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The winner takes it all

Sonia's move has been a master-stroke to checkmate her opponents as also to cover up for the political mismanagement of incompetent colleagues, writes Pankaj Vohra.
By BETWEEN US | Pankaj Vohra | None
PUBLISHED ON APR 21, 2006 07:58 PM IST

Sonia Gandhi has once again emerged winner. By resigning from her Lok Sabha seat as well as the chairpersonship of the National Advisory Council, she has demonstrated that she holds principle over position. She has also shown that if you actually wish to serve the people, you can do so even without acquiring a post. For a person who renounced power by refusing the prime ministership, the post of the NAC chief was hardly a position from which she was likely to benefit. It needs little intelligence to figure out that the NAC chairperson’s job is lesser than that of the prime minister — if she could refuse that, she had no difficulty in leaving this either. And because she thought that resignation was the right thing to do, she quit notwithstanding the tall claims of the opposition, particularly the BJP, that they succeeded in cornering her.

It is not only foolish to think that the resignation has made Sonia weaker or that the Congress has been put on the mat. The opposition does not seem to realise that in this country, anyone who renounces power is respected and revered. Those who hanker after office are not held in the same kind of esteem. What separates Sonia from the ordinary politician is that she has the grace and the moral strength to renounce positions. She is at peace with herself when she takes the correct decision and does not get pressurised by lesser mortals, who, to consolidate their positions, may want her to accept greater responsibility. Unlike some in the opposition, she has no secret ambition to be PM.

Sonia has set a benchmark in politics which is difficult for anyone among the present lot of politicians to emulate. She does not need an office to exercise her influence and those who feel that she should shoulder greater responsibility must realise that it is because of her efforts that the Congress has been resuscitated. She has single-handedly brought the party back to power from the brink of decimation. Her quitting is not drama or the result of the opposition outmanoeuvring her. It is a simple case of taking the right course to face the situation brought about because of total political mismanagement and incompetence on part of some of her advisors.

Many of her critics are trying to ridicule the resignations. Some have termed it as the political sequel to the renunciation which doesn’t have the same impact. But her actions have clearly shown that her stature has grown even more. And if she has announced that she would go back and seek the mandate once again from people of Rae Bareli, it is because she is committed to the constituency once represented by her in-laws — Feroze Gandhi and Indira Gandhi. She does not want to let the people down and as in Amethi, her earlier constituency, she feels she has a responsibility to discharge. For her to get elected to Parliament is not difficult but it is Rae Bareli she wishes to represent because of personal and special reasons.

Her move has been a master-stroke to checkmate her opponents as also to cover up for the political mismanagement of incompetent colleagues who should now be held accountable for their lack of anticipation and foresight. It is very obvious that inept, immature and inadequate advice had made the position of the Congress president very vulnerable. It is her own intrinsic strength that has bailed her out of a mess she would landed in without any fault of hers. This is, therefore, also an occasion for her and the Congress party to introspect on the decisions which have been taken in the past two years.

There has been a lot of resentment among the party cadres over the manner in which undeserving people have manipulated their way in occupying important offices. It is, therefore, also a time to take corrective measures. It is time for a rethink on the continuation of such persons both in the government and the party. It is time to identify those who can deliver and separate them from those whose sole aim in politics is to make more and more money. The service of people is not on these people’s agenda.

The government and the party’s state needs to be thoroughly re-examined. There should be a serious attempt to find out whether rewarding those who have opposed the party, or its main leaders like Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in the past, need to be repeatedly rewarded with posts, that too at the expense of genuine Congressmen. The impression after the last reshuffle that moneyed people with limited influence had found their way in, despite some of them having questionable credentials,  needs to erased.

There is a strong section within the Congress itself which feels that there is no need to amend the law on offices of profit and MPs should be asked to choose between their seat in Parliament or the office of profit they wish to occupy. They cannot have both. The spoils can then be shared with other deserving people. The perception that some people continuously benefited needs to be also corrected by laying down a cooling period. The party should also freshly re-examine whether there is any logic of giving Rajya Sabha seats to those who had been defeated in Lok Sabha polls.

In the Congress, all this is possible since it is Sonia Gandhi alone who stands tall and has brought the party this far. It is she who has led from the front — when all others choose to sit indoors and confabulate on cutting each other down to size,  even if it amounts to harming the party.

She should also fix responsibility by holding a confidential inquiry into the series of blunders including the latest one which was saved by timely action by the Congress president herself. Those who have erred must go and if the Congress has to move towards self-sufficiency in many other states where it is weak, certain hard decisions may have to be taken. Between us.

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