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Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.

Some questions for Congress’ Prince Charming

After what happened in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, I felt crestfallen and humiliated. I was naturally angry against the terrorists and their sympathisers across the border. But what they succeeded in doing to us with their small number made me more angry against our government and its agencies. I was aghast at their incompetence. I resolved to record my real feelings and not act like a polite flatterer. My survey of the domestic situation and careful scrutiny of government's conduct for more than a year have left no doubt in my mind that important sections of the government are busy lining their pockets, totally indifferent to the threats facing this unfortunate nation. It will be wrong to attack the Congress party as a whole. Even today it has some individuals of integrity and concern for national good. The president, the Prime Minister and the prime minister-in-waiting are the ones to blame.

On the morning after that tragic day, I shot off my angry epistle to Sonia Gandhi. Here are the relevant parts: "Today, I am writing this with great anguish because my conscience does not permit me to remain silent. I must at least record what I think. For a long time it is obvious to the meanest intelligence that all your intelligence agencies are a complete failure and a fraud on the taxpayers. Reliable sources tell me that the ISI has infiltrated even into the RAW. Bangladesh has become a hotbed of anti-Indian activities. This requires the resignation and removal of some political heads but they are reported to enjoy your support.

"Yesterday's incidents in Bombay are proof of your government's incompetence. The names of your corrupt Ministers are freely circulating. Don't think that you are not yourself the target. The country is on fire and it needs consolation and security... Neither you nor your son whom you are projecting as the future Prime Minister of India are the solution or even a ray of hope...

"I know this will annoy you but frankly I do not care since you show no concern for the country. I have respect for the Prime Minister and his integrity. But that is not enough. I know his limitations of which you are the main source and cause.

"I hope and pray that this evokes the kind of response which the grim situation of the country urgently requires".

Things did not register any significant change. I watched with dismay how the party of illustrious statesmen who led India into freedom has virtually turned into a party of dumb, driven cattle, without courage to call their leaders to account. I was more contemptuous of large sections of the press, which had lost its critical faculty and wholly jettisoned the obligation to disseminate the truth, however unpleasant, to keep the political sovereign updated and informed.

No one could have failed to notice how much space and exposure were provided to Rahul Gandhi as one day the press gleefully reported that the "Baton has passed to Rahul". "Manmohan is dead and long live Rahul" was even exalted to the level of divine prophesy on the authority of a little known astrologer, who claimed to have glanced at the horoscopes of the two men, but had not bothered to see the natal chart of the Congress party.

I expected that some sections of the press would have the temerity to stand up and ask a few simple questions from the Prince Charming, the answers to which would have helped the citizens to assess the qualifications of their future ruler.

Some questions are too obvious. Let me give a few samples.

1. We have no objection to your mother's ambition to see you installed as India's Prime Minister. Obviously she did not entertain this ambition either for herself or any of her children in 1991. Are you prepared to take the nation into confidence and disclose the qualifications you have acquired since then to take into your hands the destiny of this complex and most populous and poverty stricken democracy?

2. Do you agree that the best available statesman in the country should fill that post? If yes, how have you convinced yourself that you are the one? We would not mind if your mother answers this question. We hope you will not turn to our dear friends Mani Shankar Aiyar or Abhishek Singhvi to ghost write the answers.

3. We are highly appreciative of the Election Commission which compels candidates for public office to disclose their material assets.

We wish they logically mandate the disclosure of intellectual assets as well. But if democracy is all about transparency, would you kindly let the nation know what academic qualifications you have acquired, when, how and from which institutions. It will help if you also tell the curious Indian nation what books you have read during the last five years; have you published any articles or any readable material on politics, economics, terrorism, war and peace? Is there any speech in Parliament, to the local Rotary Club or to a bunch of tiny toddlers with a single quotable quote that illumines or inspires and gives us some clue to your intellectual attainments? We know quite a few talented young men in the Congress party and naturally people would like to be satisfied that you are better endowed than them all. That your mother is Soniaji or your father was Rajivji is not enough evidence.

4. There have been oft-repeated charges of financial impropriety and worse against your family, including by the president of Janata Party, Subramanian Swamy, Swiss magazines and, most unusually in a book on the KGB. Why have you not responded?

If you plead ignorance of all the stuff mentioned in the questions you do not deserve to be India's Prime Minister any way.

Will the free press look into this serious business and make effective the People's Right to Know?

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