MYTHS don’t die easily. But in less than three weeks after the UPA’s surprise victory in the 15th General Elections, Sonia Gandhi has managed to explode many myths that had grown around her and prove the skeptics who felt she was an introvert and a misfit in politics, wrong. All the Cassandras — yours truly included — are gladly eating their words and will have no hesitation in conceding that she is the best thing to have happened to the Grand Old Party at this moment in its long history. The finest of professionals will find it hard to match her public relations’ acumen; she is the Great Communicator who manages to convey her messages without even speaking.
I was among the 370- odd journalists — from junior reporters to chief editors — who were invited to a lunch that she hosted last week. In my 35 years of covering politics, I have attended several such do’s, mostly held on the lawns of party offices, under a tent meant to serve as protection from the blazing sun. But this was a proper sit- down lunch at a five- star hotel. Sonia came on the dot, spent about two minutes at each table, asking everyone present their names and the organisation they represented and moved on to the next, a process that took almost an hour- and- half since about 40 tables had been laid out in the huge convention hall. She took no questions and everyone from the cub- reporter to chief editor was given equal treatment before she moved on to a table reserved for her where she was joined by only her party colleagues.
Eleven years is a long time in politics and we have seen the best of them — Nehru, Indira, Rajiv and even Advani — lose their way around, but I think the Sonia story is just beginning. She has already got several firsts to her credit. She is the first person of foreign origin to become the Congress president since Independence; the first foreign born to become leader of the Lok Sabha and perhaps the only politician to reject the office of the Prime Minister, something she did not just once but twice. Her eyes, I presume, are now set on another: the first mother to preside over her son’s coronation.
The folks at the BJP are just making it easier for her. Instead of indulging in some serious introspection, the BJP leadership is writhing in self- inflicted pain and Sonia should ideally have been doing the victory dance all over again. Instead, she is thinking ahead and putting plans in place for the next elec- Priyanka Gandhi tions. Three days after the first session of the 15th Lok Sabha ended, she was in Rae Bareily along with Priyanka for a “ homecoming” where more than 7,000 party workers who had worked as booth level election agents were invited. The party workers came to celebrate and have a jolly good time but were caught by surprise when both mother and daughter stood beside each other and greeted and shook hands with each of them. It’s of such small gestures that electoral wonders are made of. Those at 11 Ashoka Road who thought winning elections was all about accumulating flying miles would do well to emulate Sonia.