Curiouser and curiouser. Enigma becomes mystery
From being an enigma to becoming a mystery to now being viewed with suspicion, Sonia Gandhi has travelled a long path in Indian politics.
During the 80s and 90s, the Indian media had described her as an enigma. A national weekly had this title on its cover. In her early days into politics, she remained aloof, giving an air of disinterested involvement. But now, with UPA in power for seven years, Sonia Gandhi is being increasingly viewed as not only the power behind the chair but as a person who evades scrutiny. But her actions are not above board and are besmirching India’s strong and celebrated democratic credentials.
Sonia Gandhi today represents a power centre outside the Indian Constitution. She does not hold any office in the government but nothing in the government can happen without her consent and blessing. Witness the procession of Prime Minister and senior ministers to her house in the wake of the latest letter missiles rocking the UPA boat. The party and the government look to her for cue to sing the next tune. Hers is a sure face in the list of ‘powerful’ and ‘influential’ people, released periodically by Indian and international publications. But she is not open to the press or the people. She does not communicate in any manner to the country which she treats her fiefdom.
In the past four months, she has been incommunicado, inaccessible and is being discussed in absentia. The shroud of secrecy behind her illness has given rise to not just speculations but wild allegations. She went abroad on the Indian tax payers’ money for treatment. But she did not take the routine commercial flight. She was transported in chartered plane, which her son Rahul also has been accused of using like a local train, jetting in and out of the country. Her expenditure in the hospital and recovery is estimated to have run into thousands of crores. An entire floor in an elite health resort was booked for her stay for recouping. Nobody knows what her illness was, why she went abroad for treatment while the best of medical expertise is available in India, how successful her treatment abroad was. If all the treatment and travel was done from the government exchequer, don’t the people of India deserve to know the details? The media that tries to snatch a bite from even the corpse, respected the ‘privacy’ requested by her cronies and her family.
All public figures in India, including top business people, actors, like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth and others have given details of their health care. When the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is admitted even for routine check, bulletins are issued. So what is so secretive and private about Sonia Gandhi’s illness. Or is it that like so many are suspecting she was not ill at all and had gone abroad to settle various other pressing financial matters?
The Internet is full of ‘information’ on the family. A clipping in YouTube, prepared by a foreign journalist narrates the story of her son-in-law, of his connections with various corporate houses, some of whom are accused in the 2G scam. There are rumours that the probe into the 2G scam is being manipulated by the CBI to ensure that these links are not exposed. The commentary in the clipping mentions about the mysterious and untimely death of several of his family members. The national daily The Economic Times too carried a report on Robert Vadhera and his business links. Sadly the media has largely chosen to ignore these issues.
The government, the political parties and the media have been giving a deferential treatment to the Gandhi family. Newspapers that flash the personal lives of political leaders on the front page with salacious photographs play quiet when it comes to reporting serious issues involving the national security and the family. The extra-constitutional National Advisory Council, consisting of the hand-picked members, drawn from evangelical and Marxist background, has been setting the agenda for the government, while the democratic institutions are being deliberately undermined and sidelined. The credibility of the CBI is at its lowest today, with it playing a highly political game.
Sonia Gandhi has even refused to divulge her religion. Her Italian family has been living in her official residence in Delhi for months together, without so much as attracting the laws governing overstay by foreigners.
Sonia Gandhi and her ‘unseen‘ power is very much reminiscent of the decadent communist regimes where secrecy was the password and transparency an unheard of phenomena. The illness of the leaders of erstwhile Soviet Union and even their death used to be kept secret for days, till ‘appropriate’ time. The iron curtain was passe in that system but not in a democracy like India. We have in place a right to information act. But information relating to the Sonia household is still shrouded in mystery.