Saturday, August 20, 2011

Missing Sonia.

Is it a coincidence that Sonia Gandhi is not in 10 Janpath when UPA II is facing its biggest crisis?

According to one set of rumors surrounding her absence, hardly. Public pressure to fight corruption is massive, and Manmohan Singh is making some attempt to reveal the most corrupt. There is even a likelihood of India finally signing some kind of deal with Switzerland to make public details of 'secret' accounts held there. The long run-up to any such opening gives ample time to even the most tardy of horses to bolt.

School 1 has it that Sonia is away to tidy up her accounts, and stay one step ahead of the law that her party is now in charge of enforcing.

School 2 has it that she is a closet drinker. Years of abuse have damaged her liver beyond repair, and she is undergoing a liver transplant.

School 3 believes that she was discovered to have cervical cancer a year ago. She was trying a miracle cure, but it did't work; now, she has undergone radical surgery to try and stem the advance of the disease.

The 4th statement I heard is a minor riff on the 3rd, namely that she is suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Poor Sonia. First to be so unwell; then to attract all manner of speculation. The fault is largely hers, though - a person with so much political power is a public personage. I think she and her family should be more open and transparent about her health, as was the Prime Minister's establishment when he needed to be hospitalised for a failing heart.

Be that as it may, Sonia has now appointed a Council of Regents to supervise matters in her absence. Clearly, the council is not working. Whether it has ill-advised the Grand Vazir, or he has kept his own counsel, they have shown extremely poor political judgement in the Anna Affaire. As a result, he is dictating terms to the Government.

Developments show how impatient and frustrated we Indians are with the ways of our government. We have had it up to here with corruption. The government's responses that it takes time to legislate are warranted, but in the mood of the times are seen as wheedling. The mood of the times are very dangerous for democracy as we know it. And, quite frankly, I am scared - whether it is Anna, Arvind Kejriwal, or Prashant Bhushan,  these are extremely self-righteous people with fascist tendencies. If they are given power, they will direct a great deal of it against progress as I see it, but most importantly against the very concept that you and I should be free to make our own decisions.

Unfortunately, it is the smugness of MMS and UPA II that created the political room for Anna and his self-righteous brigade to seize center-stage. They do not have the political backing or power to hold it for long. Nevertheless, the center has yielded, shown how weak it is. Once the Lok Pal Bill fever dies down - in a fortnight or two - other opportunists will challenge the center. It will require a great deal of savvy for it to hold. Whether it is MMS, Rahul, or the Council of Regents, I do not see it being possessed of the ability to manage the crises that will follow. Tough times.

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