Since the apex court is yet to judicially determine if an expression of regret equates with an apology, and if either, or both, serve to assuage deeply-felt hurt sentiments, Rahul Gandhi could have used stronger language when taking Sam Pitroda to task for his insensitive comments on the killings of Sikhs in 1984.

Merely stating the former whiz-kid should feel “ashamed” and publicly aplogise will not suffice to remedy the hua to hua nonchalant air of the man who heads the overseas wing of the Congress party. The people of Punjab are unlikely to buy Pitroda’s line that a lack of Hindi-speaking skills resulted in that comment kicking up such a storm: nor are they likely to accept Rahul’s “admonition” of the family favourite.

Pitroda has not been removed from office ~ at least Mani Shankar Aiyar was temporarily suspended from the party for his lowly diatribe against Mr Narendra Modi. A widespread view would be that Rahul was opting for limited damage-containment on the eve of polling in parts of Punjab. Thus adding to the difficult task Capt. Amarinder Singh is facing in thwarting a revival of Akali-BJP fortunes in the state which has not been enamoured of the Congress since the Bluestar fiasco in 1984.

Pitroda frequently claims that he is a technocrat not a politician, so why he should have broached the subject is difficult to explain ~ unless the vicious rhetoric of the current election campaign has cluttered his thinking too. Certainly the BJP has gone to town ~ amateurs who dabble in politics do little good to their principals, yet Rahul has backed off from making Pitroda pay.

The larger question pertains to the value of apologies in politics. Yes, Indira Gandhi did apologise for the Emergency and Bluestar, but it cannot be concluded that doing so re-endeared her to the affected sections of the people. Rajiv Gandhi remained tainted by his remark that the earth trembled when a big tree fell, and at least two (if not three) of the alleged lynch-pins of the consequent massacres were rewarded with ministerial berths.

So Pitroda’s observation may be embarrassing, but not devastating. In this season of loose tongues, demands for apologies are made almost as frequently as the charges that politicians level against each other. Funny, everyone is lectured on why not to vote for somebody else, little argument is advanced about why votes should be cast in his/her favour for this has been an essentially negative campaign. And demands for apologies are not limited to the domestic sphere.

Just a month ago emotions were running high in Punjab when the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, expressed regret ~ but declined to tender an official apology ~ for the slaughter at Jallianwalla Bagh. At least Rahul said Pitroda should feel ashamed and apologise ~ not that he seems to have done anything of the kind.