Date: 4/3/2005


Sonia stands exposed -NARAD flavor=archive&id=20050402153558&list=NL

Media Watch April 03, 05

POOR Sonia Gandhi. She must he rueing the day—or days—she listened to her coterie on what to do in Goa and Jharkhand.

Having put her on the cover, India Today (March 21) had some unkind things to say about the lady. In his own editorial, Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie noted that "though her spin doctors have acted to distance her from the political mess that was created, there are clear signs that in the public eye, she has lost her halo of sainthood." And no truer words were said. The cover story written by Bhavdeep Kang was even harsher on Sonia. She was called `Holy Mother' in contrast to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh who was `Holier Ruler'. The division between them was described as "not only a division of power, but a division of truth as well".

Her `sainthood', the way she gave up the prime ministership was pooh- poohed. Said the report: "The manufactured sainthood is unravelling. The quiet dignity conceals more than it reveals. In retrospect, the much ballyhooed renunciation was a joke. Anyway, the show only denied her the chair of Prime Minister, not power. It was maximum empowerment by other means. The halo of the leader who said `no' is vanishing. Maybe it was never there... Today she is fast emerging as a leader deficient in democratic instincts..."

Not a single newspaper has rushed to Sonia Gandhi's defence in the manner in which Congress-appointed Governors handled election results in Goa and Jharkhand. The Hindu (March 14), normally friendly towards the Congress, said that "the Centre's claim that it had nothing to do with the Jharkhand Governor's decision or the happenings in the Assembly will find few takers." That is a polite way of saying that Congress lied through its teeth. The paper added for good measure: "After the two episodes (in Goa and Jharkhand), the impression has gained ground that the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh is more virtuous than the UPA as a political grouping chaired by Mrs Sonia Gandhi."

The Hindu, like Winston Churchill who preferred to describe a lie as a "terminological inexactitude", prefers to speak softly. But its meaning is clear. According to the paper, "the sequence of events in Jharkhand vindicates the Supreme Court's action."

The Times of India (March 12) disagrees. According to this paper, "The apex court's activism in this instance cannot be condoned." But The Times of India is practically the only paper to think so, indicating that it is out of step with reality and what the public thinks. Granting that the apex court stood tall in the Emergency years, the paper charged the Supreme Court with widening "the scope for judicial activism", adding: "The danger of a populist court is that it might not know where to draw the line."

One would imagine that 13 judges of the Supreme Court with their wide experience would know where to draw the line better than an editorial writer working for the old lady of Bori Bunder.

In contrast, the hard-hitting The Free Press Journal (March 11) noted that "the Supreme Court intervention in the Jharkhand imbroglio was wholly warranted". It added: "It is a question of keeping the Constitution afloat in the face of multi-faced threats from power-hungry politicians. It is in that context that we fully hail the SC intervention in Jharkhand."

The Indian Express (March 11) thought likewise. It said: "The Court had to be careful not to step on legislative and executive prerogative... If the Court failed to intervene, it would be accused of excusing the gratuitous manipulation of discretionary powers. On the whole, the Court seems to have balanced these competing considerations... The Court's intervention, in the circumstances, is unexceptional. The abdication of responsibility by the executive that opened the way for judges to step in as monitors in the legislative domain, is not." Hindustan Times (March 9) stayed away from the argument but said that "the decision to impose President's rule in Bihar is the best possible outcome..."

The Telegraph (March 9) similarly felt that the President's rule "lives up to the mandate in Bihar" pointing out that the people of Bihar "would like to see the interim administration lift the state from the abyss into which it has sunk, thanks mainly to the politicians who have violated with impunity all norms of civilised conduct."

Deccan Herald (March 11) thought that imposing President's rule in Bihar "was, in fact, the only credible option, given the fractured mandate that the election had thrown up", noting that "with its strategy in Goa and Jharkhand boomeranging and triggering public outrage and political protest, the Congress appears to have reconsidered replicating that in Bihar."

Welcoming President's rule in Bihar, The Hindutva (March 8) said that "what Bihar needs is an apolitical solution from all political parties so that the stranglehold of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav on the state is loosened and democracy gets a reprieve." But the paper was not sure that President's rule would be helpful, considering that "the malaise that afflicts Bihar is far too cancerous to be sorted out in the six months of mandatory period of President's rule."

Congress behaviour in Goa, incidentally, came in for some harsh criticism in most papers. The Tribune (March 7) said, "Governor Jamir's role was highly questionable in the sordid episode" and "his role in dismissing the Parrikar government, installing the Rane government and giving him a month's time to prove his majority are wholly unjust."

Gomantak Times (March 7), a leading paper in Goa, thought that President's rule was "the best thing that could have happened to Goa" and damned the incumbents in Raj Bhavans "for wanting to bend backwards to please the boss". And in a front-paged editorial, Gomantak Times said: "Do not let bloodsucking scoundrel politicians rule you." The paper damned politicians, saying: "Even gangsters, mafia dons and smugglers have more honour and value than our politicians. Criminal gangs in Mumbai and Dubai have a better record of loyalty than political parties in Goa." Going a step further, the angry paper added: "The charade that has been enacted in the name of democracy in Goa is an insult to our intelligence, a waste of time and cruel blow to any pretence of decency and decorum. The politician is as despicable as a plague... Most of them are opportunistic money-making and ego-massaging scoundrels." Strong words, no doubt but the truth must be faced. How much money Congress spent in buying MLAs remains to be seen. What the Congress did in Goa, Jharkhand and Bihar will for ever remain a blot on Congress character. Congress `character'? Does it have any? If it has, it is making a great effort to hide it by hosting a Dandi march which has been the subject of much derisive laughter. Isn't it time for Sonia Gandhi to go?