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Three musketeers play a winning hand

Till Sonia Gandhi, 62, joined politics, the photographs of her late husband Rajiv and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi haunted her. To quote her daughter Priyanka: “…When people ask why did she (Sonia) enter politics, she said I cannot look at these photos in this room if I don’t do this.”

india Updated: May 17, 2009 07:26 IST
Kumkum Chadha

Till Sonia Gandhi, 62, joined politics, the photographs of her late husband Rajiv and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi haunted her. To quote her daughter Priyanka: “…When people ask why did she (Sonia) enter politics, she said I cannot look at these photos in this room if I don’t do this.”

Today, Sonia can look at those pictures without they weighing on her conscience. The Congress might not yet be where her family may like to see it, but Sonia has, apart from reviving the party, helped it emerge winner this time around.

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Head count apart, this election is more about the Congress being in a decisive position without worrying about allies. Better still, it is about leaving the BJP or NDA way behind in the final tally.
What is it that worked for the Congress? Is it Sonia, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, or the Congress’s brand of politics?

Party strategists will, of course, attribute the impressive showing to Rahul, 38, and Sonia, this time in that order.

Politically, Rahul needs some years to mature, but on the popularity charts he has overtaken his mother. If the sycophants had their way, they would anoint Rahul prime minister without even waiting for President Pratibha Patil to invite the Congress to form the next government.
But thank God for Sonia and her cautious style of politics.

For one, Rahul can afford to wait. With an impressive verdict and Rahul’s age favouring them, time is on the Gandhis’ side. Better to be kingmaker than being crowned in haste. Sonia’s saying no to being prime minister in 2004 was in keeping with this line of thinking: a move that has paid off politically.

Yet, one cannot dissociate Sonia and Rahul from Singh, 76. Or treat this verdict as one that is solely Gandhi-driven.

In the past, Sonia and Singh’s relationship has worked very well. Despite the BJP’s clamour of Singh being remote-controlled by 10, Janpath, both continued to effectively run the party and government, respectively.

Even if there were any cracks they were not allowed to appear in public.
Once Rahul stepped in, another dimension was added to the Sonia-Singh leadership. The ease with which they accommodated each other reiterated none was hankering for power. Instead, the trio stood for development and a strong India.

Contrast this with the BJP’s flip-flop between Lal Krishna Advani and Narendra Modi and the absence of an electoral plank to woo voters.

The sum total: the voter pitched for the Congress and while pressing the button for the hand (Congress symbol), voted for the faces of maturity, youth and integrity: read Sonia, Rahul and Singh, respectively. Divorce one from the other and the numbers would perhaps not be what the current election has thrown up.