By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHIâ€”Ironically, the party held apparently to celebrate Rahul Mahajanâ€™s entry onto the political platform has led to the collapse of that very platform. Rahul, Vivek Moitra (his late father Pramod Mahajanâ€™s secretary) and several other individuals had gathered on Thursday evening (June 1) at Pramodâ€™s official residence in Safdarjung for drinks and drugs.
The following morning, Rahul was to leave for Guwahati (Assam) to immerse his fatherâ€™s ashes in River Brahmaputra and take charge as vice president of Bharatiya Janata Partyâ€™s (BJP) youth wing after his return. There was also speculation on his being selected for the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by his fatherâ€™s death.
Instead, on Friday morning (June 2) he was rushed to Apollo Hospital in a critical state, and declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Rahul was put on a ventilator and kept in the intensive care unit. Hospital authorities reported the matter to the police. His fatherâ€™s ashes were subsequently sent by courier service to Guwahati, where the BJPâ€™s Assam unit organized a small ceremony on the bank of the Brahmaputra.
For the ill-fated June 1 party, on being invited by Vivek, Sahil Zaroo (a Kashmiri), came over with two of his friends Rahul Malhotra and Karan Ahuja. Sahil was asked to buy cocaine for Rahul and Vivek. Using Rahulâ€™s car, Sahil bought three packets of cocaine from a Nigerian called Abdullah. After snorting cocaine along with Vivek and Sahil, Rahul suspecting its quality, wanted it replaced. Dropping Karan at his home, Sahil took the two unopened packets back to Abdullah. When Sahil returned with another friend Trishay and five fresh packets of cocaine, they found Rahul and Vivek unconscious. They got in touch with Harish Sharma, Pramodâ€™s former secretary, who directed that the two be rushed to the hospital and have the place cleaned up. Sahil and Trishay left the place.
After being discharged from the hospital on June 5 and then enduring four hours of interrogation, Rahul was detained in police custody for two days. Police registered a case against Rahul under section 21 (possession, sale and purchase of drugs), section 25 (allowing oneâ€™s premises to be used for consumption of drugs), section 27 (consumption of drugs) and section 29 (conspiracy and abetment) of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Also behind bars are Sahil, three Nigerians suspected of being drug peddlers, Harish Sharma, and Ganesh, a family domestic servant. Sharma and Ganesh are accused of destroying evidence by cleaning the Safdarjung residence soon after the two were rushed to hospital.
On June 8, rejecting police demand for extension of his stay in police custody, Rahul was remanded to 14-day judicial custody and sent to Tihar Jail. Despite medical reports having confirmed his consumption of drugs, Rahul did not confess to this. Instead, his repeated stand was: â€œI am innocent.â€ With the Indian media painting Rahulâ€™s case as that of a spoilt, rich child, other incidents of his indulgence in drugs hit the headlines. Drug abuse had brought Rahul to Apollo for a day in 2002 also. Though the authorities then claimed that he was suffering from meningitis, the facts were exposed when his father packed him off to a rehabilitation center in London. When Rahul collapsed at a London nightclub in 2003, due to alleged drug abuse, he was called back and admitted to a hospital in Bombay.
Owing to the â€œscandalousâ€ nature of the Rahul-incident, a section of BJP leaders have decided to keep their distance from the case. They have also agreed among themselves that prospects of opening a position for Rahul in the BJP are as good as dead. When questioned on the incident, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: â€œThis is a private matter. This has nothing to do with BJP.â€ Howsoever, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee displayed a more patronizing approach. â€œSometimes our youth get misled. They have to be shown the right way,â€ Vajpayee said.
As of now, until Rahul is cleared off the charges of drug abuse, the BJP has little choice but to exercise safe politics. For the June 15 elections to the Rajya Sabha seat vacated because of Pramod Mahajanâ€™s death, the BJP has decided to support an independent candidate, the industrialist Rahul Bajaj. When questioned on whether there is a future for Rahul Mahajan in BJP, the party president Rajnath Singh said: â€œ[P]olice are investigating and I cannot comment … whether he has a future role in the party.â€
Rahul apparently is still hopeful that by claiming innocence, he may be let off the charges. However, the case has also drawn attention to Delhi assuming the nature of a transit point for drug trafficking. Besides, the police are confident that they have collected enough evidence against both Rahul and Sahil to have them in custody. A senior police official said: â€œAs of now we can only reveal that our objective of going to Mumbai and Srinagar (to collect evidence) has been successfulâ€”the information is enough for us to believe that both Rahul and Sahil will not get bail and we [will] further question them.â€ The fateful June 1 party has apparently spelt a political dead end for Rahul!