance is that it is a complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown out,” said. Mr. Gandhi said. “This is the time to stop this nonsense. If we want to actually fight corruption in this country, whether it is my party or the B.J.P., we can’t continue making these small compromises,” Mr. Gandhi added.

It’s important to keep in mind that India’s system of appeals is very slow. These cases can drag on for years and even decades, especially if powerful politicians are using their influence to slow things down. A number of sitting legislators from various parties would stand to lose their jobs if this law doesn’t pass.

Congress has backed this law in the past, presumably because powerful party barons see their interests affected by it and also because some of the state parties needed for coalitions in India’s increasingly Balkanized political environment prefer a less stringent ethical standard.

In making this statement, the heir apparent to the Gandhi dynasty has put himself at odds with the prime minister his mother essentially appointed, and Indian political junkies are trying to figure out what it all means. Was Rahul Gandhi speaking out emotionally and without a lot of forethought, or is this a deliberate and carefully considered political intervention? Was it something he coordinated with his mother and others in the party leadership, or was this a case of an impatient heir striking out on his own? Is this the beginning of a new and tougher anti-corruption stance by the Congress Party, or just an election year stunt?

The jury is still out on all of the above, but India’s political campaign is looking more interesting every day.

[Rahul Gandhi photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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