Mother’s And Son’s Congress Raaga
They seem to be out of tune—when mother stops for son for alap, he is not there and mother has to hastily improvise. This is what Sonia Gandhi is doing, taking over the command from missing Rahul and seems intent to keep it that way. Son can go or come, Mother will be the Boss. Is it good for Indian polity?
The son is missing. The mother is suddenly very active politically. She led two marches with other Opposition leaders, one to Dr Manmohan Singh to show their unstinted support against the CBI court’s notice to him. It has made him an accused. The other march was to Prime Minister’s house in protest of the Land Acquisition Bill. She is in vanguard of all protests and demonstrations. She also flies out to meet farmers.
It all sounds like the old times. The leader of the Congress party was always looked up to for any action by leaders of other parties in the Opposition. But with Rahul around such practises had been given up, one because he would rarely come to Parliament and two he never participated in debates or delegations.
Now of course he has ‘vanished’. Sonia Gandhi has come out now, either to hide her son’s shameful disappearance or to save the Dynasty before it becomes history. Or even both reasons might have made her decide to take over the active leadership of the party. Her statement that she is doing everything on his behalf is as much a sham as some of the loyal media reporting that although he is not actually present but all appointments and policy announcements, he is doing through remote control.
This has become a national joke—how does one know that all the remote-controlled decisions are actually being done by him. The remote control might not even be with him. Or at the maximum, he is just operating it on someone else’s dictation—who knows by Sonia herself.
Has she come to know that Rahul’s sabbatical is in reality not for introspection, but for making up the lost time in doing what rich playboys do? On a more serious note the country must know the whereabouts of a person, nominated as prime minister designate by the party that has ruled for majority times since 1947.
All sorts of questions are being raised. Is he on an advance trial –the backlash if one by one all Gandhis leave the Indian shores? Is he adamant that Mother first promises that Sister Priyanka would not be made General Secretary before he ‘obliges’ and returns. The other questions relate to where he has gone (perhaps only to his enormous bolt-hole in Sainik Farms), when he will come back, and what he wants the party to do.
Dr Subramaniam Swamy, the permanent bane of the Gandhis, says Rahul is in Spain. Doing what? He has not clarified so far. But knowing him if you do ask him he might say, watching Flamenco. Whatever he is doing or not doing and wherever he might be or be somewhere else, his mother who has learnt intricacies of Indian politics the hard way, has realised that it does not matter at all. He has become irrelevant to the Congressmen and the Party. This is why Sonia Gandhi has resumed the active leadership. She is leading demonstrations and speaking in the Lok Sabha.
She is the most senior and most experienced Congress MP. Pranab Mukherjee has gone to Rashtrapati Bhavan. And the way she is operating, her son bas become more useless for the Party or for her. She is not there just because of dynastic reasons. Sonia Gandhi needs to take charge after having tried to pass on the baton to Rahul but without success.
Sources say that Sonia Gandhi believes the resurrection of the party is through farmers. And she also believes that the BJP has handed on the platter, the way to the farmers’ hearts by proposing the Land Acquisition Bill. The worst clause in it is denying the right to sue by anyone whose land has been acquired.
So her advisers seem to have suggested to her to go hyper-active on the farmers’ front. The party has announced to hold a massive Kisan rally of 4-5 lakh people at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds on April 19, which party sources say, could also be the first public appearance of Rahul after his mysterious absence.
The timing is interesting. She will address the planned rally just a day before resumption of the budget session. She wants to convince the farmers that the Congress is not ready for any dialogue that compromises their rights. All senior party leaders, state union chiefs and legislature party leaders will be attending the rally.
Sonia also visited Madhya Pradesh, as a part of her trip to interact with farmers. She has already completed Rajasthan and Haryana, where she went to show her sympathy with them for the crop damage from the unseasonal rains. She was to also go to Punjab, but the visit was dropped before of inclement weather. This win-over-farmers strategy might pay off but along with that a serious but independent evaluation of why it failed in 2014 is needed. It also needs an overhaul of its organisation and to develop cadres at the grassroots. And on a more serious note, Sonia will have to worry about her son-in-law factor.
One the march politics is no longer the vogue in 2015. The clichéd statements of the Opposition leaders reminded of marches in the early last century. In this century, farmers, in millions, have been moving to cities. They have had enough as farmers and do not care about Sonia’s sympathies, simply because it does not concern them. Then as Tavleen Singh put in apt words, ‘there was the hypocrisy. Sonia Gandhi declared war on the Modi government on the grounds that “we will never let our farmers down”. Excuse me? Remember Robert Vadra?’
Twitters showed that most have not forgotten that her son-in-law indulged in serious insider trading while buying farmers’ land in Rajasthan and Haryana. His strategy was to manipulate the market by buying acres of land just before its value went up and then profiting from this. Why he was not stopped by the Sonia-controlled UPA, while he made millions at the cost of farmers? And can she explain why MGNREGA created only dole and ditches, not assets and jobs, asked Singh in her column?
The Opposition leaders marching with her have had nothing in common with Sonia, neither with each other. They saw through the ploy to give leadership of the Opposition to her. So now each has decided to protest the Land Acquisition Bill by themselves. So mercifully we will not see these ageing leaders panting and sweating while climbing up Raisina Hills.
As far as Rahul is concerned it is possible that the rumours that he is not returning until Mother promises to keep out his sister might be true. Recently reports of Sonia saying that she was managing the Party for Rahul and Priyanka.
It will be interesting to see if Priyanka is present at the Rally or not. If she is, it means that either rumours about Rahul does not want Priyanka in the party are wrong or his Mother has decided after all the years that Rahul is not only irrelevant but a danger to both the Party and the Dynasty.
How wheels of fortune move. She was, as Rajiv’s wife, bitterly opposed to his joining politics. But she failed because Dynastic responsibility was thrust upon him. After his tragic end she kept off from the Party despite huge pressure on her from the party men. Ultimately, when she realised that the party was going down the hill, she took-over as President of the Party.
Now too she has come out running after realising that despite best efforts and a long rope, Rahul just ruined the party and combined with the loot indulged in by the UPA ministers she and he are now suspects in the eyes of at least urbanites. In her desperation, Sonia Gandhi reverted to the old ploy of the Opposition parties—to unite to fight the common enemy. In her frustration she has forgotten that the attempts at unity since late 80s have invariably failed.
Her advisers possibly believe in try and try again, some day success will come. This time all the Opposition leaders were in reality invited with the secular rhetoric to revive the fading fortune of the party but on the pretext of participating in the Nehru International Conference in New Delhi on November 17.
At the Conference she also picked up the time-tested issue of secularism, the issue that has been like glue for most opposition leaders to join together in opposing the Government. “There can be no India without secularism… secularism was and remains more than an ideal. It is a compelling necessity for a country as diverse as India,” her refrain, save secularism means save India from Modi. “Bharat ki aatma ki raksha ke liye bahadur secular sipahi bano (Be a brave secular soldier and protect the soul of India.),” she told party workers.
This entire platitude is just a facade, torn quite some time ago. It, in reality, means vote-bank politics. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Sonia did not hesitate to meet Syed Ahmed Bukhari—the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid—and made a special appeal to Muslims to vote in a way to prevent split of ‘secular votes’.
In 2006, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that Muslims have first claim on country’s resources. The Gandhis politics stinks of communalism. But now times have changed. People have seen through the Congress’s strategy to cry wolf and raise fear for secularism. In fact, one saw in 2014 election that Congress’s secularism in peril ended up in polarisation and more determination among Hindu voters to elect BJP’s Modi and the party candidates.
How good will she be compared to Rahul? We need no longish discourse on this. We need only remember the absolutism in her psyche which led to the Emergency, political massacre of all talent in the party which tended to shadow Rahul’s prospects to become prime minister, her running the UPA without any responsibility and the tolerance of corruption in her loyalists.
It is also said that she was the architect of the draconian Art 66(A), which was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. This Section was highly popular amongst politicians so no wonder that on an average two cases used to be filed every week. But if she could let MISA be operative during Emergency, Art 66(A) was so mild.
Another sign of absolutism—the president of the Congress party used to be just a temporary job. The party would elect a president each year. Occasionally, someone got re-elected. Subhash Chandra Bose, for example, was president twice and Maulana Azad was president for six years during World War II. Later on, the Congress prime minister was the de facto leader and the Congress president just a nominal head. During the interim period between Nehru and Indira Gandhi, the post became important. Sanjiva Reddy had delusions of power until Indira Gandhi re-established the old tradition of weak presidents.
Sonia Gandhi, however, made the presidency of the Congress a serious political position. She converted the Party into a fiefdom for the Gandhis. So no other President could take over from her.
She has now been president for the longest period and although she chose not to be a prime minister, but as with the original Gandhi, there was never any doubt as to who was the boss.
Now she has anointed herself as the active boss of the party. She is his mother and now she knows what dissipated the party—Rahul’s lack of talent and aptitude for politics. So possibly she has got over her fixation for making him the prime minister.
During his introspection, possibly he has admitted to himself that he has no liking for politics and unlike his mother he is not willing to put in hard and unremitting effort to learn the job.
Politics is a 24X7 job and Rahul most probably gets tired after a few weeks and then to re-energise himself disappears on his foreign jaunts. He does not bother about political issues that might be coming up during his sojourn at some exotic destination. When he is here, he floats ideas but does not stay on the job—which is the most time consuming activity there is. Rahul is also unusual in admitting that he was lost and needed time to think. Away from mother!
One feels pity for him, but should one! For 10 years he has enjoyed the privileges meant for a prime minister. He cannot expect any more for half-hearted shoddy work he has done for his party. As for Sonia, if she has the health to rebuild the party from scrap, her son or daughter could hope for better times. After a decade may be!
By VIjay Dutt