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The Graceless Nehru-Gandhis: Devoid of Democratic Etiquette, BHARATIYATA

by A. Surya Prakash

Finaly, many days after the declaration of results in the Lok Sabha election, we are told that the Congress President, Ms.Sonia Gandhi has congratulated Mr.Narendra Modi. But, there is nothing in this for us to cheer about. We gather that the letter is an extremely brief one-liner which appears to have been grudgingly written just to fulfill a formality and enable sympathetic contemporary commentators and the hordes of historians owing allegiance to the Nehru-Gandhis to use this as a fig leaf to defend the family.

Even as the results poured in on May 16, leaders from across the globe reached out to India's Prime Minister designate and congratulated him on his spectacular electoral victory. U.S. President Barak Obama, Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksha, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot called Mr.Modi and complimented him for his success. The British Prime Minister Mr.David Cameron, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan sent congratulatory messages. The list is endless. Yet, closer home, there was a family whose members have held the office of prime minister for 37 years, but who did not have the decency to pick up the phone to congratulate Mr.Modi or publicly greet him. In fact, both Ms.Sonia Gandhi and the party's Vice President, Mr.Rahul Gandhi had the opportunity to wish him when they addressed the media on May 16 after the trends became known. But then, they lacked the democratic etiquette to do so. They made no mention of him that day although he was their target throughout the election campaign.

However, sensing a national outrage over this display of gracelessness, Ms.Gandhi reluctantly despatched a message of congratulations. The Indian Express says she wrote a single line letter which blandly said "I congratulate you on being unanimously elected as the leader of the parliamentary party". Such parsimony with words, when greeting a man who has been given a spectacular mandate by the people? But, even this niggardly acknowledgement is not forthcoming from the Congress Party's Vice-President who relentlessly mocked at the 'Gujarat Model' and Modi's style of campaign for over six months.

Through their conduct, both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have betrayed not just the absence of refinement expected of persons in public life but also a complete disrespect for Bharatiyata, the democratic process and the peoples' will, expressed through the ballot box. But, this is nothing new. The family has often displayed such pettiness. In fact in 1998 when the Atal Behari Vajpayee government was sworn in, Ms.Gandhi refused to acknowledge Mr.Vajpayee's greetings after he took oath of office.

Members of this family have displayed similar lack of grace and lack of understanding of Bharatiya Samskuti during the election campaign as well. As they found the ground under them slipping away, they behaved in a crass manner and showed themselves to be ill-tempered. The best example of this was the conduct of Ms.Priyanka Vadra after a corrupt version of Mr.Modi's reference to her in his interview to Doordarshan was put out by the media. In that interview, the interviewer asked Mr.Modi what he had to say about Priyanka Varda's campaign for Sonia and Rahul. Mr.Modi said he found nothing wrong in it. It was the right and duty of a daughter to support her mother. The media twisted his remarks and said Modi had called Priyanka his daughter. Without waiting to ascertain facts, Priyanka reacted angrily and said "I am Rajiv Gandhi's daughter". The point here is that even if Modi had not called her his daughter, it is part of Bharatiya tradition for a person to accord the status of a son or daughter to a younger person and similarly to respectfully see elders as 'Mata, Pita Samaan'. But, the irony of it all is that Doordarshan deleted these comments of Mr.Modi in the version it telecast because it would have shown him in good light. Though the fate of the Nehru-Gandhis seemed sealed, Doordarshan appeared to be performing its final act of obeisance to this family by deleting these comments. It is obvious that Priyanka had reacted to something Mr.Modi had never said. However, she is yet to acknowledge her mistake and apologise to Mr.Modi.

For long years now, the Nehru-Gandhis have showered the vilest abuses on Mr.Modi. Ms.Sonia Gandhi set the ball rolling by calling him "Maut Ka Saudagar" (Merchant of Death) long years ago. In the current campaign Rahul Gandhi compared him to Hitler. Members of the Congress Party and their allies then took the cue and began abusing him. Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma called Modi a mad dog. He said "Loktantra ke mandir ko kisi pagal kutte sey pradushit na hone dey. Yeh Janta ka farz hai" ( Do not allow the temple of democracy to be polluted by a mad dog. The people have this responsibility). Salman Kurshid called him a "Napunshak" (impotent) and the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah described him as a "mass murderer". Mani Shankar Aiyar ridiculed him for having been a tea seller and Congress ally Sharad Pawar said Modi was "deranged" and needed to be treated in a mental hospital. Till today, neither the Nehru-Gandhis nor the others who showered such epithets at India's next Prime Minister have expressed any regret. One wonders how any of them will be able to look Mr.Modi in the eye after he formally enters office.

There is another tradition in the Nehru-Gandhios. They never appreciate the good work done by any one in our public life except those who belong to their family. Secondly, if someone does achieve something, they will try to appropriate it as theirs. The best example is the way the Nehru-Gandhis are taking credit for the manner in which Prime Minister Narasimha Rao turned around the economy, which had been left bankrupt by the Rajiv Gandhi and Chadrashekar governments in 1991. Just hear any of their speeches. Whenever they open their mouth, they indulge in self praise. The only names they take are those of Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, be it public speeches and even the party manifesto. Apart from Sonia and Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi too has been on a similar family promotion trip during the election campaign. They have never recognized the phenomenal work done by Sardar Patel to unite India after independence or the work of Dr.Ambedkar in the making of our Constitution. Closer to our times, they have never admitted the extraordinary turn around in our economic situation which was effected by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and the brilliant stewardship that Atal Behari Vajpayee provided to India. That is why they have ensured that all major government schemes and projects are named after members of their family and key buildings around India Gate are named after members of their family –Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs ,Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in yet another Jawahar Bhavan on Raisina Road.

Contrast the behavior of this family with the first reaction of the Prime Minister-designate, Mr.Modi. Although he got a decisive mandate, he declared that the people have given him enough MPs to run the government, but he would like to take everyone along, including those who were defeated, to run the country. Such lofty thoughts are beyond the comprehension of the Nehru-Gandhis and also of those who are remote-controlled by them. Also contrast this with what Mr.Modi did last December 9, Ms.Gandhi's birthday. He greeted her on twitter and said: "Wishing UPA Chairperson Smt.Sonia Gandhi on her birthday. I pray for her long and healthy life".

The Nehru-Gandhis will never understand this. But, the truth is that there is public anger against the Congress and this family and one of the reasons for this is the disrespect that this family has shown to all the great builders of India and the shameless manner in which it has tried to usurp credit for the good work done by others and tried time and again to blame others for their failures.

The Prime Minister's Office reported that Mr.Manmohan Singh greeted Mr.Modi when the results came in. However, Mr.Singh too showed himself wanting in democratic traditions during his last address to the nation on May 17, when he failed to wholeheartedly wish the BJP and his successor the very best in their endeavours. In that speech he spoke of how he was an underprivileged child of partition and how, despite all that, he had risen to the top job. If that be so, why has he been so reluctant to face the truth and to acknowledge the rise of yet another underprivileged child of this Republic – a tea seller in railway platforms – to the office of Prime Minister. Mr.Singh, please unshackle yourself. At least now remove the batteries from the remote control and wholeheartedly hail the peoples' verdict and the rise of a poor man's son to the high office!

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