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Tuesday, May 18, 2004


THE Decision... Part I

Few had predicted a Congress victory. Of course, none in the media. But we will be hard pressed to find anyone who would have predicted that Sonia Gandhi would NOT become Prime Minister after a Congress victory. Her decision was truly shocking.

As of midnight Eastern Standard Time she is "reconsidering" her decision. At this stage it will be foolish to speculate anything. Her words so far have suggested that there is almost NO chance of her changing her mind. Her speech to the Congress Parliamentary Party leaves little doubt. But I have heard that Congress workers/leaders from across the country are on their way to New Delhi to convince her. This is a delicate situation. The emotionalism could get out of hand. Sonia Gandhi needs to be careful here. She cannot let these people down too hard. She has to pick the right words and the right approach to make them understand her decision of not taking the PM position - if that stays. Her personal decision will have wide consequences.

In the long-run her decision to not take the PM post may be seen as beneficial. She seems to be focussed on defeating the BJP. She knows that an 8-seat lead (145 vs 138) isn't anything to sit on. Her single-mindedness on this front will definitely make the Congress strong. But in the short-run, as I have stated above, she needs to contain the disappointment of the party cadre. They hold her in the highest esteem. And I can say that from personal experience.

Various Indian editorials from leading dailies like THE HINDU and TIMES OF INDIA have paid Sonia Gandhi glowing tributes. From a political standpoint I think this situation is going to require some serious political skill. The way she has energized the party will require her to find ways to maintain it. As she herself has said that the Congress has only won a battle... not the war.

Another political reality to contend with will be the lack of political capital of any other Prime Ministerial candidate. Dr.Manmohan Singh, an outstanding academic and an epitome of decency, lacks any real political or mass support. It is, however, interesting to read reports that the Left parties have indicated their support for him. That's huge. May be the bifurcation of administration and political evolution is the best way to go for the Congress. With its star player leading the strategic battle to create more space for the party in the political context things can only get better. But the effectiveness of the administration will remain suspect. It will be interesting to see how the allies come around.

One thing is for sure that the BJP has been exposed by all this. Some of its prominent leaders being openly racist and talking of shaving their heads and wearing white clothes and stuff just shows how maturity has completely missed them. Worse is the silence of leaders like Mr.Vajpayee at such a tawdry and childish display by his party-folk. Very disappointing. And I must say that a part of India's liberal class too has not been emphatic enough in its denunciation of the opposition Mrs.Gandhi has faced on account of her Italian-origin. When it was time to be counted... these folks were nowhere to be found.

In the end we MUST respect the sentiments of Mrs.Gandhi. And I am sure that her party workers will. In any event, an angry and energized Congress Party is bad news for the BJP, who will now be scrambling to find more issues to create noise. Their old ones have been thoroughly rejected. May be and just may be tackling some real issues that confront the masses... will be helpful to them and India. I am sure there are some smart folks sitting there behind the Sushma Swarajs and Uma Bharati's. I can atleast hope.

May sanity prevail and the new government have a chance to get off the ground. We ALL must support it now that the election is OVER.


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