Sonia's real sacrifice: Destroying India to save Rahul

by Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy

In that brief moment, when Sonia and Rahul Gandhi stepped out to face the cameras, they behaved true to type, or rather true to Narendra Modi's caricature of the maa-beta sarkar. She was every inch the Rajmata, icy, dismissive and without remorse, while the not-so-young shehzada, casual, smiling, distracted, went through the motions, as though checking off a chore before he heads back out to the golf course.

The Gandhis merely took responsibility - or so they said - for the Congress debacle, when they should have taken credit for so much more. For instance, the sheer size of Modi's victory which could not have been possible without their best efforts.

"God save this country from this [Modi] model," said Sonia on the campaign stump. It was unwitting acknowledgement that she was too busy saving her untalented son - mostly from himself -- to do the same.

 Sonias real sacrifice: Destroying India to save Rahul

Reuters

The signs of Rahul Gandhi's ineptitude were writ large for everyone to see, except perhaps his blindly adoring mother.

"Rahul Gandhi has been an unwilling and undistinguished parliamentarian, diffident or nervous about assuming ministerial responsibility, and not very effective at winning votes or seats for his party," Ram Guha noted back in 2013, an observation he returns to today in The Telegraph.

"In fact, Rahul's limitations were, by then, evident to many supporters of the Congress as well. But not apparently to the party president, who decided that her son, and he alone, must lead the Congress into the general elections. The results of that decision are now plainly evident."

But what makes Sonia's catastrophic blunder unforgivable is that it was born of hubris, and of a particularly repellent kind. The kind reflected in Rahul's maudlin account of his weeping mother at the chintin shivir in Jaipur, after he finally, grudgingly took on the mantle of Congress party vice president.

"Last night each one of you congratulated me. My mother came to my room and she sat with me and she cried... because she understands that power so many people seek is actually a poison," he told his assembled party members.

It summed up all that is wrong with the Gandhi narrative of power, which they have jealously hoarded, arbitrarily wielded, and to the great detriment of the nation and their party. But they have done so, the mother-son insist, not for self-gain but a sense of self-sacrifice. This is aristocratic noblesse oblige perverted by delusional self-righteousness. It is this poisonous combination that has proved lethal for the Congress party.

And yet when Sonia and Rahul stepped out to take 'zimmedari' it was with the air of martyrs, resigned to accept the results as a sort of crown of thorns, yet another sacrifice they will bear for the sake of the nation.They were resigned to their fate as the keepers of the amar jyoti of the Congress party.

Now the rumour is that they will offer their resignations on Monday. But that reeks of yet another Congress farce. Who in Congress will get up from bended knee long enough to accept those resignations? What we will get instead is another charade of sacrifice, replete with piteous cries of sycophantic minions begging them to stay. A spectacle made more nauseating by the full knowledge that the current crop of Gandhis have given far less than they have received from the nation and their party. In fact, the more the children talk about their father and grandmother, the more apparent it becomes how little they have to offer on their own. The only sacrifice Rahul can show are vacations not taken because he had to be on the campaign trail.

At the Amethi street nukkad, Congress workers had a woman act out the role of dead Indira being carried on the shoulders of weeping and grateful party workers to hammer home the blood debt the nation owes to the family. Then the drama moved on to an actor playing Rajiv Gandhi promising to bring the Internet to India. Luckily, Priyanka and Rahul's entourage arrived before the troupe could move on to Rahul Gandhi. The scriptwriters of the little skit would have been hard pressed to include anything worthwhile in their princeling's less-than-stellar career.

"If RSS had the kind of control over BJP that the Gandhis have over the Congress, it would be a cause for worry," said Shashi Tharoor today, unwittingly drawing a telling- and surely to the Gandhis, unwelcome -- parallel between the two parivaars.

But the problem for the Congress is that the Gandhis coat their control with the glycerine of sacrifice against which even the most able Congress leaders are helpless. If RSS has remote control over the BJP, the Gandhis exercise umbilical control over the Congress - an emotional blackmail that keeps the party stunted like some bonsai version of the party that won India its Independence.

Sonia Gandhi once came out of reclusion to save the party. It is time that she and her son step aside to do the same. As Surjit Bhalla writes in Indian Express:

Recall that Annie Besant became president of the Congress party in 1917. If Sonia Gandhi does not change, then she risks the following obituary of the party she heads: 'It took a white, European, socialist, woman to help create the Congress party - and it has taken a white, European, socialist, woman to destroy it more than a hundred years later'.

Or perhaps she will leave it to her son to do the honours. "Now that the polls are over, he will completely unleash his plans," a Congress source told the Mumbai Mirror, a promise that sounds more than ever like a threat. What Rahul and Sonia really need to do is simple, and in fact, easy: just leave India alone.

"Aaj mere paas building hai, property hai, bank balance hai, bungalow hai, gaari hai, kya hain tumhare paas?" asked Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar. Shashi Kapoor then offered his now immortal reply: Mere paas Ma hain.

Cue the wild applause.

Almost 40 years later, however, the punchline has been flipped on its head. India today is impatient for the fruits of development - the building, the bungalow, the car, the bank balance. Rahul can keep his mother.

Updated Date: May 17, 2014 15:13:04 IST