"I don't hate Rajiv Gandhi personally. There is no personal animosity between us. But he is responsible for India hanging its head in shame in the global arena. Bofors is the biggest scandal to rock the country till now. Even the uneducated know about the Bofors corruption scandal. That is how bad it is. Rajiv Gandhi will sell off India."

These are the words of M Karunanidhi. These are the words that were splashed across many Tamil newspapers during the campaign to the November 1989 general elections (see pic). These words in comparison make Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charge look harmless.

Former DMK president Karunanidhi's no-holds-barred charge against Rajiv Gandhi as reported in a popular Tamil newspaper in November 1989. Karunanidhi, among other things, alleged that Rajiv will sell off India

Karunanidhi's party DMK, as it happens, is now one of the long-standing allies of the Congress, which, as it happens, is now protesting Modi's description of Rajiv Gandhi as "corrupt number one".

This is how topsy-turvy Indian politics is.

The Congress eco-system is up in arms against Modi for making pointed references to the corruption of Rajiv Gandhi regime. It is quite revealing that much of the angst stems from speaking about a dead person and not whether the allegations are true or not. Nobody is questioning the veracity of the charges because that is how well-documented the Bofors scandal is (one of the many to buffet the strange dispensation of Rajiv Gandhi from 1984 to 89).

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi’s life ended as ‘Bhrashtachari No 1’: Modi’s retort to Bofors scam

Many are accusing Modi of hitting below the belt as Rajiv is long dead — he was unfortunately assassinated in a cataclysmic bomb blast at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu in 1991.

But here is the thing: The Congress is not only in a strong alliance with the party that had gone to town spectacularly with the corruption charges against the very same Rajiv, but also it was the same party that was specifically accused by the Jain Commission's interim report of being hand in gloves with Rajiv's killers.

So the Congress being upset over corruption charges on its former leader just looks convenient and bogus. And it shedding copious tears over him being martyred also looks dubious when it has actually patched up with the DMK whose role in those tumultuous times surrounding the blast is still shrouded in dangerous mystery.

The moral high ground that the Congress is trying to clamber up on the issue is just a molehill of political opportunism. If it had any actual regard and respect for the memory of Rajiv it would never have built any bridge with the DMK.

Also read: After PM’s “corrupt no 1” jibe, Rahul, Priyanka try to garner sympathy for votes in Amethi

Even if considered cheap, Modi taking potshots at Rajiv is, at worst, poll rhetoric. Congress in pact with the DMK, at best, is still treasonous to and belittling of the former prime minister's memory.

Politics aside, what about the standard belief "de mortuis nihil nisi bonum", the general practice of not to speak bad of a dead person? Well, it is a political correctness, and like all political correctness it takes its relevance from context and time. It can at best be a general nicety extended to a newly dead, and not a life-long moratorium on evaluating all those who have passed away. We speak in warm adjectives in the immediacy of death so that it doesn't add more grief to the person's family and friends trying to come to terms with the loss. Appraisal of legacies, otherwise, has to be weighed in unbiasedly. 

Frank and fearless opinions, especially of deceased public figures, should be aired and not be held hostage to false ideas of respect or misplaced notions of prudishness. 

What do we owe the dead? Most times, it is what we owe the living: honesty.