With the arrest of former union minister P. Chidambaram in a late night drama on Wednesday, the political fallout of the developments will be the first big challenge that newly appointed Congress president Sonia Gandhi will have to deal with. With Chidambaram's arrest in the INX Media case which dates back to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, the past has come back to haunt Gandhi in her new role which she took over less than a fortnight ago.
On Wednesday, Congress was united in backing Chidambaram not just in the court through its legal eagles like Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vivek Tankha and Salman Khursheed, but also with top leaders batting for him in public. This included both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeting in Chidambaram’s support and eventually calling a press conference in the evening with the top brass of the party in attendance.
Senior party leaders said a 'carefully crafted strategy' has been put in place to ensure that the narrative is about the fight between the union government and the Congress and not just a case against Chidambaram alone. There are concerns within the party about how the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will project it as a campaign issue in the upcoming state elections, they added.
“The party stands behind the former finance minister solidly. Of course the timing is critical because it comes just ahead of state elections and they will raise it in their campaign but we have nothing to hide as we are cooperating with agencies. We are going to take this to the people and make them aware that government shuts every voice which is not in its favour," a senior lawmaker from the party said requesting anonymity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had stormed to power in 2014 on the back of an emotive anti-corruption campaign and its key pitch was providing a corruption-free, transparent regime. That time too, Sonia Gandhi was the party president and she is back at the helm again as Rahul Gandhi had resigned taking responsibility for the party's second worst defeat in general elections in May this year.