Polit-eeks and Poles & SticksWhen on the 17th of May, Sonia Gandhi did not get around to publicly making her reluctance to being PM known, I thought, strategically it was an opportunity lost. But it did all come out the next day, and played out quite interestingly.
The reason I say that it is a great tactical move is that if she had any sense, Mrs. G would know that making a success of Prime Ministership in these conditions would be a very tough job. Her own inexperience, the possible liabilities that the coterie would bring and the constant vigilant ready-to-pounce Sangh parivaar (if Indian politics was a soap opera, you would have these two parivaars being the centrepiece!) allowing no honeymoon period. In this situation, by shrewdly "renouncing" the post, she has in a fell swoop, taken the higher moral ground, robbed the BJP of a chronic issue that could've been further exploited, and most importantly given her kids an immense boost for the future. Rahul & Priyanka will benefit in many ways, direct and indirect, from this decision.
If this had been a Sonia Gandhi Prime Ministership, the Gandhi family was in danger of being unseated later by incompetence. Now we will never really know. Instead people like Dr. Manmohan Singh who are thought to be "more suited" to the requirements of the job will have the headaches. The family won't worry too much about alternative power sources emerging when the PM is chosen from among men who have no real mass base. It is obvious that the rise of Rahul and Priyanka will be accelerated now like never before, to be ready in waiting in a couple of years time maybe to take back everything. Sonia Gandhi may have realised that to wield power you need not be occupying posts. Different contexts have different needs. Bal Thackeray can command absolute power without needing to resort to the tussles of CM-ship, while the only way ABV could get his party to listen to him was by becoming PM.
On the 17th of May, I was somehow reminded of the climax of Drohkaal. People who've seen it (or its Tamil remake Kuruthi PuNal) will understand this. When you know you can't escape unscathed but you can help your team win in the future by being taken out voluntarily, it's an excellent tactical move that will garner you immense emotional sympathy as well. This move by Mrs. Gandhi may prove to have the same effect that the 1996 BJP government formation and ensuing Lok Sabha speeches by their gifted orators who helped break the "untouchability" factor in a couple of years.
I don't know whether Sonia Gandhi worked this one out like this, or if she has really taken an emotional decision based on all the factors she says, but I think it will have these positive effects for her family and her. It seems to me that the first law of Political Observation is that when you have a choice between ascribing motives to cynical reasons or moral reasons, prefer the former. For reasons of "antaraatamaa" and "security reasons" don't really make the cut. To take Gaurav's Ganguly analogy - sometimes it makes sense to drop yourself down the order and promote Laxman - if it comes out, it will be hailed as a great move.
Again there's a rural-urban divide at play here, I think. People who're hailing the emergence are most likely happy to see MBA-types such as Milind Deora etc, but are probably not fans of other youth leaders and sah-parivaarvaad-types such as Akhilesh Yadav and the Chautala clan. Is this hypocrisy? For me, presently, they are all the same. Perhaps Naveen Jindal is the only one among them who has some credibility after his National Flag campaign. But he too comes from a politically active, rich business background. The point I'm making it is that the so-called emergence of the youth isn't because more young people are entering the fray, or that the fiery zeal of serving people has been ignited in them. Don't look at a few political callow swallows and make it a young summer. It's probably easier for a young person to make it big in that other family-run manDi called Bollywood.
As the Pepsi ad copywriter put it, sab saale draamebaaz.