Not Crossing The Laxman Rekha

One thing we must grant to Sonia Gandhi is the fact that she knows when and what she should talk about. This is the very reason why we had first raised the question of where Sonia Gandhi stands in the order of precedence or official protocol in the UPA coalition Government when she was invited by Mr. Ibobi and his men for a series of inauguration exercise.

She is just a Member of Parliament, apart from the fact that she has inherited the AICC chieftainship by virtue of the surname she carries and also the Chairperson of the UPA coalition Government led by the Congress (I). Taking into consideration these facts, we should actually be appreciating the innate quality of Mrs. Gandhi in not over stepping her brief, which is a rare trait to find amongst the political netas of today, especially those who have the habit of shooting off their mouth only to regret it later in isolation.

That Sonia Gandhi is one of the most powerful women in the world, which makes her the numero uno woman in India, is a given and everyone knows how the policies and programs of the UPA Government need her stamp of approval and who remain as Chief Ministers or State unit presidents of the party, in all the provinces of the country. In fact she is the power centre in Delhi. However all these do not count for much when viewed strictly through the prism of official channel and this is probably the reason why Sonia Gandhi did not utter a word on issues concerning the immediate interest of the State. She stuck by protocol and as president of the AICC she spoke only as the leader of a political party and not someone who is officially involved in the decision making process of the UPA Government.

It is along this line, we suppose, that she did not say a word about Sharmila Chanu during the public meeting, much less meet her, and she completely put aside the immediate problems and issues confronting the people, like the continued shortage of fuel. To the common folk, who are not well versed with the intricate ties and divides between a political party and the Government they lead, the silence of Sonia Gandhi on some of these sensitive issues must have left them sorely disappointed. This is natural.

However, as we had said in the previous day’s editorial, she should have had the courtesy to call on Sharmila, not as the UPA Chairperson or the chief of the AICC or even an MP, but as a caring and concerned woman who identifies herself with human rights and human dignity. That Sonia considered it more prudent to make her one day visit, strictly a Congress affair is a different matter, but this is what many conscientious citizens must have felt and do feel. It was a good thing that among her entourage there was the enterprising Kumari Sheilaja, a Minister in the UPA Government, who was in a position to talk about policies and programs and it was in this capacity that she announced the grant of Rs 72 crores for the construction of another three new markets for women during the meeting.

It was this, which somehow salvaged the entire exercise of the day and somewhat retrieved the event from becoming an all Congress affair. From a Government like the one we have today, it is nevertheless not surprising to see how they can manage to turn a day meant for the people to a day for only the Congress (I).

To be a Sonia Gandhi must be a hard task, especially when she has inherited the culture of sycophancy which is the trademark of the Congress (I). Neither can she overlook this trait nor can she fully commit herself to this culture, coming as she is from Italy and without any political moorings. So far, Mrs. Gandhi has managed to negotiate her way through the different avatars that is expected of her and by any yardstick it cannot be an easy job.

Not only does she have to keep reminding herself that within the UPA Council of Ministers she has no locus standi as such, but at the same she is the centre of power, though the emergence of Rahul Gandhi may have taken away part of her burden and responsibilities. That she has managed the balancing act so far must be acknowledged, but at the same time too, Mrs. Gandhi need to realize that not everything in real life goes according to the script or the official channel.

If Mrs. Gandhi had said something about Sharmila or even called on her as a fellow being, she would have succeeded in sending out the right message. A mention on the present status of rebel leader RK Meghen as well referring to the boycott call given by numerous social organizations of her visit, would have earned her immense goodwill. That she chose to strictly stick by the official line is fine and acceptable, and it was a foregone conclusion that from the moment the official announcement was made that she would be inaugurating the three market sheds, Khuga dam and address a public meeting at Imphal, the whole exercise would be reduced to an affair strictly meant only for the Congress party.

The uniqueness of the Ima Markets and its historical importance may take a walk, is the message that Chief Minister O Ibobi has wittingly or unwittingly sent out in his eagerness to cozy up to the AICC chief to curry some favor after the mauling he received during the election to the post of the president of MPCC (I). It should have been a day for the people of Manipur and whether the boycott call was given or not, Manipur would probably have received some words of empathy from Delhi, if say the President of India or the Prime Minister were invited to inaugurate the said places.

As Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh will not be seen as overstepping his line if he makes a reference to the present status of RK Meghen or say a word about Sharmila. This is not to run down Sonia Gandhi, as a political leader or as an individual, but it exposes the shallowness of the SPF Government and its poverty of ideas lie exposed for one and all to see. It is somewhat a pity that Sonia Gandhi has to suffer some local satraps, who do nothing except place her in odd positions now and then.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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