The Congress, Sonia Gandhi in particular, could have avoided the present discomfiture. It was not an impression but a fact that the government was being used to favour the family. And there was such mirth, unconcealed glee in the Congress circles when Jaya Bachchan was disqualified and the thought of a similar prospect for Amar Singh, the Samajwadi Party leader loomed in the horizon.
Then came the nemesis. The united opposition to the Congress first lady'svery profitable offices at public cost. The ordinance was ready to save the extraordinary power-holder. But it was too late. There was the fear of the Rashtrapati Bhavan'stough stance and while the President said he had already sent the complaints to the Election Commission, the latter claimed that it did not receive any. The slip was too loud and telling. A cornered Sonia found profit in her stepping down.
Be it Mitrokhin II, Volcker report, defreezing the Quattrocchi account, burying the Bofors track or the latest office of profit controversy, the UPA was working on a single-point agenda to save its supreme leader. Now that the latest gamble has backfired on her, particularly because of the Left parties´ refusal to play along, Sonia Gandhi had to resign her Lok Sabha seat. But that does not cancel out the dubious UPA gambit.
The appalling discourtesy, brazen disregard for democratic decency, ham-handed haste and unconcern for public decorum in amateurist display have stunned its traditional votaries and supporters alike. The Parliament normally goes into recess in the fourth week of March during the Budget session to be reconvened after a month. This practice was abandoned when the UPA government last week adjourned both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha sine die only to facilitate the imposition of an ordinance to save Sonia Gandhi, accused of holding a number of offices of profit.
While the Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Somnath Chatterjee, who is also facing similar allegations, preferred to stay away from the house, the Rajya Sabha Chairman Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was candid enough when he told the house ?earlier the house was to be adjourned to meet on May 10. But I have received a request from the government to adjourn the house sine die.?
That the Congress chief was in the dock was clear ever since Jaya Bachchan was disqualified with vengeful swiftness. It goes to the credit of the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and the Telugu Desam Party leader N. Chandrababu Naidu who made out a foolproof case, citing the double standards in the action initiated against Jaya. The alert NDA with the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani exposed the ordinance plan taking the fight into the UPA camp. The Congress in the game fell into its own trap.
The UPA could have brought a comprehensive bill to define the ?office of profit? in Parliament with the consent of all parties. This is what even the Left parties have emphasised, when they opposed the ordinance route. The government could have sought to extend the Parliament session for this purpose. But the disregard and disdain to healthy democratic practices, as were in full play in the midnight coup in Goa Raj Bhawan early last year and then in Jharkhand and Patna Raj Bhawans came to repeat in the abrupt winding up of the Budget session.
Is the Congress afraid of facing the Parliament? Or is it in a hurry to tell the world that only the writ of 10, Janpath is rule for the coalition government. It is long since the Congress has said goodbye to the common minimum programme of the UPA. It has no qualms about ignoring the serious reservations of the Left parties on crucial domestic and diplomatic issues. On the economic policy front it takes decisions unilaterally as if it is in a dominant single party regime.
The Congress actions these days have the unerasable stamp of personalised vengeance. Any leader critical of the Congress first family is systematically targeted in a blatantly insidious manner. Take the case of the Congress tirade against Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh. Equally focussed is its actions against the Bachchan family. The Janata Dal(U) leaders George Fernandes, Jaya Jaitley, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Democratic Indira Congress leader K. Karunakaran were all targeted in a similar fashion. Only that in the present case it boomeranged on the perpetrator. Though caught in the act, the Congress is trying to escape opprobrium by pretending injured innocence. The party is still untamed and its tendency to over-reach by gross violation of the Constitutional norms has again forced it to scurry for cover. Democracy functions on advise and consent. But the Congress perhaps believes it is a one-way street. And it can bulldoze its way.