Too soon, Sonia, too soon

Tavleen Singh

As we get closer to Narendra Modi’s second speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Sonia Gandhi makes it clearer by the day that she still does not accept him as prime minister. She appears not to have adjusted to not being de facto prime minister and queen regent. She appears also to feel a frantic need to be permanently on the front pages of newspapers. In the decade that she ruled India as de facto prime minister she never deigned to speak to reporters but now she seeks them out to rant against some new ‘misdemeanour’ that she believes Modi is guilty of. Her latest charge is that he has shown ‘arrogance’ by not consulting her Congress chief ministers in the Northeast before signing what she admits grudgingly could be a ‘historic accord’ in Nagaland. “Yes it maybe historic but not consulting the chief ministers…does that not show arrogance?” This charge was the latest in a long list of alleged transgressions by the man she once called a ‘merchant of death’. Between Sonia and Son they have in recent months charged the prime minister with being a lackey of a ‘handful of rich businessmen’. They have charged him with working against the interests of farmers and workers, with not protecting Muslims and Christians, with being weak in the face of jihadi terror and with spending too much time in foreign lands. When he refused to answer any of these charges they charged him with creating a ‘deafening silence’. So convinced were mother and son that their moment to bring the usurper to his knees had been supplied by Lalit Modi that they went overboard. They ordered the prime minister to sack three chief ministers, the minister for external affairs and the minister for human resource development. When he ignored their orders Parliament was brought to a halt. Congress MPs shouted slogans relentlessly and waved placards in the Speaker’s face. When the Speaker finally discovered her rulebook and suspended 25 Congress MPs a visibly infuriated Sonia led them in a protest outside Parliament House. When reporters appeared she accused the prime minister of ‘ending democracy’. Rich indeed coming from Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law! In orchestrating these endless shenanigans what Sonia seems to have forgotten is that no matter how much she resents Modi he will remain prime minister for at least another four years. Can she block every session of Parliament for that long? Can she continue to try and prove that the people of India are on her side even if they gave her only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha? And, has she stopped to consider that voters voted her out because they believed she had harmed India? Political pundits of the sedentary kind analysed Modi’s victory as a victory for Hindutva. But, those of us who moved outside the municipal limits of Mumbai and Delhi noticed that the real reason why people voted for Modi was because his promise to bring ‘parivartan’ struck a deep chord. Unlike voters of yore who often voted for reasons of caste, creed and charisma those who voted in 2014 wanted more. They wanted to see a better India. The country Soniaji bequeathed them after 10 years of rule was a country in which everything seemed to have gone wrong. Not only was there no improvement in basic public services and employment opportunities it was painfully clear that in the name of socialism, officials (elected and unelected) had become mysteriously rich. The word ‘parivartan’ became a beacon of hope and ‘vikas’ the sweet sound of prosperity. This is why Modi won. But, just as Sonia seems to have forgotten why she lost Modi seems to have forgotten why he won so the dramatic changes that people were eager to see have happened too slowly. The most dramatic change so far has been the abolition of that symbol of central planning, the Planning Commission but instead of telling people why this change was so important, Modi said nothing. This was not his only mistake. The far bigger mistake he made was not to explain to people the extent of the mess he inherited. Why did he not use a single one of his radio chats to tell people that Sonia’s policies had destroyed a booming economy? Or that education and health services were in a terrible, terrible state? Or that foreign policy had been so namby-pamby in recent years that India’s role in the world had become obscure? Instead of communicating, the prime minister isolated himself. Big mistake. Luckily for him, Sonia Gandhi has made the bigger mistake of showing her hand too soon. In this she has exhibited the same political naivety she displayed when she brought down the Vajpayee government in 1999. Remember ‘272 and many more coming’?
Remember how this claim died with a thud?

@ tavleen_singh


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