Sonia Gandhi, a lady of non-political background and once alien to Indian politics, has remarkably served as the longest President of the Congress party as on Friday she completed her 10 years. Her achievement is a landmark that has shirked her every renowned predecessor through the party’s history of 122 years.
No body would ever have thought a decade ago that once a modest bahu of Gandhi family could even take a command of the grand old Congress party. Even when she took the post of party’s high command, every body within or outside the party had put doubt on her credibility and speculated her, would work as a mere puppet in the hands of big bully of the party. People even had speculated that the party would soon have to discover the new President of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
The journey after assassination of Rajiv Gandhi had not been so easy for her widow Sonia Gandhi and once reluctant to politics shunned public life for almost seven years, but once she took the command, she did it wholeheartedly and effectively accomplished the daunting task of managing a coalition.
Today, everybody is speechless and have not a little bit of suspicion about her being true heir of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Journey as an AICC President
After spending seven years away from the political scenes, she eventually entered the politics as an All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) president in 1988 nudging out Sitaram Kesari from the post of AICC president.
The appointment of Sonia as president stemmed the decline and a new wave of energy fused into the Congress leaders, party workers, and supporters. The ‘Nehru-Gandhi’ name once again accomplished the knotty task of unifying Congress under one roof.
However her appointment also rankled some party members and some of the influential Nationalist leaders such as Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar accompanied with some political supporters raised a finger on her ‘foreign-origin’ issue and formed a new Political Party on May 25, 1999 under the name of ‘Nationalist Congress Party.’ This way once again the bifurcation of the party occurred. But the brave woman realised that she had to consolidate by reaching out to all disgruntled political outfits during PV Narasimha Rao's tenure.
The Congress president made a trip across the country to wooing the voters and at the Centre succeeded in appeasing the other political parties and striking pre-poll alliances before the 2004 elections.
Within nine months of taking over the party, Sonia Gandhi electrified the party and scored a hat trick by winning the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. However the debacle in the 1999 general elections eventually proved a kind of shock therapy for her. The electoral defeat did wonder and explored from her a mature political entity.
Before the taking over of Congress party as its president on March 14, 1998 Sonia Gandhi had declined the crown on two previous occasions. First, within few days of her husband and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and secondly, in May 1995 she wisely snubbed to lend her prestige and name to the Tiwari Congress.
After the breaking away of Narayan Dutt Tiwari-Arjun Singh faction from the P V Narsimha Rao’s regime in her name, she showed her farsightedness and silently backed the Kesari interregnum after the Rao’s regime came to an end.
The legislative elections held in India in four phases in 2004. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) conceded defeat and the Congress led post-poll alliance United Progressive Alliance (UPA) formed the government for the 14th Lok Sabha.
Mrs Gandhi, the unanimous leader of the Congress party was to sit on the throne of prime minister. But after condemning her and aggravating her foreign origin issue again by the opposition parties, she eventually refused to take the PM’s chair.
She surprised all by asking former finance minister Manmohan Singh to take control of the new government and she indulged once again herself in consolidating Congress party. Her decision of denying premiership and remaining at the back of curtain was praised wholeheartedly all over the globe, particularly in Italy, her homeland.
In 2006 Sonia Gandhi had to resign several posts under pressure on the question of 'office of profit' rose by the opposition parties.
Mrs Gandhi again caught in controversy on the question of issuing notice to her by the Election Commission for receiving the ‘Order of Leopold’ the second highest civilian award in Belgium and an honorary doctorate by the Belgian government.
Her dedicated and selfless service for the party brought a reputable place for her in the Forbes list of world’s most powerful women.
Sonia has a tough task of taking the benefit of government’s achievements such as the RTI, the NREG, and the farm loan waiver to the people ahead of the elections to state assemblies and Lok Sabha. Her immediate task is a string of assembly polls followed by general elections next year.
In recent years, the Congress has lost a series of state assembly elections and is well aware of the fact that electorates are switching over to other regional parties. Her son Rahul Gandhi’s discovery of India tour can be viewed at the backdrop of wooing and seeking faith of the commoners towards the age-old reliable pro-poor Congress party.
Read More: Delhi
BhagabanMarch 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM