This week, the Congress party filed two FIRs – in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh – against BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy for alleging that its former president Rahul Gandhi uses cocaine.
But aficionados of the Tom and Jerry show that the Gandhi-Swamy saga has become may be forgiven for being overcome with a feeling of déjà vu. The Nehru-Gandhis have been old frenemies of Subramanian Swamy, ever since Indira Gandhi’s Emergency forced Swamy to go underground, donning a variety of disguises, among them Nanaji Deshmukh’s Sikh driver and a Chinese man named Moto Moto—if Swamy has to indulge in racist stereotypes, at least he could do them correctly. Among his many escapades, the best known was when he turned up in the Rajya Sabha in 1976 to announce the “death of democracy” just as the Speaker was reading the obituary notices.
Yet a few years later, when Indira Gandhi asked him to speak to the Chinese on behalf of the government, he was only too willing, writes Samanth Subramanian in his excellent 2012 profile of Swamy. Speaking Mandarin is one of his many accomplishments, which include a PhD from Harvard in economics. This unevenness has defined his relationships with the other Gandhis as well.
‘Sonia Maino’ must go
Swamy was, by his own admission, close to Rajiv Gandhi, often meeting him at 2 am or 3 am at night for various discussions. He was critical in forming the association, which saw Chandra Shekhar briefly becoming Prime Minister in 1990. It was a tea party in 1999 he hosted for J. Jayalalithaa (who called it a “political earthquake”) with Sonia Gandhi as a special invitee at Delhi’s Ashok Hotel that saw the former pull out of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government after 13 months
Yet, his life’s single-minded purpose now, apart from becoming finance minister, if not prime minister, is to see Sonia Gandhi aka “Sonia Maino” aka “TDK” (Tadaka, a demoness in the Ramayana) in prison along with son Rahul Gandhi aka “Raul Vinci” aka “Buddhu”.
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Both mother and son TDK and RG have bluffing the nation about their real Nazi Italian background, Citizenship, educational qualification and foreign bank accounts. No more they should be allowed get away with it
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) July 6, 2019
In a toxic arsenal, Swamy reserves a special kind of poison for them. Among the many things he has suggested about Sonia Maino is that she has stolen antiques from India with her sister Anushka, that her father was a Fascist, and worse, that she plied a trade that he believes is questionable when she was a student at Cambridge—an English language school in the town and not the actual university, he is always at pains to point out. He has suggested both she and Rahul are not Indian citizens, and most recently, that they profited from the National Herald. It is a case that he has long pursued, and one where the two are currently on bail.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have spent many speeches describing the ma-beta in disparaging terms, calling the mother a “Jersey cow” and “Congress ki vidhwa”, and the son “Naamdar” and “Shahzada”, but it is not a patch on the active conspiracy theories Swamy has spun around the Gandhis.
Read this 2001 theory by Subramanian Swamy: In “Sonia met Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge in 1963 and got married only in 1968” with a good part of the intervening period being “spent in London”, where a KGB bond was either created or strengthened.
In his letter on 3 March 2001, Swamy had asked Minister of State for Personnel Vasundhara Raje to direct the CBI to look into his allegations that Sonia was soft on the Tamil Tigers, the PMK and the “pro-LTTE and secessionist Dravida Kazhagam”. LTTE cadre also acted as “runners”, Swamy told India Today, to facilitate a smuggling operation.
He pointed to a CBI inquiry of 1993 into a consignment originating from Chennai port that violated the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972. The artefacts were, the CBI recorded, meant for one “Guide Zanderige” of Verona, Italy. Swamy said that this man is an employee of the Mainos and was procuring goods for “Etnica in Rivolta or Ganpati in Orbassano”, shops “owned by her (Sonia’s) family”.
That’s not all. He also wrote to the law ministry seeking action against Sonia—who he says voted in the 1980 election but got Indian citizenship only in 1983—under Section 10(2)(b) of the Citizenship Act.
A similar allegation was made by Swamy in late 2015 about Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship in a letter to Prime Minister Modi. Swamy claimed Rahul Gandhi had declared himself a British citizen to float a private company in London. “The name of the company is BACKOPS Limited and the Director and Secretary of this company was Mr. Rahul Gandhi, presently Lok Sabha MP,” the letter stated. In 2013, however, Swamy had alleged that Gandhi was an Italian citizen. “Rahul Gandhi can never become the Prime Minister…He is an Italian citizen. I will bring out this in details very soon,” he said.
What made Swamy hate Sonia
What explains Swamy’s anathema towards the Gandhis? Veteran journalist M.D. Nalapat who has known Swamy for over 30 years, told ThePrint that it all boils down to 1999.
“After Jayalalithaa withdrew support from the Vajpayee government, Swamy was looking at recreating the Chandra Shekhar government. He didn’t blame Rajiv (Gandhi) for the fall of the Chandra Shekhar government, he blamed people around the prime minister. But he had expected Sonia Gandhi to follow through on her promise of Congress support from outside or inside a probable United Front government. But then he switched on television one day and found Sonia Gandhi laying claim to government formation with the infamous ‘We have 272’ comment,” Nalapat explained. “As you know, she couldn’t form the government, there was a general election and Vajpayee returned as prime minister. That was the trigger that broke their relationship,” he said, adding that he then forever saw Sonia as being power-hungry.
Ironically for someone who is now in the BJP (he joined in 2013), Swamy possibly disliked Vajpayee even more than Sonia. The story goes that after the 1977 elections, when Swamy was not made finance minister in the Morarji Desai government, he blamed Vajpayee who he claims spread a rumour calling Swamy a CIA agent. Swamy, whose Twitter profile says “I give as good as I get”, responded by describing Vajpayee as a drunk who was so intoxicated at an official party in Delhi that he was publicly upbraided by then prime minister Morarji Desai.
The BJP may not reward him with the portfolio he most craves, finance ministry, but the party cannot ignore the work he has done in destroying the myth of invincibility around the Gandhis.
Jaya Jaitly, his one-time colleague in the Janata Party, told ThePrint that Swamy is “the little boy in the classic tale who stands by as the ceremonial procession goes past, daring to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. The entire Congress party is self-destructing because of its decades-long fixation on the Gandhi family”.
Anyone who has ever underestimated Swamy’s doggedness has usually lived—or perhaps not lived long enough—to regret it.
Witness the criminal complaint he filed against Jayalalithaa in 1996, which led to her conviction in 2014. Or the letter alleging that the former intelligence chief had asked Department of Telecommunications to tap the phones of politicians and businessmen in Karnataka in 1988, which led to the resignation of then Karnataka chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde (which Swamy described, rather colourfully, was like catching a padre in a brothel, according to Roxana Swamy in her book Evolving With Subramanian Swamy: A Roller Coaster Ride). Or the fact that he sued IIT Delhi for wrongful dismissal in 1973, and finally not only won the case but also the salary owed to him between 1972 and 1991 with 18 per cent interest in 2019.
It may take a while but the six-time MP does end up on the winning side.
The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.
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