But it is not difficult to gauge the consequences for BJP if the Supreme Court had not okayed the Rafale deal on Friday. With Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accusing PM Narendra Modi of personal complicity in corruption, a setback in the court would have dealt a blow to BJP which plans to cash in on its claim to have provided a scam-free government and, in particular, the PM’s image as a corruption-buster.
BJP expects its probity plank to be a vote spinner and has viewed the allegations of Rafale scam as a ploy to blunt the edge it thinks it enjoys over Congress on this score. The party has maintained that Congress, which paid a heavy price for scams under UPA, “manufactured” the Rafale controversy only to level the playing field.
An adverse judgment, indeed, even a less favourable one with the court siding with the demand for a probe without commenting on the veracity of allegations, would have been like a gust of fresh wind for Congress’s campaign. It would also have been a validation for Rahul just when the victories over BJP in three Hindi-speaking states have boosted him vis-a-vis the PM. A less unambiguous order from the top court would have invested Rafale scam with a potency that it did not seem to have packed.
The relief of BJP, which was angry over the attempt to draw what it called a “fake equivalence” over the issue of corruption, found expression in the aggression of party chief Amit Shah, members of the Union cabinet, chief ministers and its MPs, usually a listless lot, in both Houses. Shah raised questions about Congress’s intent and the “source” of information Rahul had based his allegations on. Finance minister Arun Jaitley spoke about the role of people with “conflict of interest” who had joined the fray as “commentators”, a curious formulation which many interpreted as a reference to the alleged role of Dassault’s rivals and their lobbyists.
The warfare is not going to abate soon. Congress continued with its aggression, distancing itself from the PILs seeking judicial intervention which were widely seen as “proxy petitions” and demanding a JPC probe. Having raised the matter to such a pitch, it cannot be expected to drop it suddenly. But the difference is that the court order may have raised the credibility bar just a bit higher for them and they will have to wait until a dramatic turn, like the expose by Swedish Radio about payment of bribes to Indians involved in the purchase of Bofors artillery guns during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership, to turn the Rafale purchase into a stick to beat Modi with.