Having spent twenty-five years serving the Congress Party, Archana Dalmia makes sense of Sonia Gandhi and her role in Indian politics.
Sonia Gandhi is not a career politician in the conventional sense of the word. She was virtually thrown into the ring, and yet has shown more political astuteness than most of her contemporaries.
Her Caucasian origins have often been thrown at her. But she has silenced her political critics with the courage, determination and fortitude that she has shown in these past fifteen years; in fact demonstrating that she is more Indian than most.
The tenure of a leader can be judged by the growth of an organization they inherit. Sonia Gandhi has excelled in that aspect. Under her stewardship, the Indian National Congress Party has become more streamlined, cohesive and organized. While stalwarts and senior politicians have found what they deserved, the younger generation has found its voice too.
Another indicator of a leader’s success is also how loud or rampant the internal rumblings of protest or revolt might be. And it is be fair to say that under her leadership, the party rank and file has held together.
Congress has therefore emerged a stronger party under Sonia Gandhi.
The tremendous understanding she shares with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has helped keep all the stakeholders of the alliance together and reading from the same page.
Sonia’s detractors have screamed themselves hoarse that the office of the prime minister has thus been undermined.
In fact, the opposite is true. In this era of coalition politics, parties have to learn to co- exist and co-govern. It is easier said than done. Quite simply, you can either cobble and keep a coalition together or run a government.
The prime minister’s hand has been strengthened by Sonia’s unstinting and quiet support. One can only imagine what it would have been had this not been the case.
It would have been easy for her to step into the role of the prime minister of India, but she won the respect of critics and supporters alike by turning down the offer in no uncertain terms.
The Congress Party can easily notch up some of its finest achievements in governing the nation during Sonia’s presidency. The National Advisory Council (NAC) was the first body ever which was institutionalized to act as an interface between government and civil society. Policy steps like MNREGA, the Food Security bill among others, are landmarks in innovative governance. This genuine work has done wonders at the grassroots level. The results have been tremendous.
Unlike what the general criticism has been, Sonia Gandhi does not run the party like her fiefdom. Interestingly, most of the parties in the country run primarily on personal charisma. Whether it is Mayawati's BSP, Mulayam Singh’s SP, Jayalalitha's AIADMK or so many other regional and national parties, all these stand on the strength of one leader. The Congress on the other hand is run like an organization. And this is more so in the time of Sonia Gandhi.
Sonia is private, unassuming and is hardly seen raising her voice. This resistance to the growing political trend of rabble rousing has held Sonia in great stead. She speaks only when needed and displays the dignity and responsibility expected from a leader of her stature. When she chooses to speak, people sit up and listen-whether they be Indians at large, the opposition, the diasporas or the world leaders.
When all is said and done, one thing is certainly going to remain forever etched in my mind. Personally, I have seen Sonia Gandhi from close quarters all of these past fifteen years. But I am struck each time by her strong personality and the magnetism of her persona. True, politicians and leaders are surrounded by an aura of the power they wield — some of it drummed up and a lot true.
In Sonia Gandhi’s case, however, the charm is quiet and compelling.
When Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the Congress Party, the reaction of most people was uncertain. The misgivings were many: including that she was a woman, especially one who was grieving the loss of her husband. She also had no formal training in running a political party.
But she has steered the party through two, nearly full, terms of government —no small feat by any stretch of imagination.
India and its politics is a conundrum for the most hardened politician. To make any sense of it is a nightmare. To understand it and to harness it meaningfully is nothing short of a miracle. Sonia Gandhi has worked that miracle.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.