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June - July 2004


Political News

Should Sonia Gandhi Be The Next Prime Minister of India?

by Jatindra Saha


There is a general perception that Sonia Gandhi and her Congress Party have won the Indian election. This is what the British media have been propagating. All that has happened was that the Congress Party and its allies have won a number of seats more than the outgoing NDA government led by BJP. After the election, the two communist parties have declared if Congress and its allies were to form the next government in Delhi they would support it from outside the coalition. Because of this declaration the chance of Congress-coalition forming a government in New Delhi became almost a reality. That they were seeking support of parties outside their coalition is the evidence that they did not outright win the election.

Should Sonia Gandhi be the next Prime Minister of India?Jatindra SahaThere is a general perception that Sonia Gandhi and her Congress Party have won the Indian election. This is what the British media have been propagating. All that has happened was that the Congress Party and its allies have won a number of seats more than the outgoing NDA government led by BJP. After the election, the two communist parties have declared if Congress and its allies were to form the next government in Delhi they would support it from outside the coalition. Because of this declaration the chance of Congress-coalition forming a government in New Delhi became almost a reality.

That they were seeking support of parties outside their coalition is the evidence that they did not outright win the election. On Tuesday, May 18, Mrs. Gandhi went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to discuss the formation of the next government of which she would be the Prime Minster of India. As she came out of the meeting she declared that more talks were needed with coalition partners before she would be in a position to form the expected government. She did not categorically say she would not be the next Prime Minister. So, why did she later decline the offer of her party? Why was there the apparent change of mind?

Since her declaration declining the offer to form the next government, there have been many speculations on such a historic decision. The speculation that she has been frightened by the thought of how her husband Rajiv Gandhi and her mother-in-law Mrs. Indira Gandhi died and BJP's reaction to her election as India's Prime Minister does not have any foundation. The record of BJP adhering to democratic principles is much better than that of the Congress party. There must be other reasons for her decision.

As election results were declared it was clearly evident that Sonia Gandhi was feeling happy and cheerful. There was life in her movement, spring in her steps. Once all the results were known and support of the communists came through she was elected by her party to be their Parliamentary leader so that she could be the next Prime Minister. She accepted the party leadership without any hesitation. Indeed, by all accounts, she herself initiated such a motion. By Sunday, May 16, it became known that she would see the President on Tuesday, May 18, so that she could be called upon to form the next government. However, when the Mumbai stock market was opened the share price went through a free fall of 700 points wiping out nearly 16% of the market value. It was obvious the market did not have any confidence in her leadership or her ability to pursue a successful economic policy. As far as the stock market is concerned it was a no-confidence motion against her.

Any political analyst can guess that the meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan played a crucial role as to why for the first time she was uncertain about her ambition to govern India. It suddenly dawned upon her that to have an aspiration of becoming Prime Minister is one thing but to actually hold such an esteemed position is altogether a different proposition. If the Mumbai stock market were to go through a further free fall in share values the most likely scenario would be drying up of further foreign investments and even withdrawal of the existing ones. It may lead to a run on the Rupee and the foreign exchange reserve that has grown over the last six years of BJP led NDA government from 27 to over 110 billion dollars may be wiped off within a short period of time. Mrs Sonia Gandhi will be held fully responsible for such a disaster in the Indian economy.

Things could turn out to be even worse that what they are now. The role of the communist parties is the principal factor in what has been happening after the general election. They may support Sonia Gandhi to remain in power; however, they are going to exact a heavy price for such a support. Will the communists allow her to carry through the economic reform that is absolutely vital for the country? Will it not amount to breaking her pledge to the voters? And what about the political turmoil that is likely to follow such a situation?

Let's face the facts. Under normal circumstances she does have right qualifications even to apply for a primary school teacher's post. Jeremy Paxman of the BBC asked the Congress spokesman Salman Khurshid, "Apart from being the widow of Rajiv Gandhi what other qualifications does she have to be Indian Prime Minister?" In reply Mr. Khurshid said it would be at par with the situations in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This clearly exemplifies how naïve these people are. The only language Sonia Gandhi can speak fluently without inhibition is Italian. She has never given a political interview. Even in the Lok Sabha she cannot speak without notes let alone to an outside audience. Should such a person be Indian Prime Minister? Is she capable of conducting on her own direct negotiations with other world leaders? It appears a cat and mouse game is being played now in New Delhi. Let us hope India does not become a laughing stock to the outside world.

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