Debating India

ELECTIONS 2004

Sonia surrendered to Sangh: Left

Wednesday 19 May 2004

KOLKATA: The CPM, the largest "secular ally" of the Congress, has been taken aback by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s decision not to accept the prime minister’s post despite unanimity among the parties concerned over her selection for the top job.

The Marxists do not believe that Sonia Gandhi was solely guided by her "inner voice" in declining to accept the post.

The Congress chairperson’s refusal to become the country’s new prime minister has come as a bolt from the blue to the CPM moderates, particularly general secretary H S Surjeet and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu. The veteran Marxists, who have an extremely cordial personal relationship with Mrs Gandhi, find her decision quite incredible.

While Surjeet has declined comment on the sudden change in the Congress chairperson’s attitude, Basu has described her stand as "funny".

The veteran politburo member, who told mediapersons in Delhi on Tuesday that Sonia’s decision was the outcome of pressure from her family members, did not try to conceal his dismay over the matter on his return here on Tuesday night.

"She says her inner voice does not want her to become the prime minister. What does it mean? We are really surprised," he said.

CPM leaders have also pointed out that "personal security" cannot be the reason behind Mrs Gandhi’s refusal to accept the coveted office. They take pains to stress how she and her children ignored their personal security during their hurricane election campaign.

"We have also seen how his son and newly elected MP Rahul Gandhi offered her flowers in the Parliament to congratulate her after being elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary party. Had Rahul and his sister Priyanka any objection to their mother becoming the prime minister, why did not they say so in the beginning? Why did they raise objections at the eleventh hour?" the CPM leaders ask.

The Marxists feel Sonia Gandhi’s decision not only indicates an "abject surrender" to the Sangh Parivar’s threat to start a mass movement over her "foreign origin" but will also send wrong signals to thousands of Congress workers who want her to be the country’s new prime minister.

The state CPM organ, Ganashakti , in its main editorial on Wednesday reminded the Congress that its surrender to the Sangh Parivar’s pressure tactic "will only lend additional strength to communal forces."

The CPM has also taken serious exception to Doordarshan’s direct telecast of the CPP meeting where the crucial issue was discussed. "It showed how the elected Congress MPs were being forced to accept a new leader despite their insistence on Sonia Gandhi becoming the prime minister. The Doordarshan officials have only succeeded in depicting the Congress as a party ridden with internal conflicts," a Delhi-based report, published in the CPM mouthpiece on Wednesday, said.

The Marxists suspect that some major industrial houses and a section of the BJP leadership manipulated the share market during the past couple of days to discredit the proposed secular government dependent on their support.

The CPM is particularly wary of Dr Manmohan Singh becoming the prime minister despite its apparent decision to support the person the Congress will finally select in place of Sonia.

The CPI(M) was extremely critical? of Singh in the past for his role as the union finance minister in the Narasimha Rao Cabinet. The party used to regard Singh as "pro-World Bank and pro-IMF" and often opposed the measures he took from time to time to pave the way for economic reforms? which? were? later carried forward by the BJP-led NDA government at a faster pace.

The Congress chairperson’s decision has also come as a rude shock to the state party leadership. "We all want her to put on the Prime Minister’s mantle and lead the country to the path of peace and progress," said Manas Bhuniya, PCC general secretary.

A section of Congress leaders staged a dharna at the party headquarters here on Wednesday night, urging Mrs Gandhi to re-consider her decision. They also burnt the effigies of BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharati for raking up the issue of the Congress chairperson’s "foreign origin."

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Wednesday, May 19, 2004.

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