On the 24th of August 2011, on the twelfth night after her surgery, in the USA, notes reached Sonia Gandhi in her convalescence informing her of the impasse between the people and the political class over the Anna Hazare movement. By then the Congress led by the PM Shri Man Mohan Singh had come head on to a crisis where the battle lines between the people and the Parliament were drawn firmly. This is how he led up to this state of affairs.
First there was denial. Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram denied that there was any kind of popular movement at all. They tried to say that this was a media created event and had no real basis among the people. Then they saw the grounds beyond the precincts of the Parliament swelling. Seeing this they tried to insist that this was a BJP led Hindutva movement but telly footages were clear that the movement was apolitical and overall leaderless, albeit with hard lines and fascist overtones. The corner of fasting people who would now and then break into the daily naamz for the ongoing Ramadan flew in the face of the categorization that the “Annashaan” was a Hindu affair notwithstanding the Bharat Mata imageries and sloganmongering. Next the Congress tried to play against Muslim sentiments just as the British did for the 1942 Movement by drawing upon the Imams to condemn the movement. This too failed. The Congress next tried to say that the movement was sponsored by America because of the support from NRIs in New Jersey and the presence of techies in the fray. This too fell flat because of the loose format of the movement.
Next, as always the Congress talks of the people and yet imagines that this mass must be led otherwise it would lead to mobocracy started to insist that the movement was turning into mobocracy. One only had to be in the Ramlila ground to see how lakhs of people moved in such a civil and polite way when one cannot even get into the Metro rail in Delhi without push and sharve. But the government led by Manmohan Singh was preparing to provoke the mass into a law and order problem by which Anna could be arrested and the people lathi charged. All the while the PM tried to push forth a consensus over economic reforms trying to dissolve the support for Anna as if only corporate India was in the movement against corruption; he clearly had no idea of the movement at all, himself never having won an election. He thus tried to call the movement as unconstitutional and constitutive of an attack of the Parliament, which the Anna movement was turning towards and then gather the political class against a movement that had gone clearly beyond the civil society. At this point, with the political class aligned against the people, the Parliament was in the danger of being stormed as the Bastille. At this moment someone advised the Congress and the government that turned the situation wholly to stand into a victory for all. This someone was Sonia Gandhi in remote advice. This is how the government changed its stand.
On one hand Rahul started canvassing for Anna’s bill putting forth his suggestions for a supra Constitutional Body. Next, the government appointed a Marathi speaking Vilasrao Deshmukh to talk directly to Anna by passing his lieutanants Kiran Bedi and Anand Kejriwal. It needed a Sonia to realize that people may not always be comfortable in languages that are not their own vernaculars. Hence a Marathi to talk to a Marathi in Marathi. The lieutanants were by passed to make them irrelevant to the government and thus also taking away their importance as leaders. It is better to deal with one Anna than the whole team. Next, she made it clear within the party that the will of the people was the will of the Parliament and that there could be none other. People could never be ignored in a democracy and that it would be dangerous if the Parliament was to be blown to pieces as Anna’s Gandhis were now talking of turning into Bhagat Singhs. PM relented; the younger members convinced the Congress Party and as the Congress opened up to the will of the people, in a competitive spiral everyone else did that too. Arun Jaitly could well have been the government spokesperson in his calm and assertive speech that reasoned why sentiments and emotions must be disciplined into procedures and rules of the institutions in order to be effective and Sitaram Yechury said why the Parliament in order to maintain its sanctity should reflect on itself, critique its own conduct and reclaim its moral supremacy over and over again. Lalu Yadav said that it is not the political class alone but every kind of institution like the media, NGOs and private profiteers should also be under the Lokpal. The PM said that the people were supreme; there was nothing that the Parliament could do but to obey the people’s invocation of the Constitution. The deal was done, all parties that hardened their respective position converged and submerged into the grand unity of the spontaneous and the regular, the contingent and the instutionalized, the immediate and the permanent. When the world would now say India is a corrupt country, they would also say what a movement against corruption there was and how the Indian democracy accommodated the will of the people as the reason of the law of the land. Waha waha Ramji.. khel kya dikhaye.. sabko badhai ho badhai..
But this grand unity of mutually opposed forces would not have been done without Sonia Gandhi. Actually I would say that the process was started by Varun Gandhi who said that he would present a private member’s bill in the Parliament. When Rahul returned to India after attending on his mother’s surgery, he was clear that he was on the side of the Janlokpal drawing most flak from within his own party. Priyanka came back too possibly with the point by point strategy dictated by mother. All the while others were made to play in the frontline; Sonia remained invisible. But without that single family including Varun, the process of mitigation would never have begun. Families have genes by which they can transmit diabetes or pigmentation but they have internal communication, sense of purpose, ideas of the world that they transmit among members as they communicate amongst themselves. The Nehru Gandhi family has a rare wisdom, something that they are perhaps not very conscious of in order to be able to document or articulate but it is there, just as an intuition to be able to lead us Indians as a pack. Indians are fiercely autonomous and independent minded and yet paradoxically certainty seeking people; a trait that we share with domesticated animals. No wonder then we are the world’s finest rearers of domestic animals who we treat with far greater respect and kindness than we do for human beings. This is because we find a deep sense of bonding with our flock; we always love to be in a pack dominated by a pack leader who keeps us together. The Nehru lineage has this wisdom of a pack leader, not dictating us, or categorizing us and never trying to civilize or humanize us but always keeping us from straying.