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Saturday, June 16, 2012

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(Published in on 15 June 2012, retrieved from

On Wednesday night, the woman who nearly became Prime Minister of India was left floundering as the woman who just became Chief Minister of West Bengal handed her a snub. Mamata Banerjee announced that her choices for President include current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What’s more, she pretty much clarified that she was telling Sonia Gandhi this through the media.
Conspiracy theories about Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav coming up with a clever plan to get rid of Manmohan Singh and give the UPA a makeover died out soon enough. It was clear that Mamata Banerjee was behaving more like the opposition than an ally, yet again.
It took the Congress until Thursday afternoon to come up with a response – party spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi said, with a laughable lack of irony, that the Congress cannot afford to spare the Prime Minister for the post of President, and Manmohan Singh isn’t going anywhere. By evening, Banerjee responded to that misguided attempt at graciousness by daring the UPA to cut off ties with her. Her first choice for the post is Abdul Kalam, she said – the man whom the NDA favoured for President in 2002, the man who withdrew from the race for President when the UPA was in power, in 2007.
A photograph taken by a friend shows Mamata speaking to the press at her residence, somehow looking authoritative despite speaking into microphones bundled into a Bisleri carton, balanced on a stool, which is in turn perched on a chair ( She made it clear she was backing Kalam, and wouldn’t attend a UPA meeting to finalise the candidate on Friday morning.
Of course, Pratibha Patil did the Congress no favours, touring the world on junkets and routinely forgetting to salute the Indian flag. But if the Congress is cornered into bringing back the President it did its best to edge out, on the back of its allies doubting its Prime Minister’s ability to do justice to his current role, the authority of its hereditary ruler would be questioned.
Sonia’s preferred candidates for President, Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari, haven’t found favour with either Mulayam Singh Yadav or Mamata Banerjee. Even the Left, which Mukherjee has apparently tried to lobby, has expressed reservations about supporting an active Congress politician.
Is ‘Madam’, then, finally losing her stranglehold on the running of this country? Is the era of the Nehru-Gandhi family over?
The generation that saw the British leave speaks of how Partition and its consequences, which plague us to this day, may never have happened if Nehru had agreed to let Jinnah become Prime Minister of India. The generation that saw Emergency shudders at the memory of its architect, whose assassination led to an even darker event in the history of this country, the victims of which are still waiting for justice.
It looks unlikely that Rahul Gandhi will secure either the Prime Ministership or the Bharat Ratna award that three preceding generations of his family did. He mostly makes news for his faux pas, and his sleepovers at Dalit homes have been covered more extensively by cartoonists than journalists.
The only person in India who believes he will produce progeny appears to be Subramanian Swamy, who recently accused him of cavorting around France with an Aghan girl whom he was either married to, or indulging in adultery with. A tweet from Swamy read, “What is Rahul doing in Nice, France with an Afghan Muslim girl domiciled in Italy. She was seen wearing a wedding ring!”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seems to have made a sensible decision in choosing to stay away from active politics. Her campaign at Amethi caused some embarrassment, with her husband Robert Vadra making his appearance leading a cavalcade of motorcycles, complete with Chulbul Pandey moustache. It’s clear that the only perquisite Vadra will be entitled to from his position (whatever that is), is skipping security checks at airports.
Sanjay Gandhi’s wife and son have crossed over to the enemy. And the Congress Gandhis seem to have hit the end of the trail.
With Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh suggesting that the man with the most important post be shifted to a nominal one, the Congress must also consider the possibility of early elections, the last thing it wants in its scam-riddled state.
Can it be that, for the first time in this country’s history, a Gandhi isn’t calling all the shots when the Congress is in power? And are we in a position to envision an India without a First Family pitching itself to the forefront of politics, generation after generation?


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