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Sonia checks mates

After renouncing power by declining to become the PM, Sonia played another political masterstroke by giving up her LS seat, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2006 02:09 IST

Sonia Gandhi has again set a benchmark in politics — an unparalleled one. After renouncing power by declining to become the Prime Miniser in May 2004, the UPA chairperson on Thursday played another political masterstroke by giving up her Lok Sabha seat and the office of the NAC chairperson. In the process, she checkmated her political opponents and made up for the political mismanagement of some of her colleagues, which nearly led to a situation where the Congress president became the victim of her own party.

The master move caught the Opposition on the wrong foot and will force other MPs similarly accused of holding an office of profit to give up their seats. A mini general election, therefore, would be on the cards and could test the strength of various parties on the field. Also, coming ahead of the assembly polls to five states, the resignation could become a major political talking point.

But while the Congress president has underscored that she does not hanker after positions or important offices unlike some of her opponents, it has also exposed the inadequacy, ineptness and immaturity of those who advise her on various issues. In fact, the political mismanagement provides ample proof that her advisors — some of whom have been used by her opponents to weaken the party — lack political acumen and are happier carrying tales about each other than assessing the pros and cons of their advice. In the latest instance, one key figure had apparently discussed the contours of the proposed ordinance with a senior leader of another party. The entire consequences of the disqualification of Jaya Bacchan were not taken into consideration and the advisers, both in the government and the party, failed to contain the fallout of the action.

Though there is no doubt that Sonia Gandhi can get re-elected to the Lok Sabha from anywhere she chooses to contest, the same may not hold true of many others who may have to resign their seats now. The resignation is also likely to lead to some introspection within the Congress where the rank and file has not been able to digest some of the decisions taken since the party returned to power. Workers blame the wrong advice rendered to Sonia Gandhi for the departures from tradition. For instance, no person who had lost a Lok Sabha election was ever allowed to become a Rajya Sabha member earlier but this code has been observed more in its breach.

Secondly, induction of some new incumbents in the Union ministry has not gone down well with the party cadres because of their questionable credentials. Thirdly, the distribution of Rajya Sabha tickets — the latest instance where “outsiders” were accommodated in place of genuine Congressmen — had left the cadres demoralised.

But Sonia Gandhi has demonstrated that her solidarity with the cadres and the people was complete. She has certainly emerged stronger from the crisis and also wiser in many respects. Needless to say, the decision to resign from the Lok Sabha was her own and not on account of any of her advisers.