Is Sonia on the right track?
In the backdrop of the stunning defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Assembly elections in Delhi; the initial troubles being faced by the saffron party in the ruling coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir; unabated rhetoric by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad; certain missives by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the so called rigidness of the PM ;and difficulties being faced by the mathematically frail ruling NDA in Rajya Sabha; the Congress President Sonia Gandhi has started showing courage to ignite the grand old party from its torpor. The Congress had only recently been embarrassed because of a long sabbatical of the Party Vice-President, and her son, Rahul Gandhi.
There is a need to read between the lines vis a vis Sonia Gandhi’s energetic public displays of leadership of her party during the last two weeks. Her tough stand against the Land Acquisition Bill; leading a march from Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhawan along with MPs of more than a dozen political parties; sudden visit to the states of Rajasthan and Haryana to express her sympathies to the farmers on the loss of their standing crops due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms; and a decision to organise a massive rally by the party in the near future to oppose the Land Bill have; in fact, raised her stature in the political arena. She emerged as the only present leader capable to take along a large number of opposition leaders.
Apart from this, Sonia Gandhi led all senior leaders of her party from the Congress headquarters to the residence of the former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh to express solidarity with him after Singh was pronounced an accused in the Coal Gate Scam. After a long silence in Lok Sabha, she spoke on the injustice being done in Andhra Pradesh and asked the Chief Minister of Karnataka to agree to a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the death of IAS officer DK Ravi. The recent actions of the Congress President are going to have a significant effect on the present political situation and the ensuing political permutations and combinations. These moves reflect the political wisdom of a leader willing to rejuvenate her party and bring it back to the driving seat. The way she inspired, chaperoned, and monitored the functioning of the United Progressive Alliance government during 2004 to 2014 was an extraordinary display of her political understanding and decision making capabilities. Those were the days when the government and the party were being led by the two different personalities; although both of them were working in full synchronisation.
The recent efforts of Mrs. Gandhi could be seen in line with previous attempts to revive the grand old party after its poll debacles. The Congress lost power at the centre in 1977, 1989, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2014 general elections. The loss in 1997 and 2014 was downright massive as the party was dethroned, mauled, and rejected whereas in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 1999 the extent of the loss was not that substantial. After general elections in 1989 and 1996 the country witnessed an era of instability with either heterogeneous combinations of weak governments or weak governments backed by Congress Party in power for brief periods. The Congress had to strive hard to dethrone the incumbent non-congress governments in 1980 and 2004; whereas its spectacular win in 1984 was due to a sympathy wave after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The victory brought Rajiv at the helm of affairs in the country. Indira Gandhi was however a shrewder politician. She was a leader having an exceptional power to gauge the pulse of the people at large. She enjoyed power in abundance as there used to be hardly any challenge to her in the organisation and even in the country. Her machinations were instrumental in the downfall of governments led by Morarji Desai and later another government propped up by a splinter rebel faction of the Congress. To a large extent she exploited the misrule of the then Janata Party and its successive governments to the benefit of the Congress. The turnaround of the Congress was complete within a short span of three years.
Similarly, Sonia Gandhi with her active campaigning and robust organisational skills punctured holes in the hype balloon created by the NDA around its India Shining theme and stunned them by defeating the incumbent Vajpayee led government; which many expected to win.
Whatever Sonia has done recently to upset the well-oiled cart of the NDA is a clear indication of her commitment to bring the party back to the centre stage. The only difference between her and her mother-in-law is that her mother-in-law had a willing and politically active son Sanjay by her side whereas Sonia is being aided by a reluctant and unwilling Rahul, yet to graduate in the art of politics. Probably with her recent actions Sonia might have given a signal to the party that it can function smoothly even in the absence of Rahul.