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Sonia Gandhi may Spring Surprise!
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
At the risk of inviting extreme ridicule I stick my neck out and venture a prediction. I believe that there exists a fifty percent chance that after parliament’s budget session ends Sonia Gandhi will resign from the posts of Congress President and Chairperson of National Advisory Council. A simple recent event leads me to believe this.
In a function to release a stamp in the honour of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s late father Choudhary Ranbir Singh, who was a freedom fighter and member of the Constituent Assembly, Mrs Gandhi said that office holders should not cling to power and wealth but emulate the departed leader. She went on to remind the gathering that Choudhary Ranbir Singh voluntarily retired at the age of 64. She specified 64 as a suitable age of retirement.
Mrs Gandhi celebrated her 64th birthday two months ago in December, 2010. She is now running her 65th year. It is hard to believe that when she spoke this fact was not at the back of her mind. It is harder to believe that she would not be aware of the incongruity of her advice if she did not follow it herself. Sure enough, opposition voices were quick to seize upon the seeming contradiction. A pro-BJP daily newspaper taunted her advice in the light of her own age.
Well, I think that the opposition might just end up looking very foolish and Mrs Gandhi looking very much the self sacrificing martyr she has always strove to appear. Sound politics dictates that Mrs Gandhi’s resignation may be just the ticket to change the flagging fortunes of the Congress. There are four ways in which her resignation would benefit her party and her own personal fortunes.
First, her resignation would immediately evaporate much of the criticism leveled against her personally. People would hail her self sacrifice and the critics would appear very churlish to continue criticizing her.
Secondly, her resignation would be a signal too strong for the aging members of the UPA cabinet to ignore. It is an open secret that Mrs Gandhi is not particularly happy with some senior stalwarts but does not know how to remove them. Her resignation on the grounds of advancing age would set the ball rolling for an orderly transition. It could also be a game changer that provides the Congress a chance to renew winning public approval.
Thirdly, the path for Mr Rahul Gandhi and his young favourites to assume power would be cleared. Given the global mood for change, given the disenchantment with the present incumbents, the public would be more than ready to give a new, even inexperienced, team a chance.
Fourthly, by renouncing office Mrs Gandhi will in no way diminish her political relevance. Her power would decline but her influence would vastly increase. Exercising power without responsibility is a trait that history has taught the Indian public to revere.
Given these four factors I do believe that Mrs Gandhi could resign to take the steam out of the opposition and catch her opponents flat footed. The question is, will she? The cabinet reshuffle and the organizational revamp of the Congress party are slated to occur after the budget session ends. Readers must wait till then before they decide to toss bouquets or fling brickbats at this scribe.
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