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All hail the role model

What better way than to lead by example? In one stroke Sonia Gandhi made sure that her partymen took and showed responsibility when it comes to spending money, writes Archana Dalmia.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2009 10:03 IST

We are a thinking, thriving nation. We always have something to toot or tweet about. Well, that’s a nice thing.
But sometimes, the music is so loud that it can drown the message. That’s not so nice.

For, louder isn’t necessarily more logical. The louder the voices become, the more incongruous the arguments. And before long all that we are left holding are split ends.

Take the by-now ‘old’ issue of Sonia Gandhi travelling economy class. The fact that the thinking class is actually looking
at events with eyes askew is well illustrated by the exact opposite reactions another event of the sort caused. When Shashi Tharoor and S.M. Krishna were found living in 5-star luxury, a cry went up berating their ‘elitist’ sensibilities. But when Gandhi made a conscious decision to travel economy, the logic was turned on its head, this time mocking her measures at being austere.

We are being myopic in not seeing the message she tried to drive home. The government is concerned about the drought situation in the country. The people in power realise more than others the importance of economising in these difficult times. What better way than to lead by example? In one stroke Gandhi made sure that her partymen took and showed responsibility when it comes to spending money.

It is impossible to expect her to travel economy always. Logistics disallows it. Leaders such as her can’t travel without elaborate security covers as that would put their lives at risk. If it hurts some people’s sensibilities that the government spends too much on her security, then they must understand that it will hurt us immeasurably if she should come to any harm. Her journey was a symbol for all to realise the ‘need for austerity’. It was purely an internal axiom to be followed by Congressmen.

Being ridiculed sometimes for a well-intended move is a hazard of public life. Gandhi has shown that she isn’t deterred by such perceptions in pursuit of a larger goal. Hers is an approach that’s different and refreshing. She seeks to create a class of people who can turn into agents of change.

Rahul Gandhi, too, is following the diktat. It is no secret the ease with which he mingled with the common people and brought victory for the party at the Lok Sabha hustings. People noticed how he was just as comfortable sitting on a village charpoy as in a plush deluxe suite. Then why the uproar if he travels by chair car?

People know that Sonia Gandhi isn’t given to gimmicks. She has always conducted herself with grace and dignity. In this particular case she has emerged as a conscientious leader once again. A strong signal went out to members of the Congress across ranks about the responsible behaviour expected of them. Amusing, that even those who criticised Gandhi will have to perforce display a measure of austerity in their lives. That is if they value whatever little political standing they have.

Archana Dalmia is Chairperson, Grievance Cell, All India Congress Committee

The views expressed by the author are personal