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Wikileaks cable on Rahul may mar Congress gala

December 17, 2010 14:37 IST

The cable in which Rahul Gandhi tells the US ambassador Timothy Roemer that radical Hindu groups pose a bigger threat than the LeT could haunt the young leader, says Sheela Bhatt.

Just a day before the Congress's plenary session begins in New Delhi, party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is facing a political problem that will haunt him for a long time.

One of the Wikileaks cables dated August 3, 2009 leaked on Thursday by The Guardian newspaper in London carried Rahul's conversations with US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer at a luncheon meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's home on July 20, 2009 in honour of visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In the meeting, the cable claims, Rahul had told Roemer that the growth of 'radicalised Hindu groups', which create religious tensions in India, could pose a bigger threat to the country than activities of groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

This statement would be branded as immature and will be perceived as Rahul Gandhi having less sensitivity towards Hindu concerns. The Bharitya Janata Party has already condemned his statements in strong words and Congressmen are searching for a convincing defence to douse the fire to save the All India Congress Committee's gala over the week-end.

Besides Rahul's political views this cable, if genuine, shows that the Indian leaders are no different than their Pakistani counterparts in bearing their soul before US ambassadors.

A former Indian ambassador to Pakistan said, "The young man should learn what to talk and what not to talk with foreign diplomats. You may talk such things to any Indian."

Two, it's now clear that Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh's utterances over the issue of saffron terror does match that of Gandhi's views and they were articulated with a definite purpose. The BJP can now say that it was pandering to Muslim sentiments with an eye on important state elections.

Congress's critics point out that his talks with the Americans speak volume of his political naivety. He will have difficulty trying to link the two separate issues of the LeT and the local support its gets and issues of radicalised Hindu groups.   

Vinod Sharma, political editor of the Hindustan Times, thinks that the statements attributed to Rahul in the cable will be exploited by the BJP. It will depend on the political acumen of Congressmen to rebut it effectively.

"Why should it harm him? Rahul has already issued a statement that all kinds of terrorism are wrong," said Sharma.

He further said, "Let us stop using religion while talking about terrorism. I believe that there is no need to get excited over the cable. Indeed Hindu terrorism will hurt country because you will have a civil war if and when it happens."  

The cable claims that Rahul was sitting next to Roemer. If one believes what Roemer claims in the cable sent to Washington, Gandhi has been an "elusive contact" of the Americans but nevertheless he did speak candidly over lunch at Dr Singh's home.

One of the damaging parts of the cable is "Over the past four years, he (Rahul Gandhi) was an elusive contact, but he could be interested in reaching out to the United States, given a thoughtful, politically sensitive and strategic approach on our part," Roemer said.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi