NiMo & ‘bhai’ drive bitter battle on narrative

Rahul Gandhi has said in the past that 'other proceedings' will start against Narendra Modi once he is out of power

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 10.03.19, 1:45 AM
  • Updated 10.03.19, 1:45 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Nirav Modi. (Telegraph file picture)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged an “uncanny similarity” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi and predicted both would face justice for having “looted India”, indicating how bitter the election campaign is likely to be.

Rahul’s comment came after media reports said Nirav was living and running a new business in London and a video showed him roaming London’s streets in an expensive jacket and muttering a “no comment” to every uncomfortable question.

“The video of fugitive Nirav Modi in London shows an uncanny similarity between him & his bhai, PM Modi. Both have looted India and are called Modi. Both refuse to answer any questions. Both believe they are above the law. Both will face justice,” Rahul tweeted.

Nirav and Narendra Modi are not known to be related.

Although the Congress has been describing Nirav as “Chhota Modi”, Rahul’s direct comparison between the two in the context of India being “looted” is expected to trigger a no-holds-barred clash with the BJP.

Rahul has at least twice said in the past that “other proceedings” will start against Narendra Modi once he is out of power.

His comments may also be intended to disrupt the Pakistan-centric narrative being peddled by the Prime Minister and his party, and swivel the public’s attention back to issues of corruption and governance failures.

On Tuesday, the Congress Working Committee is expected to allege that the Prime Minister’s focus on war rhetoric reflects his inability to fight elections on real-life concerns like jobs and the farm distress. Rahul knows that any discourse on Nirav and bank fraud will put the BJP at a disadvantage.

With this in mind, Congress leaders on Saturday taunted the Modi government over two embarrassing issues: Nirav’s new life in London and the attorney-general’s somersault on the claim that the Rafale files cited by The Hindu had been stolen.

The party underlined how several fraud accused — such as Nirav, his uncle Mehul Choksi, Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya — had fled India during this government’s tenure, and accused the Centre of both incompetence and complicity.

“Please watch Trailer — A day in the life of ‘Poster Boy’ for ‘Bank Fraudsters Settlement Scheme abroad’!” party communications chief Randeep Surjewala tweeted.

“Director & Producer — Narender Modi! Editor — Arun Jaitley! Script Writer — ED & CBI! Production Cost— Rs 23,000Cr! Financed by — Indian Banks! Modi Hai, To Mumkin Hai.”

Surjewala also referred to Nirav’s presence in the business delegation that accompanied the Prime Minister to the World Economic Forum last year and the group photograph in which the diamond merchant appears with Narendra Modi in Davos.

“Why should fraudsters fear when Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister? They are enjoying life in a Rs 73-crore mansion,” he said.

Former finance minister P. Chidambaram tweeted: “When Lalit Modi stayed on in the UK, I wrote to the UK Chancellor that he should be sent back to India. Sushma Swaraj mocked me for writing letters. Now Nirav Modi is walking on the streets of London. Will Sushma Swaraj swoop down, pluck him off the street and bring him back to India?”

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi told a media conference: “Nirav Modi has been found having fun in London in Narendra Modi’s fraudster settlement scheme. The poster boy of this scheme is a free bird and has been found wearing an ostrich-hide jacket that has an approximate cost of Rs 9 lakh and living in a posh London apartment worth Rs 73 crore, occupying half of a floor in the landmark Centre Point tower block, with views across London.”

She added: “Information in the public domain points out that Nirav is now involved in a new diamond business run from an office in Soho, just a few hundred yards from his new apartment. What is worth noting is that this business was incorporated in May 2018 after he became a declared economic offender.

“In 2014, Modi had promised to bring back Rs 80 lakh crore in black money. Instead, he has ensured that Rs 1 lakh crore (worth of) deposits (by) honest taxpayers is now being used by these fraudsters to lead a luxurious life on foreign shores.”

Congress leaders also questioned the government’s flip-flop on the alleged theft of the Rafale files.

Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal had told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that Rafale documents had been stolen from the defence ministry and threatened The Hindu newspaper with the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on them.

On Friday, Venugopal told news agency PTI that the Rafale documents had not been stolen and that what he had meant was that “photocopies of the original” papers had been taken away without authorisation.

Surjewala tweeted on Friday night: “Art of serving hundred lies to hide one truth! Yesterday In Supreme Court — Rafale files have been stolen. Today — Photocopies of Rafale files have been stolen. Modi ji, what’s the duplicity for tomorrow?”

Chidambaram tweeted on Saturday: “On Wednesday, the Official Secrets Act was shown to the newspaper. On Friday, the Olive Branches Act was shown. We salute common sense. On Wednesday, it was ‘stolen documents’. On Friday, it was ‘photo copied documents’. I suppose the thief returned the documents in between on Thursday.”

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