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Sonia quitting: Much ado about nothing

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March 27, 2006 18:14 IST
The real solution was so simple: Face the law and quickly reconvene Parliament. Aborting Operation Ordinance, presenting her case before the Election Commission, allowing the law to run its course and bearing the consequences while going about to properly bring in the statutory corrections needed to resume a briefly interrupted innings -- that was all that Sonia Gandhi had to do.

If Abhishek Singhvi, the Congress lawyer who had publicly proclaimed that her National Advisory Council position was not an 'office of profit' had succeeded in proving that to the Election Commission, the Opposition would have been truly struck down in silence. And if Singhvi had failed, Mrs Gandhi would surely have passed off as one who obeys the law and not as one who manipulates it.

Either way, she would have come up trumps. And then she could have basked as a victim of a bad law till the legislative remedy (which Parliament will surely give to the majority United Progressive Alliance government) enabled her to recover first her NAC position and then the Lok Sabha seat in due course.

Instead, Mrs Gandhi chose the 'renunciation' and 'sacrifice' stage with all the attendant drama and crowds at which the Congress party and its dynasty are such experts. Her army of sycophants, which includes some leading lights of our media, may have crowned her with all sorts of virtuous labels, but the cold truth remains that the Italian woman panicked and catapulted at the fear of losing dignity at being thrown out of the Lok Sabha.

In her public announcement, Mrs Gandhi said she was immensely hurt by the Opposition allegation that an Ordinance was being brought in only to save her from the law in vogue.

Well, if she is really so sensitive as she wants the Indian nation to believe, she didn't show a trace of it when it was publicly disclosed that the Volcker report named the Congress as one of the beneficiaries of Saddam Hussain's oil allocations, K Natwar Singh being only the second beneficiary by name. Why didn't she resign then when the Opposition was baying for the resurgence of the corrupt Congress culture?

Why didn't she resign when the Opposition alleged, loud and clear, that it was at her instance that the Central Bureau of Investigation allowed London to defreeze the bountiful bank balance of Ottavio Quattrocchhi, the Italian friend of the Gandhi family? Shame then on Prime Minster Manmohan Singh to dub Mrs Gandhi as 'the tallest leader' with 'a rare commitment to moral values.'

But such is the Gandhi dynasty's aura in this simpleton nation of ours that not a soul in our media put those two questions to her directly or to her Congress leaders who spoke up and up and up for her in public?

Should Sonia Gandhi have resigned?

Instead, someone asked her whether she would again contest the Rae Bareilly Lok Sabha seat. To that she said, 'Yes.' But no one asked her whether she would take up the National Advisory Council chairperson's seat once again. And nobody asked why, if she claimed she was in politics only to serve the people and the country's secular society, did she at all need to be in the Lok Sabha or at the head of the NAC in the first place?

After all, the only original Gandhi served the people of India for decades without being even a four-anna member of the Congress Party. And just to remind her, hundreds of the RSS Parivar are serving the people in distant rural areas and elsewhere for years on end without holding any office of profit whatsoever in or outside Parliament, and without being able to afford even a 'lifetime free' mobile phone.

That brings us to the morality of the BJP leaders which was loudly mocked at by Congress leaders debating the 'sacrifice' issue on prime time television.

Yes, the BJP does have its scoundrels but even its small record in public office has more morality than what Indira Gandhi displayed in burying the high court verdict against her election over 30 years ago, and what Sonia Gandhi's Congress has shown in the 22 months that it has been in power in Delhi.

Thus, records will show that when charges were framed against him in the Jain hawala case, L K Advani lost no time in resigning not only from his position as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, but also from Parliament itself. He also vowed not to enter Parliament until he was fully exonerated of the charges. That truly was a 'sacrifice' or 'renunciation' or whatever word and phrase that Congress is now using.

Similarly, Yashwant Sinha resigned as Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly and also from the membership of the assembly itself. Madanlal Khurana stepped down as the chief minister of Delhi as soon as charges were framed against him. By the way, those two were, like Advani, cleared of the charges against them in the Jain hawala case.

As far as dealing with ministers facing charges of corruption is concerned, in the period between 1998 and 2004, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee set high standards of probity by asking Buta Singh to resign from the Cabinet when charges were framed against him. Similar action was taken in the case of Harin Pathak, Gingee Ramachandran and Dilip Singh Judeo, as soon as a judicial shadow was cast upon them.

Anyway, what next after this latest 'sacrifice'? It is certain that it is just a matter of time before Parliament enacts amendments to safeguard many an 'office of profit' including Sonia Gandhi's. It is certain too that Sonia Gandhi will once again win her Rae Bareilly seat and return to her top seat at the NAC. And the, soon enough, it will all be exactly as before -- what in legalese Latin is called status quo ante.

Truly have Sonia Gandhi, her Congress, and our media moguls made much ado about nothing.

Arvind Lavakare