Opinion and Editorial

Sonia’s moment of realisation against all odds

Farzana Versey (Debate)
Filed on November 16, 2010

Political theatre is all about accusations. Only the dialogues change and actors swap roles. Despicable as the former RSS chief K. Sudarshan’s remarks against Sonia Gandhi are, the responses have been absurd.

Sudarshan had said that the Congress chief was a CIA agent and responsible for plotting the killings of two prime ministers, her husband Rajiv Gandhi and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi.

This is where the town criers come in. While the Congress party stand is understandable, the satellite players are going on about their hurt. Not one of them has thrown back evidence to counteract such febrile abuse. Indira Gandhi’s assassination resulted in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 only because the security guard who killed her belonged to the community.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a LTTE suicide bomber. These acts were extreme response to certain policies of the political leaders. This is the unfortunate reality the world over, and that is the reason the word assassination is used for the murders of people of standing. It is a radical form of dissent.

Had there been large-scale killings for similar reasons it would be termed terrorism.

The problem with being a part of the power game is that such verbal invective is the talisman of the fool. The role of the Fool in the courts of rulers and drama is known – it is to act as a ‘breathing space’ for the performers and the audience and sharpen the edge of the tragic.

Unfortunately, Sonia’s own wailing over “vedna” (sorrow) that had catapulted her into contemporary India’s Joan of Arc is now becoming a cross she will have to bear. This is beyond what others say, but her stoic stance thus far, including her sacrificing the ready-made prime ministerial seat, have trapped her in the position to endure slurs. If she reacts, then the house of canonised cards will come falling down.

Let us recall that Priyanka Vadra went to meet Nalini, one of the plotters in the assassination of her father, and even talked about forgiveness. The political was made personal. If such ‘positive’ moves are acceptable in state discourse, then one cannot have much disagreement with the presence of dissonant voices. There is room for taking action against libel and defamation. The interesting development is that from Bihar to West Bengal to Jharkand, non-Congress strongholds, there have been protests.

Even more amazing is that the RSS itself has expressed regret publicly; one of its leaders, former spokesperson Baburao Vaidya, has even suggested that Sonia Gandhi should file a defamation suit since the allegation is against her personally and not against the UPA alliance or the Congress Party. This is the crux of the drama quite reminiscent of the India is Indira days, only this time the persona is being ridiculed even as it is sanctified. Had Ms. Gandhi not been representative of the party and the ruling government and in fact symbolic of the furtherance of the dynastic ethos, her individual character assassination would have held no merit.

The RSS is doing what the right-wing parties have mastered – shuffling their cards but holding the pack. Every once in a while they indulge in this charade where some members put on the appearance of moderates. It has also given the RSS a precious opportunity to become a victim of its ‘mentally unstable’ members and of purportedly skewed perceptions. The goons of the Congress party, by ransacking the RSS offices, are only helping further this victim cause.

The BJP, feeling left out, has issued a warning to the Congress that if it does not cease its violence despite clarifications, although they did not protest when they were equated with terrorist organisations, they will launch a nation-wide agitation to expose several recent scams in the Congress.

This is a telling comment. It reveals the true nature of the ‘regret’. The job of the opposition is to raise issues irrespective of whether they are being targeted. It is also redundant to react to being equated with SIMI now. It seems like a ruse the saffron brigade was looking for.

The Congress party has too many courtiers, but not a single Birbal. Demanding a ban on the RSS for this would be tantamount to using any slur to muzzle dissent of any kind. Unless there is evidence against the RSS in anti-national activities or terrorist acts, it cannot be banned.

One of the sycophants has filed a petition on which the police registered a FIR. They have booked Sudarshan under the Indian Penal Code sections for imputations prejudicial to national integration, for defamation and for making a statement conducive to public mischief.

The defamation bit is explicable. Where does national integration come into this? How integrated are the different states in the country? And where is the public mischief? It is political mischief with each party attempting to make hay in the blazing heat of accusations, hoping that it might give them some toe-hold among various categories of voters.

Today, K. Sudarshan’s effigy has become a symbol of political expediency. His comments are straw pillars that will blow away. The stage is being readied for the bigger issue of what happens in Ayodhya. This is where Sonia Gandhi’s implication that the Allahabad Court verdict did not condone the demolition of the Babri Masjid and its perpetrators must be brought to book comes in. The VHP’s Ashok Singhal has said she has insulted the court. A political outfit that had no respect for court proceedings has suddenly discovered the virtue of the judiciary because it favours its point of view in this instance.

The Hindutva parties are deliberately being provocative and demure by turns to blur the issue where their heart lies – creation of a Ram Mandir. The reason for the blurring is that this time they want it to be a seamless act of accession. They are smart players and Sudarshan is most likely their backroom ploy.

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based writer

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