<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 156 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 28 , 2004

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Kyunki Bahu Bhi Kabhi Italian Thi


In the beginning it was all very awe-inspiring. The world's largest democracy was doing itself proud.

Even before results of all the parliamentary seats were announced, and within hours of the national trend being known in the first-ever e-poll the incumbent Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee led his saff-ed cavalcade to the majestic red sandstone and marble Rashtrapati Bhaban (designed by London-born English Architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), a foreigner) to tender his resignation. The entire ambience was redolent with solemnity.

In keeping with democratic practices, President Abul Kalam requested Vajpayee to continue as PM till a new government took over. Wah! Kya baat hai!

Even hardliner Hindu nationalist Lal Krishna Advani appeared a perfect gentleman and earned points for his dignity, as he bade his Home Ministry staff farewell within hours of Congress emerging as the largest party. His walk in the library was particularly poignant.

The news bar on Indian television displaying 'BJP will not make Sonia's foreign origin an issue' took the breath away of a world that watched in admiration the apparent smooth transfer of power between diabolically opposite political beliefs.

The scenes shamed many so-called democracies around the globe because one, the developments were counter to exit polls even a week back, and two, in spite of the apparently unexpected swing the difference in numbers between the two heavies was not to be that pronounced in the end, although 'others' were expected to endorse any package marked 'secular', read anti Hindu fundamentalism, as demonstrated by BJP and parties bracketed in its alliance.

The scenes shamed many so-called democracies because there was no call for re-poll, no cry of fraud, no accusation of bias against the Election Commission, no claim of large-scale rigging, no post-results killing, no demand for recount (sic Bush)...

Then gradually the saffron colours began to show.

BJP's Sushma Swaraj (last Parliamentary Affairs Minister) announced she would resign as MP and shave her head if Turin-born-Italian-Indian-national-gori-feeringee (TV channels and agencies) Sonia Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister. She said that it was not possible for her to address Sonia as 'Madam Prime Minister' because she was not an Indian by birth. The logic behind the firebrand Hindu fundamentalist's statement was lost in the mayhem because if Sonia did get to become the Indian PM then Sushma, as an Indian citizen, would have to accept her as 'Madam Prime Minister'; that's democracy, isn't it?

Then there was talk of a BJP & Co.'s boycott of the swearing-in ceremony (surprise surprise Vajpayee would attend), threat to denounce the day as 'Black' and a public interest court case by Lucknow lawyer Asoke Pandey, only because she was not born between Kargil and Kanniyakumari, although the electorate voted overwhelmingly for her Congress and against the BJP-led alliance.

The dithering policy of the communists underscored by their catch-fish-no-chui-paani strategy made Sonia weak inside the House and helped stocks to plummet, where crash records were shattered on 'Bloody Monday' 17 May, giving the Hindu fundamentalists the edge to stir up a racist hullabaloo, as some Congress people dubbed the anti-Sonia crusade.

In a dramatic twist, akin to a Bollywood blockbuster, Sonia announced her decision not to be sworn in as the next PM of India.

All hell was let loose. Sonia sympathizers contemplated committing suicide and hunger strike unto death. BJP adherents licked their wounds and gave a wry smile; they found the perfect crutch with which they would now be able to limp to the parliament.

Suddenly the Indians were behaving like any other purported democracy. Leaders in those ostensible democracies were once again caught by the 'feel good' factor. Calm settled in those countries.

Celebrated Marxist leader Jyoti Basu perhaps echoed the sentiments of secular India by proclaiming Sonia as a Bharatiya bodhu. She wed Rajiv Gandhi 1968. No one objected. She became an Indian citizen 1983. No one said a word.

She went one further when she became de facto the wife of an Indian premier 1984-1989. No one uttered a syllable.

She became the Leader of the Indian National Congress party 1998. No one made her pedigree an issue.

In 1999 Sonia Gandhi achieved the unique distinction of a first-time MP and a woman to become the Leader of the Opposition, a position that even her famous mother-in-law did not hold. No one took notice of her ancestry.

She sat in the Indian parliament for five years as the Leader of the Opposition in the 13th Lok Sabha 1999-2004. Despite her political ascent no one questioned her foreign descent.

She leads her party to victory 13 May 2004. No sound from any quarter.

She is nominated by Congress and a score of allies to form the government and is set to become the Prime Minister 16 May. Boom! The then Union Minister of Karnataka Sushma Swaraj suddenly remembered that it was this Sonia Gandhi who defeated her by over 50,000 votes in the Bellary constituency in Bohu's first attempt.

The fallout of the BJP stand has been that made many Western girls broke off their engagement to desi Indians and NRIs. One gora girl's argument says it all: 'If I cannot become the Indian Prime Minister what is the point of marrying you, uh?'

Sushmajee and company, if it may quench your communal thirst, you may take heart from the fact that Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (1924-1988), strongman-president of aap ki jaani dushman Pakistan (1978-1988), was born in Jullundur, India, and attended the Royal Indian Military Academy and was commissioned in 1945. He did not spy for India.

If you think this write-up reeks of a Sonia bias because I would have any problem in the foreseeable future, let me tell you that I was born in Barisal, the Venice of Bangladesh, ooops!


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