Rediff India Abroad
 Rediff India Abroad Home  |  All the sections


The Web

India Abroad

Sign up today!

Article Tools
Email this article
Top emailed links
Print this article
Contact the editors
Discuss this article
Home > News > Columnists > T V R Shenoy

Mrs G, can you deal with the mess?

December 17, 2003

Digvijay Singh was asked in a television interview why the Congress (I) persisted with Sonia Gandhi as its leader. His answer was to the effect that Congressmen had an emotional attachment to the Nehru-Gandhi family. What the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh did not state was why India at large should opt for the leadership of Sonia Gandhi; whatever Congressmen may believe, gratitude is not an heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation.

And let us not start on the question of how much weight one should give to the Nehru-Gandhi contribution to the freedom struggle. (After all, if one does not give 'emotional attachment' to the descendants of, say, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rajaji, and Lokmanya Tilak to name a few, why should those of Jawaharlal Nehru be singled out?)

However, I think Sonia Gandhi herself may have started to wonder whether the politics of dynasty is always a good thing. Three instances of father-and-son politics have probably given her enough headaches to last a couple of months. The three come from different parts of India -- northern, southern, and central -- but they are all prime examples of things that go wrong when dynasty and democracy clash.

Let us begin with Chhattisgarh, where Amit Jogi, son of former chief minister Ajit Jogi, is now being described as the 'Sanjay Gandhi of Chhattisgarh.' That is not a compliment. If the average Congressman remembers the Crown Prince of the Emergency era for anything, it is for bringing about the Congress's first electoral downfall. Ajit Jogi was actually brought into the Congress (I) by Rajiv Gandhi, not Sanjay, but his politics carried a whiff of the Indira Gandhi of the mid-1970s.

I recall ministers bowing and scraping to Sanjay Gandhi in the dark years of 1975-1977. Tales are now popping up that seem to show Amit Jogi as a sort of down-market Sanjay Gandhi. Senior bureaucrats complain that they were forced to ferry baskets of shrimp for Amit's table in Delhi! More seriously, there are stories -- still not proved -- of his interference in matters of governance. Did the American-born Amit's unpopularity prove a factor in the Vidhan Sabha polls? We shall never know, but it certainly seems to have been a factor in the haste with which Congressmen rushed to put a distance between the Jogis and themselves once the Jogi Tape was aired.

The second father-son pair is that of Karunakaran and his son Muraleedharan in Kerala. Don't count on the seeming peace and quiet lasting forever! Karunakaran is still bent on unseating Chief Minister A K Antony. He still thinks he is in with a chance if the Left Democratic Front plays along. Only the fact that enough MLAs did not back him a couple of weeks ago prevented Karunakaran from breaking the Congress (I) in Kerala.

The third father-son pair is that of Parkash Singh Badal, the former Akali Dal chief minister of Punjab, and his son, Sukhbir. The duo were arrested and jailed -- they have since been released on bail by the courts -- on charges of illegal assets. The Akali Dal accuses the current chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, of pursuing a vendetta. The party has vowed to do all it can to unseat him -- something that has almost certainly emboldened Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (herself a former Congress chief minister, and currently agriculture minister in the Amarinder Singh cabinet). The result has been an open revolt in the Punjab Congress Legislature Party, with the numbers split almost equally between Amarinder Singh and Bhattal.

Amarinder Singh evidently suspects the Badals of being in the plot. Hours ago, as I write, a sub-inspector of the Punjab police was caught outside Sukhbir Badal's house in Delhi. He said his team had been asked to keep an eye on the Badals, on Pramod Mahajan, and on Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Readers may recall that a similar provocation -- policemen from Haryana being posted outside Rajiv Gandhi's house -- was the pretext used by the Congress (I) to withdraw support from the Chandra Shekhar ministry in 1991. It would be an ironic footnote to that incident if this, another botched-up surveillance job, gave the green signal for the fall of Amarinder Singh.

I am not sure how Sonia Gandhi proposes to deal with all this mess. Chhattisgarh is outside her control, and in the hands of the Central Bureau of Investigation. She seems to have left her Congress colleagues in Kerala to their fate. And now even Punjab is slipping away. But that is not surprising; dynasty may give someone an initial boost in politics but success demands more skills. Does Sonia Gandhi possess them?

T V R Shenoy

Share your comments

 What do you think about the story?

Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 8

Sub: Can Sonia deal with the mess?

Yes ofcourse. We should not forget that congress is a party which ruled our country for 45 years. Their leader still inspires the large mass ...

Posted by asokan

Sub: comments

A good article. The political system needs change.

Posted by Sunish Samuel

Sub: Mrs. Gandhi can if ................

I think Sonia Gandhi is a puppet in the hands of "High Command" who is unlikely to allow Mrs. Gandhi to have a mind of ...

Posted by Sharad Korde, Thane


This is the exact question that has been coming to my mind often, whenever people pose the question, why not Sonia! Thanks to the visual ...

Posted by J.N. Kini

Sub: One of the most irrelevent and badly written article

If shenoy reads the article himself again, he too will know that this article has nothing in it. I dont know what one is supposed ...

Posted by Kedarnath



Copyright 2005 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.