Thursday, April 2, 2015

Triumph of Satyagraha

“...If they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left"

-     Margaret Thatcher

17 years have passed since Sonia Gandhi took the reins of an emaciated Congress party, and the attacks on her are still on. Dignity and grace keeps her moving.

Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister in the current Narendra Modi Government made an obnoxious remark against her and her family.

"If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian or if she (Sonia) wasn't white skinned, would Congress accept her as a leader?" remarked the BJP Minister.

This is not the first time Sonia Gandhi has been target of such attacks. 

Throughout her political career, there have been numerous racist, sexist and cheap barbs on her and she has kept her own.

During the 1998 Lok Sabha elections the the Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan in the Vajpayee Government started a verbal duel while he was campaigning in Maharashtra. He asked: "If we are so keen on having a foreigner as Prime Minister, then why can't we have Bill Clinton or Tony Blair or even Monica Lewinsky?"

Vajpayee’s first reaction to the controversy over Pramod Mahajan's remarks on Sonia Gandhi was that it was a closed chapter because Mahajan had offered an explanation. However, after the E.C.'s warning, Vajpayee expressed his distress over the transgression of the standards of decent and dignified electioneering. "I especially disapprove of any remarks about Congress president Sonia Gandhi that are, or can be construed to be undignified" he said, adding rather belatedly that his colleagues' remarks were in bad taste.

Defence Minister George Fernandes added his own gender insensitive remarks against Sonia Gandhi when he canvassed for NDA candidate Sushma Swaraj in Bellary. Fernandes accused Sonia Gandhi of contributing little to the country, except marrying Rajiv Gandhi and giving birth to two children. In 2004, later he questioned her educational qualifications too.

The gravity of personal abuse directed at Sonia Gandhi in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections was unprecedented.

Presenting such a political offensive exhibited a terrible employment of vulgarity as political thought and revealed their mindset.

It was against the mounting barrage of a deeply personal offensive attacks against her that Sonia Gandhi won both her elections by huge margins.

In Amethi she did so by the largest margin in North India of over 350,000 votes
The vicious personal attacks not only came from the opposition. We all know how the trio of Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar, before being thrown out of the party, challenged her so called ‘foreign origins’ with the unkindest of the remarks.

P A Sangma, who had been drafted into the CWC as Sonia Gandhi’s nominee had the audacity to ask a question about her parents in the CWC held on May 15, 1999

Sonia Gandhi has been calm and has never reacted on such barbs. But political critics often point out her “Maut Ka Saudagar’ reaction towards the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the high voltage Gujarat campaign.

Albeit, it heavily dented the electoral fortunes of the Congress party, but she might be just returning a favour.

Flashback 2002, Narendra Modi in his Gujarat Gaurav Yatra used the phrase ‘Merchants of Death’ which the political pundits and media seem to forget.

On August 2003, The Congress party brought a no-confidence motion against the Vajpayee Government  embroiled in several scam charges. On August 20, the House debated the motion. So strong was the verbal attack that even Advani and Fernandes, known for their exceptional debating ability, seemed to be short of reason. She delivered speech for an hour. Instead of responding to the questions she raised, Vajpayee, Advani and Fernandes focused and mocked her Hindi skills and style.

She has been often attacked for the oratory skills, many also discount it.

During the 2004, Lok Sabha campaign, people were convinced by her greater touch with reality. This aspect of of her can be understood when she said: "When I talk about kisans and mazdoors, my opponents are only interested in attacking me personally". But this did not stop her political opponents to personally attack her.

In the most obnoxious statement ever made by a CM, Narendra Modi said this.

"Sonia Gandhi is a jersey cow. Even shopkeepers are not ready to employ her as a clerk. I will not ever employ her as my driver"

Narendra Modi started a vicious slander campaign, not only against Sonia; but called her son Rahul as “hybrid calf”

Still, Sonia kept mum. Perhaps, her moment of reckoning was coming near too. Surprising the media and acclaimed psephologists, Sonia Gandhi helped the Congress party bounce back to power, thus ending 6 years of Vajpayee era.

Even during UPA, she was constantly attacked of being the power behind the throne, with PM Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm

Subramanian Swamy has hardly missed any phrase of abuse and slander towards her on social media. She has never responded to his cheap utterances.

It is perhaps her inner strength, her strong determination and her toughness to bear anything has kept her going.

Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha- to resist every attack in a non- violent manner, even by the tongue holds purely true for her. She has always stayed calm, dignified, and graceful and fought for what she stood for.

At the age of 68, she is still fighting. Her only reply to the recent Giriraj barb is “Would not like to comment on people with narrow mindsets”