The Congress has a poor sense of humour. Look at the paranoid response of the Congress to the NDA Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani'spromise, if voted to power, to unearth the black money siphoned off in foreign tax havens within the first 100 days of his government.
When Advani first raised the Swiss accounts theme the Congress fielded former Finance Minister P Chidambaram to ask purportedly intelligent but essentially irrelevant questions to hedge the issue. Chidambaram perhaps is the most clever politician in the Congress Party. He tried to divert the issue by suggesting that his government was secretive about tracking the tax havens so that the thieves will never get wind of his holistic endeavour. When the BJP reminded him that for almost two years the UPA was sitting on valuable leads and that the UPA had advised the Indian Ambassador in Germany to sit tight on the issue, he retreated leaving the field open to his junior colleague Jairam Ramesh to rubbish the BJP demand through calculated leaks in the media. He further tried to deliberately pooh-pooh the demand by attributing motives in making it an election plank. By his logic no issue of larger national interest should be raised as an election issue. He was eloquently supported in this campaign of canard by Kapil Sibal and Veerappa Moily. But what is unexplained is the Congress hypersensitivity on the question of black money. It is protesting as if it is the culprit. It is defending as if it is being accused of holding the entire $1.75 trillion in foreign banks. (This amount is hotly disputed). By wide consensus the amount thus taken out of the country is somewhere between $1.25 trillion and $2 trillion.
The Congress should know better. It says there are 70 tax havens in the world and that if those with illegal money abroad come to know that Government of India was after that looted Indian wealth, then they would spirit their money to any of these safer destinations. Interesting? And why all of a sudden and that too in the election time? This is the Congress surmise. The party with its cynical band of socialites and friendly economists has unleashed a propaganda that the BJP cannot be sincere about its promise. That after the poll the party will conveniently forget about the issue. After all, they console themselves, politicians in general share the common bond of holding black money. Sadly for the Congress all these diversionary tactics cannot square up as a coherent argument to justify its inaction all these years. The Congress counter-offensive has become so bizarre that it is asking the NDA as to why it replaced FERA with FEMA and why the NDA did not act against the violations when it was in power. Perhaps the Congress is trying to pretend to be out of sync with the context of the whole debate.
One thing is clear. The Congress is caught in its own web. What is frightening the party is the massive response and hope the matter has evoked among the Indian voter. It has already become a poll issue. As Arun Shourie argued the other day, ?Stupefied by the string of endorsements across the country for the demand that the money looted from India must be brought back, the Congress has tied itself in knots.? Thankfully, the party is not hiding it.