I am really puzzled by some of the responses to my RTI regarding Rahul Gandhi’s foreign trips.
One set of persons have echoed the arguments used by Congress spokespersons Manish Tiwari and Jayanti Natarajan questioning my motives for demanding information that “violates the privacy of Rahul Gandhi.” A related argument is that parting with such information will jeopardize Rahul Gandhi’s security. Both arguments sound absurd to me.
As far as violating his privacy is concerned:
- Rahul Gandhi is not a private citizen. He is an elected Member of Parliament answerable to citizens. Unlike ministers, MPs may not require prior government permission to go abroad. But I am told the established protocol is that MPs have to inform the Speaker when going abroad, especially if the House is in session. I intend to file an RTI with the Speaker of Lok Sabha to find if MPs in general, and Rahul Gandhi in particular, are observing this protocol.
- I have merely asked whether these were official trips or not. If some or all of these were official trips then citizens have a right to know about them.
- Gandhi is neither a secret service agent, nor a RAW or Intelligence Bureau official. Therefore, his foreign trips could not possibly be James bond style secret missions.
- Rahul Gandhi is a prime ministerial aspirant and the most influential person in the Congress Party after his mother Sonia Gandhi. He is known to influence government policy. Therefore, citizens have a right to put his public dealings to scrutiny.
- If some or all of these trips were private, merely disclosing which country he went to does not by any stretch of imagination infringe his privacy, unless he was doing something hanky-panky while abroad. Congress Party should avoid giving that impression by being so paranoid about his trips abroad.
- I have not sought to know who he spends his leisure hours or holidays with. I have merely asked whether he went on official business and what was the nature of the official business, if any.
The argument that it may jeopardize Rahul’s security is absurd for the following reasons:
- I have asked about his past trips, not those he plans to undertake in the future. He cannot be harmed by those he fears with retrospective effect.
- Information about prime ministerial, presidential trips is public knowledge unless they undertake some secret mission for the country. If their security is not compromised, how come information about Rahul Gandhi’s trips needs to be protected more diligently than information regarding the trips undertaken by the Prime Minister of India or the President of the United States of America?
The second set of responses has come from those who agree with my questions. But I find it strange that many of them have congratulated me for my “brave” act. Some have even expressed concern for my safety as though I have done something politically dangerous. This has surprised me more than the first set of hostile responses. I fail to understand, what is so brave about asking for such simple information? After all, I am not chasing information about some mafia don!
I wish Congressmen and women who have declared war on citizens demanding simple information about the affairs of their party president and her family would realize they are doing more harm than good. A party which prides itself on ushering in the Right to Information Act ought not to be so paranoid about the doings of its first family.
Or would they rather bring in a constitutional amendment saying the First Family of the Congress Party is exempt from all laws of the land?
This would be in tune with the act of listing one and only person—namely Robert Vadra by name—as someone exempt from security check at airports while all others, such as the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Chief Justice of India etc. are exempt only on account of the high constitutional office they hold, not because they belong to some higher species.