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'Age-Old Indian Traditions'
Was "security threat" the reason why Rahul and Priyanka advised Sonia Gandhi to refuse the PM's post?
Family sources say it may have been one factor. But more than that, neither Rahul, Priyanka nor Sonia herself wanted the BJP to use her "foreign origins" to destabilise the government. Says a Sonia aide: "The family didn't want strife across the country on the foreigner issue. It was evident the BJP and the Sangh parivar would not have confined the battle against Sonia to Parliament alone. They would have taken it to the streets."
Sonia herself told Left leaders this before announcing her decision."I don't want to be the cause of a divisive agenda. I want this government to function smoothly for five years."
So the security threat could at best have been a minor consideration. Says a close aide to Priyanka: "The way both Rahul and Priyanka mingled freely with the crowds and Sonia reached out to people at her roadshows through the campaign, I don't believe they would cite that to ask her to withdraw her name." Rahul himself denied it: "Hum to security threat ko kapdey ki tarah pahente hain (security threat is as routine as changing clothes for us)."
Apart from the slightly off-the-cuff remarks a visibly emotional Rahul made on the BJP following his mother's historical decision to refuse the PM's chair, the close-knit family is extremely reluctant to publicly comment on the issue. "BJP ne Mahatma Gandhi ko maara. Inhone mere pita ko chor kaha aur meri maa ke baare me buri baaten kahi. Par ham log inse darte nahin. In par pity karte hain. Yeh log ek sad joke hain (The BJP got Mahatma Gandhi killed. They called my father a thief and verbally abused my mother. But we're not scared of them. We only pity them. The BJP is a sad joke)," Rahul said. His sister Priyanka has been more restrained. She didn't attack the BJP, nor did she specify any reasons for her mother's decision. "My mother has always taken her decisions keeping everything in mind," Priyanka said.
The Gandhi children are now being hailed as the catalysts behind resurrecting the Congress' lacklustre campaign. Rahul's political naivete had resulted, sometimes, in misdirected attacks against the SP—the party's ally in the government to be formed—but no can deny that he was a major hit in UP. As for Priyanka, she had steered her mother's campaign in Rae Bareli in her usual effervescent manner.
While Rahul revealed his mother had taken the decision not to accept the PM's chair long back, sources say the family minutely analysed the implications of the anti-foreign origin campaign after the election results came in. Heading a minority government with its most stable component, the Left, opting to stay out is difficult enough without the Opposition resorting to frenzied personal attacks.
But having stolen the BJP's thunder by following what Priyanka called the "age-old Indian tradition" of renunciation, the Gandhi scions are a happy lot. For once, the Sangh parivar has clearly been beaten by the original first family of India.