As the implications of the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha become clearer, anxiety appears to be replacing the initial confusion among MPs. Most are worried whether they will be able to return to Parliament. Many are blaming the Congress president’s advisers for making the party and its government vulnerable. The issue, it is felt, could have been handled better and there should have been no express need to push matters in the midst of the Budget session.
Sonia Gandhi may have saved some of her party’s prestige by ensuring that the Bill went through in the Rajya Sabha. Had she not stepped in, the half-hearted manner in which the issue was handled on Day One in the House by some of her colleagues would have led to the Congress further losing face. Her proactive stance on Tuesday when the fate of the Bill hung in a delicate balance bailed her party out of the mess created by her advisers. But her intervention also took away the focus
from her aides whose arbitrary advice could have jeopardised the UPA government since the Budget hurdle is yet to be overcome.
Ms Gandhi has come to the rescue of her party many times and on this occasion she contained the initial damage to a large degree. But she must be wary of those whose counsel has led to one setback after the other following the installation of the UPA’s new edition in May last year.
There are many instances but the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement, the Telangana blunder and now the introduction of the controversial bill in the middle of the Budget session are particular causes for worry. There are other issues too like out-of-turn statements and actions by ministers who should have been dropped for their indiscretions and the failure of her party managers to do proper political management in and outside Parliament.
In some ways, the plight of the Congress in recent months has been similar to that of our hockey team whose performance in the recent World Cup left everyone disappointed. Like the hockey team, which notched up a win against Pakistan in its opening tie but later faltered in every department, the country’s Grand Old Party too is out of form. The hockey team never attempted to clear the ball in its own striking circle till a goal was scored against it. Similarly, the party advisers are creating problems and then trying to involve the Congress president in bailing them out.
It has to be understood that if the Congress is in power at the Centre or in the states, it is only due to Ms Gandhi’s untiring efforts and commitment to secularism and issues of social justice. Whenever she has gone by her instinct, she has been proved right. But some of her aides have tried to complicate things on many occasions in order to emphasise their importance. Therefore, she must have a close look at those who advise her and take her decisions accordingly. There are many in her party who allege that there is a nexus between some of her aides and some Opposition leaders.
Even Ms Gandhi’s adversaries will not doubt her sincerity in pursuing the issues close to her heart. But in politics, timing is very important. Many things can be achieved if executed at the right time without the need to take risks.
The bill is a landmark initiative but it may not necessarily yield political dividends immediately. Remember, Rajiv Gandhi had lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 but the Congress lost in 1989. This Bill too can have wide repercussions. But it is important for the UPA to run the government in order to see through many of its promises and not lose to communal or casteist forces by a self-goal. Between us.