Sonia’s charge leaves PM behind
By Santwana Bhattacharya|ENS - NEW DELHI
02nd September 2012 07:49 AM
Sonia Gandhi has assumed the role of the Congress party’s Joan of Arc by becoming the fighting general of her government within Parliament and outside on the coal block allocation furore that has stalled the Monsoon Session.
She flew off to America on Saturday evening for medical treatment, leaving behind an aggressive team who has been briefed to carry on the party’s battle against the BJP on Coalgate.
Sonia’s new strategy is multipronged: aggressive parliamentary behaviour, goading party MPs and allies to go hawkish, craftily seeking to position outside supporters like the Samajwadi Party to pose as a parallel Opposition and also taking the fight to the people.
Says a key UPA ally, “She has been meeting us informally almost every day, sometimes twice. We’ve conveyed to her that Parliament has to debate this coal issue— even if they (BJP) were to demand the PM’s head during the debate. You’ll see some development on Monday— when we meet her again.’’
This is unlikely to happen before Parliament closes, since Sonia will be back only next weekend.
Just before she left for the airport, Sonia had concluded presiding over a ‘War Room’ meeting at Rakabganj Road, at which trusted aide and her political secretary Ahmed Patel briefed party general secretaries on how to counter Coalgate in the states.
Sonia has adopted a parallel strategy of aggressively wooing freelance supporters like Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh and, through him, the Left parties.
By dropping hints at Mulayam Singh to collude with the Left and the TDP in demanding a judicial probe by a sitting judge into Coalgate, she is hoping to silence the BJP’s guns.
Congress leaders attribute her phone calls to Sushma Swaraj as a subtle attempt to exploit the faultlines within the saffron party.
But the fact is, the government badly wants a host of bills it has in the pipeline to go through—including showpiece anti-corruption legislations like the Whistleblowers Bill and the Citizens’ Charter Bill; and for this it needs the BJP’s cooperation.
In the coming weeks, Sonia will be keeping the pressure on her ministers, party leaders and spokespersons to continue their aggressive public stance against the lotus blockade.
At stake is not just her prime minister’s prestige in the house, but the party’s survival prospects in 2014 and by inference the political future of Rahul Gandhi and of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty itself.
Visibly bereft of an effective second rung leadership and capable political managers, Sonia could bank only on herself.
She is displaying a newfound proactive streak—even uncharacteristically sprinting across to her parliamentary office from the Central Hall in the rain, holding her own umbrella aloft.
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