Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh Visit Chidambaram at Tihar: The Optics of a Persecution Narrative
A clear message is being sent here - that the party is ready to fight the onslaught on its leaders.
In an unprecented move today, top leadership of the Congress has, today, visited an inmate of Tihar jail accused of corruption.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh together visited the jail to meet with former union minister P Chidambaram. Chidambaram has been in Tihar since September 5, in furtherance of an ongoing corruption investigation in the INX Media case.
This is the first time party leadership has expressed solidarity with an individual accused of corruption, and further cements its stance that Chidambaram is being persecuted by politically driven targeting.
What is most interesting here is Manmohan Singh’s presence - the former Prime Minister has always been seen as being above any form of corruption. His presence can only be construed as playing up the optics of lending his unimpeachable publicly clean persona to Chidambaram.
A clear message is being sent here - that the party is ready to fight the onslaught on its leaders. The Congress is also clear in underscoring one point - the clampdown by the CBI can only be a result of a political vendetta. Congress leaders make their point by highlighting the fact that the Enforcement Directorate could choose to probe the allegations of money laundering once Chidambaram has been released on bail. This also underscores the point that rather than trying to step in and clear any party members accused of corruption, the party will back its leaders - come what may.
However, both the ED and the CBI have stated that if released, Chidambaram could influence the investigation. They have also made the case that the former finance minister is a flight risk.
Chidambaram responded last night in a tweet to the fear of him being a flight risk with acerbic sarcasm:
I have asked my family to tweet on my behalf the following:— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) September 22, 2019
"I am thrilled to discover that , according to some people, I will grow golden wings and fly away to the moon . I hope I will have a safe landing."
Earlier this morning, he also thanked Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for the visit:
I have asked my family to tweet on my behalf the following:— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) September 23, 2019
I am honoured that Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh called on me today.
As long as the @INCIndia party is strong and brave, I will also be strong and brave.
We must also consider the question of party loyalty - the Congress is facing a high rate of attrition, with party members switching to the ruling party in the current political context. We see very few party stalwarts - such as Chidambaram - standing by the party in what seems like the darkest time for the erstwhile rulers of the UPA government. This loyalty, so to speak, in subjecting them to what the Congress calls political persecution, also mandates a return of a show of loyalty from the party.