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Sonia, through Pertie?s eyes

?Sonia knew her party and her government had goofed and this was her way of atoning for them. It was her way of correcting matters, writes Karan Thapar.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 02:38 IST

Well?” Even for Pertie it was an odd way to start a conversation. I could tell something was irritating him but decided to wait till he told me himself. It didn’t take long.

“Aren’t you going to accept she did the right thing?” He sounded uncharacteristically aggressive. “And won’t you concede that very few Indian politicians have the guts to act as she did? Or are you going to keep quiet and hope no one asks you?”

It seemed how people respond to Sonia’s resignation had become a litmus test for Pertie. But of what? And why? Try hard as I did, I couldn’t get him to explain. Yet what was crystal clear is that Sonia had impressed him and he was determined her action should get the recognition he believed it deserved.

“In the circumstances what Sonia Gandhi did was not only the right thing to do but it was courageous and unique.” This time Pertie sounded as if he was pronouncing judgement. He wanted me to agree.

“Hang on,” I replied, at last provoked into saying something. “I think the critical phrase is ‘in the circumstances’. That puts things in proper perspective.”

“What do you mean?” he interrupted, his voice rising as if he thought I was challenging him.

“Simply this,” and I paused to draw breath. “If it was the right thing to do why didn’t she resign on the 6th of March when Mulayam Singh Yadav first alleged she held an office of profit? Or on the 17th when Jaya Bachchan was disqualified? If it was the right thing to do why didn’t she resign on the 22nd morning when The Indian Express published its ordinance story? Or the 22nd evening when the decision to adjourn Parliament sine die seemed to prove The Express right? Why wait till the 23rd by when a full blown crisis had built up?”

“Because there had to be good resign for her to resign before she did.” Pertie didn’t sound the least bit stumped. “She wasn’t committing suicide. It was a political decision made in response to events. So, obviously, she couldn’t resign before they occurred.”

“Alright,” I said, a little taken aback by Pertie’s reply. “Consider the opposite. Why did she only resign after the Opposition met the President and asked him not to sign the proposed ordinance? Why did she only resign after the Election Commission said the law would apply equally to everyone? Why did she only resign after the Left Parties pronounced that an ordinance was not the proper way of resolving the office of profit issue?”

“Oh, stop sounding like an interviewer!” Pertie was clearly charged up. He was also becoming impatient. “What are you trying to suggest?”

“Two things. First, her resignation was a strategic act and not a moral one. And, secondly, that it was forced by circumstances. It wasn’t voluntary.”

To my astonishment Pertie started laughing. He was clearly mocking me but I couldn’t fathom why.

“Remember that Latin phrase we learnt during history classes at Doon?” Pertie paused but since I was at a loss I stayed silent. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc — just because something happens after an event doesn’t mean it’s happened because of it. Your logic is based on that fallacy.”

“Oh come on, Pertie,” I replied, sidestepping his Latin erudition. “The woman was pushed into resigning. She’s simply making a virtue out of necessity.”

“For argument sake, let’s accept you’re right.” Rarely, if ever, have I seen Pertie so sharply focussed. “Even if it’s a virtue out of necessity, it’s still a virtue! How often can other politicians claim to have acted virtuously? For them necessity is an excuse to act even more basely.”

Pertie’s repartee silenced me. He clearly had a point. But he wasn’t finished.

“Sonia knew her party and her government had goofed and this was her way of atoning for them. It was her way of correcting matters. And, if you insist, of saying sorry.”

“Sorry!” I asked perplexed. “She said no such thing.”

“You don’t have to say it to mean it. And you don’t have to say it to put things right”. Pertie sounded if he was speaking to a child. “Sometimes what you do is far more important than what you speak. And anyone who has their wits about them will understand.”

“So this is why you think Sonia Gandhi did the right thing?” But it wasn’t a question. I was simply repeating the conclusion because, now, it seemed matters stood in a very different light.

“Try accepting the blame in public when you or your colleagues get something wrong and you’ll understand how difficult that is to do. And then consider resigning as a way of wiping out the mistake and you’ll discover not everyone can do it.”

“May be,” I softly muttered, but I knew Pertie’s interpretation of events was at least as valid as mine.