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Dynasty vs democracy - The Times of India

H K Dua ()
February 13, 1998

Title: Dynasty vs democracy
Author: H K Dua
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 13, 1998

The Congress party has done a great disservice to the country and
itself by asking Mrs Sonia Gandhi to lead its election campaign.
The nation which has fought for over 100 years to win freedom and
savoured it for 50 years is unlikely to forgive it for what it
has done in its desperation to come back to power. Not only the
party has forgotten its role in the freedom struggle, it has also
in the process chosen to jeopardise the future of independent

Thanks to the Himalayan blunder the party has committed, the
county is now watching the spectacle of the lady from Italy
stomping around on the Indian electoral scene beseeching the
people's vote for the family which was thrown out of power not
long ago. That she is keen to restore the dynastic rule is patent
>from her decision to take on her election campaign her children
who must be wondering how gullible can be the people who turn up
to their meetings. In a globalised world they may not have read
or heard about what their great grandfather said about slavery,
nationalism, freedom struggle and tryst with destiny.

Family Affair

Congressmen who have over the years allowed the party to become a
family property are unashamedly crawling before Mrs Sonia Gandhi
and taking her and her kids around in the hope that some of them
will get elected to Parliament and possibly grab some of crumbs
thrown to them from 10 Janpath. These men and women are so down
and out after the loss of power that they do not know how to face
the people after what they have done to them during the last 50
years. Why not ask her to seek the people's support for-the
Congress in the name. of her late husband and his mother and his
grandfather and her children? So runs their argument born out of

Sonia lao, desh bachao is the slogan of these Congressmen who
have in the years of sycophancy have not learnt the elementary
lesson that it is the Indira-Rajiv family that has brought the
Congress to this pass when it is unable to get up and muster the
confidence to fight the election on its own. The party
unfortunately has rushed to Mrs Sonia Gandhi for help without
understanding the nature of the risks involved for the country
and themselves. It could also be that Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who all
along has been feigning reluctance to play a political role, now
thinks that the time is ripe for her to make a political harvest
by invoking the name of the family to which she got married a few
years ago, the waving of hand, a smile here and there and some
scripted speeches that do not reveal an understanding of India
her adopted home - its problems or vital issues before the
country, or the policies that party would follow.

Right to Rule

Deliberately or otherwise, Mrs Sonia Gandhi does not talk about
such vital questions as corruption that has spread like cancer in
the country, on criminalisation of politics, or the nature of
democracy, quality of governance which way the country is to go,
and such issues as nuclear policy, CTBT, security and India's
place in the world. Her packaged speeches are too bland and
simplistic for comfort. Lately, she has talked about the Congress
party's resolve to provide stability at the Centre forgetting
that the party's record of pulling down governments is

In no country in the world - not even in the great democracies of
the western hemisphere - a foreign-born citizen is allowed to
reach a position where he or she can claim the right to govern
directly or call the shots from behind the scene. Even in the
United States, the constitution forbids a naturalised citizen
>from contesting for the office of President. Here in India
Congressmen, used as they are to a life of servility, are unable
to understand the rationale of such a provision in the US law. Or
is it that in their version of a globalised or liberalised world,
power meant to be wielded by the people, can be shared with a
foreign-born individual simply because she is married into an
illustrious Indian family? That there should be a need for the
bahu to reaffirm her allegiance to her adopted country itself is
a going to be a continuing constraint for Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
Patriotism of someone who wants to lead the country has to be
naturally accepted and should not depend on its reaffirmation or
on the known indulgence of the Indian people towards foreigners.

Vital questions about the Bofors scandal remain unanswered. Mrs
Sonia Gandhi's challenge in a speech in Bangalore for disclosure
of the available information off the scandal that brought down
her husband's government in 1989 should have been immediately
picked up by the Inder Gujral government taking the country into
confidence about what had been gathered during the eight years.
Even now the caretaker regime owes it to the country to disclose
what the Special Investigation Team has come to know about who
the beneficiaries of the Bofors gun deal have been. And Mr Atal
Behari Vajpayee and Mr Lal Krishna Advani are justified in
demanding that Mrs Sonia Gandhi herself should disclose whatever
she knew about the deal. Will she do it or can she afford to do
so without the consent of family friends like Ottavio
Quattrocchi? She is, however, unlikely to oblige the BJP leaders.

Congressmen have over the years got used to a fife of
obsequiousness to the family without realising that continued
dependence on its perceived appeal has .sapped all energy from
their veins. The nature of existence the partymen have led over
the years have made them blind to a possible life of dignity that
comes with self respect, some free thinking and autonomy of
action that has been denied to them by the family of Indira
Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

The Vital Issue

While Congressmen are unlikely to see beyond their immediate need
to capture a few more seats, the voter has to see that there is
an essential conflict between a dynastic rule and growth of
democracy. Mrs Sonia Gandhi's carefully calibrated capture of the
leadership of the Congress Party, her election campaign across
the country with Rahul, Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra in
tow throws up the vital question whether the people will vote for
a dynasty that was responsible for the imposition of the
Emergency Raj not long ago should be voted to power or a
democratic dispensation that sustains on the people's support
rather than the patronage of 10 Janpath. The choice before
electorate is clearly between dynasty and democracy.

Maybe Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her friends think that India has
acquired the attributes of a banana republic which can be easily
manipulated. The people might as well disabuse them of such
exaggerated notions.

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