Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gandhi's gambit

Call her an epitome of sacrifice or a cunning strategist — Sonia Gandhi has not only turned tables in Indian politics but the lady in question has also managed to draw attention from world over. The Congress President announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha and the National Advisory Council on March 23 after Opposition sought her disqualification on the ground that she held an office of profit. An office of profit means a position that brings to the person holding it some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit. Article 102 (1)(A) of the Indian Constitution bars an MP or an MLA from holding any office of profit under the Government of India or in any state other than an office declared by the Parliament by law as not disqualifying its holder.


"There is a lot to be appreciated in the way Mrs Sonia Gandhi practices politics...Mrs Gandhi's gambit is brilliant, both for her party and Indian democracy," Pakistan daily The Nation says. Post resignation, Gandhi came out with a brief statement in which she regretted that an atmosphere was being created by certain people to project that the Government and Parliament were being used to protect her. "The law dating back to 1959 is no doubt obscure and rightly attacked by some politicians as outdated, but since it falls within the ambit of the Indian Constitution, Mrs Gandhi's decision to quash manoeuvrings hinting at the use of government for personal gains sets an important precedent," the paper explains. "Apart from morality, observers will also see it as a political stroke that has not only averted a major crisis within her party, but left the Opposition wrong-footed," the paper says. The office of profit issue, which was first raised by the Congress party itself, led to the resignation of Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan.


The Opposition Bharatiya Janta Party argued that the government was trying to subvert Constitution when it tried to bring an Ordinance to redefine office of profit to save Sonia from 'a certain disqualification' as MP. "With it (her action) she has also taken much of the sting out of BJP's not-without-truth argument that the government was caught red-handed trying to subvert the Constitution and parliament," The Nation says. This is not the first time Sonia has shown that she is not interested in position or power. After the Congress stormed back to power in 2004 elections, she refused to take up the Prime Minister's post. "Since the Indian polity reflects an element of maturity one would like to see it on this side of the border too (Pakistan)...For their part, Pakistani leader should examine Mrs Gandhi's example," The Nation concludes.


While the Pakistani media is all praise for Sonia's 'moral show', Bangladeshi media feels her resignation is a "desperate act to avoid being targeted in the way Jaya Bachchan was targeted...". "There is no reason to think that Gandhi has done a courageous thing and that she has thus upheld the process of democracy. That she has quit the Lok Sabha, at least for the time being, is a political move, perhaps even a shrewd one," the New Age says.

(Written on March 27, 2006 for HT)

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