Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Indian First, A Prime Minister Later

The massive brouhaha over Sonia Gandhi's citizenship and her prime ministerial ambitions have dotted the Indian political landscape for quite a while now. Since 18th May, 2004, when Ms.Gandhi 'sacrificed' the coveted post, a number of conspiracy theories have been triggered, each one of them, more fascinating than the other. It is quite another matter that none of these explanations hold any more ground than the stories of Uncle Scrooge or Alladin.

The first rooster to have cried hoarse was the BJP led NDA. Each one of its constituents, was shocked when they were informed that the 2004 general elections had mandated Ms. Gandhi to lead the country. It was apparently a direct attack on their 'Right to rule'. How could a woman with foreign roots be placed at the helm of affairs? How could India be foolish enough to disregard the experience of Mr.Advani and push for a dynastic novice? In other words, how could the 6 year stint of BJP in the government have failed and been nullified by the Indian voters in one go? Instead of introspecting and asking themselves whether India was really shining, they set out, lock, stock and barrel, to have Ms. Gandhi barred from holding the Prime Ministerial post. Letters were written, e-mails were sent, petitions were filed and dire threats were issued. Ms. Swaraj, the current Leader of opposition, displayed her histrionics in full bloom and declared that she would have her head shaved if Ms.Gandhi ever donned the mantle of the chief executive. However, there was one thing they failed to realize. Sonia Gandhi never really harbored Prime Ministerial ambitions. Had the BJP sat through the crisis and cast a cursory look at the past fifteen years, the party would surely have realized its follies.

When Ms. Indira Gandhi was brutally shot dead in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was made the Prime Minister overnight. Some called it the 'Continuance of dynasty' while others referred to it as 'A Gandhian coup'. Never was it realized that there is a tiny little entity which still guided the country. The entity that desired an immediate election of a new head of government by mutual consensus. The entity that we casually call 'Constitution' today. As Indira Gandhi lay dying on the hospital bed, Sonia Gandhi is said to have hugged her husband tight and asked him to not be the Prime Minister. She stated "They'll kill you, Rajiv", to which Mr. Gandhi responded, "They'll kill me anyway". And while Ms.Gandhi was locked up in a washroom, Mr.Gandhi went on to be administered the oath of office and secrecy.

It just took 7 years for Ms.Gandhi's nightmare to come true. Her husband of 23 years was assassinated. His body was ripped to pieces and it almost became impossible to identify which part belonged to Mr.Gandhi in the ocean of human flesh. This incident proved to be the nail on the coffin. The entire Gandhi clan gave up its association with national politics and reclined to the nitty-gritty of life. The situation remained grim for the Congress party till 1998, when Ms.Gandhi was forced out of oblivion and was persuaded to take on the reins of a frail INC. The rest, of course, is history. For a woman who has had her husband and her mother-in-law, eschewed at the altar of Prime Ministership, would donning the same hat be a reasonable solution? Insiders, within and outside the party, concede that even when she entered politics in '98, her mind was very clear about such a situation, if it ever arose- She would NOT accept the post.

A few years passed with UPA I marching ahead in glory but as UPA II came into power, the build up frustration of the opposition began to find other vents. This is not to suggest that the current regime is saintly. It most certainly is not. It has mismanaged, mishandled and misconducted its affairs. Yet, at the same time, it has been misconstrued and misinterpreted. The activities of a few black sheep have tainted the entire administration. To an extent, the hypocrisy is mind boggling. When a few cricketers are caught neck deep in the scourge of match fixing and midnight brawls, do we take away the iconic status of the likes of Tendulkar and brand all cricketers inefficient and corrupt?

Nonetheless, this is where the second rooster began to cry foul. India's very own Julian Assange, with the only difference that Mr. Assange runs Wiki-leaks while Mr.Subraminam Swamy runs Pant-Leaks. The eternal conspiracy theorist claimed that 'Vishkanya' (a reference to Ms.Gandhi) had not 'sacrificed' while giving up the PM's post, she was actually 'barred' by Dr.Kalam to accept it. The reasoning, if it can even be called that, sounds ridiculously funny as it neither rests on facts, nor logic. And this is primarily owing to two major reasons-

First, the Constitution of India in its Part 2, Article 5, candidly declares that any person who has been a resident of the territory of India for at least 5 years, shall be considered to be an Indian citizen. To give effect to this article, Citizenship Act, 1955 was enacted. This act clearly states that a person would be considered to be a citizen of India by means of Birth, descent, registration, Naturalization and incorporation of territory. While Ms.Gandhi is a citizen of India by means of both 'Registration' and 'Naturalization', her children are a citizen of India by virtue of their birth!

Secondly, the Supreme court of India, the highest law-upholding authority of the land, dismissed a petition in 2001 that challenged Ms.Gandhi's nationality. Here are a few details from the court orders-
"It must be held that Sonia Gandhi by virtue of the certificate granted to her under section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, which has not been cancelled, withdrawn or annulled till date, is 'a citizen of India'"
"Making vague and bald allegations, without giving any material facts, after losing the elections, go to show that even proper care was not taken before filing the petitions by gathering and stating all material facts"
"There is no overt act relating to adherence and allegiance after the grant of citizenship to Sonia Gandhi, even alleged, let alone supported, through any material facts"

If these details are not evidence enough, Dr.Kalam, in his recently released biographical work has himself stated that had Ms.Gandhi staked the claim for Prime Ministership in 2004, he would have had no option but to appoint her as this was the only 'constitutionally tenable' position.

At times, I am surprised at the level of debate that is happening in this country today. We are debating the roots of an Indian woman. We are debating why she did not become the Prime Minister. We are speculating about what could have been the reason. And all of this, while real problems coupled with a murderous past stare us in the face. For example, why has nobody asked the BJP leadership as to why they wanted Mr.Kalam to drop the idea of visiting Gujarat after the Godhara riots? Were they trying to hide something or were they scared that Dr.Kalam would unabashedly speak the truth?

Whatever, may have been the reason, it is time we put to rest the 'Sonia PM' episode (sic, as it trends on Twitter). Let us just remain content with the fact that the Leader of opposition still has her hair.