Better never than late?

It is a paradox indeed. Quite a few stalwarts and several warts left the Congress because Sonia wouldn’t lend a helping hand. It is now being touted that precisely because that exodus threatened to consign the party of her husband to oblivion, she has decided to throw her European hat into the ring. Good or bad, she is now in the arena, minus a few ‘loyalists’ who found the waiting unbearable and skipped thereby enabling her entry. Their actions have achieved what their words could not.

While the exodus appeared to abate, and even get reversed initially, the euphoria is already out of steam and Congressmen have once again started migrating. And some genuine members of the fan club who left after getting the approval and assurance of the lady that she would not enter the fray, are no doubt upset, but have sought to hide their pique by dismissing her entry as of no consequence. Had they stayed these men would have been the torch-bearers of the onward march of the dynasty. But now it is just a case of sour grapes.

We are not sure if she could do to the terminally ill Congress what the Italian-born Florence Nightingale did to the dying soldiers of the Crimean war. But unlike the eminent Lady with the Lamp, this one is no lamb. Neither will Sonia, we hope, will pretend to be one too, for throughout the prolonged period of procrastination that culminated into the fateful decision on new year eve, she has been weighing not only the pros and cons but also the doves and hawks. That she has now decided to hunt with the hounds is ample proof that 10 Janpath knows the ropes.

But what beats one is the continuing bout of silence at her end. After the initial announcement, through her private secretary, it is all quiet on the Janpath front again. Politics is a noisy business and it is all about din and high decibel levels. While till the end of 1997 she was the silent lady but with the most number of voices, she can ill afford to continue this ventriloquism show, except to her detriment. Is the lady still struggling to find a voice that would, galvanise, if not the people, at least the Congressmen waiting to be galvanised or is she simply tonguetied, ruing her decision, for walking into the trap? Or is she upset with the so-called loyalists of the Nehru family, who left the fold for different reasons preferring to remain where they are now? Is it a case of willing to hurt but afraid to strike or is it just a ploy to make the Congress weaklings shout themselves hoarse so that only her voice, remains in the end?

Such speculations and more are natural and bode ill for the party which she has sought to save, in any case a futile exercise from the start. But should she have staked her life, security and what not for this motley crowd, forgetting her own advice to her husband when he was confronted by a similar dilemma? There can be little doubt that hers was a conscious decision and not an emotional one as is being projected. And whatever the past woes of the party, there is no doubt that she will be the willing scapegoat for all its future shocks, which lie in store for the party in plenty.

For the Congressmen she represents the only light at the end of a long, dark and murky tunnel. But for a party which is at the end of the road, can the light really make any difference? To the Congressmen it is a dream come true, but for her it may turn out to be a nightmare, as her gentle husband realised, a bit too late.

email the writer at [email protected]

Jawahar T R