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Sonia Gandhi And The Hypocrisy
Of The Saffron NRIs

By Vijay Prashad

03 June, 2004
Little India

It is a disgrace on the BJP that its leaders revile the Constitution openly and use every racist and cruelly cultural nationalist argument against Sonia Gandhi.

I must admit I have never had anything but contempt for the post-1967 Congress Party. It had begun to betray the Freedom Movement before then. But in the 1970s, the Congress had jettisoned all the values of the anti-colonial struggle and become the party of the establishment. All the "Garibi Hataos" (Remove Poverty) slogans could not conceal the fact that Indira Gandhi's party had become enveloped in corruption and nepotism. It shifted polices only for power and profit, rather than the public interest.When Mrs. Gandhi was killed in 1984, I did not feel any happiness. Such assassinations do not solve the broader social problems within the institutions of India and within the Congress Party.

Indeed, the Congress then unleashed its cadre to kill three thousand Sikhs in the matter of three days. The 20th anniversary of this carnage is this November.Two of the leaders who have been publicly accused of having a hand in this pogrom are back as members of the Lok Sabha. The son of another thug is also going to take a seat on the treasury benches. It is fitting that we shall have a Sikh Prime Minister; India remembers the Sikhs killed by his own party two decades ago.I heard the news of the Tamil Tigers' assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in Chicago bookstore. The news made me ill, and it was hard to explain to my friends why I had to rush home and call friends in India.

They knew that I had nothing but contempt for Rajiv. He had been a disaster for India, heeding the words of his advisors Buta Singh and Arun Nehru to reopen the wounds of Ayodhya, and bankrupting the exchequer with his Bofors adventure and his infatuation with NRI Sam Pitroda. Rajiv Gandhi's legacy to India was the rise of the BJP (who had hijacked his Ayodhya antics, and almost took away Buta Singh and Arun Nehru from him as well), and the entry of the Indian government into a relationship with the IMF.

Remember that in July 1991,the Indian government had to air-lift 47 tons of gold to the Bank of London as security against a short-term hard currency loan of $400 million. Manmohan Singh then said, "Negotiations with the IMF were difficult because the world has changed. India is not immune. India has to survive and flourish in a world we cannot change in our own image. Economic relations are power relations. We are not living in a morality play."

Actually, all this was nonsense, because India had to survive not a changed world, but it had to survive the hefty import bill left behind after Rajiv Gandhi had left us for his next life.Yet, there was sorrow at the death of a man who had, whatever his own motives, given himself to a profession that he detested. He had seen the turmoil of office with his grandfather, mother and brother, and he quite openly spoke out against his own involvement.

Circumstances and a false sense of family destiny, as well as the Congress' pathological inability to cultivate national leaders contributed to his entry. He should have been voted out of office and he should have moved to a quiet place to raise his family. The suicide bomber did not let this happen. She took him with her.

Rajiv and Sonia's daughter Priyanka Vadra is the smartest of the lot. She has young children and has an intimate knowledge of what "leadership" means to family life. She campaigned for the party and will advise it, but she will not, in the present, be an active parliamentarian or anything further. Her brother, Rahul, is a novice, perhaps more so than Rajiv who had begun to assist his mother and work for the Congress long before he entered parliament to claim what has become the birthright of the Gandhi family.Sonia Gandhi's own refusal to become the PM has to be seen in this lineage. Why would she want to put herself in the line of fire when the opposition to the Congress seems prone to want to kill its leaders rather than tackle the party at the hustings?

It is a disgrace on the BJP that its leaders revile the Constitution openly and use every racist and cruelly cultural nationalist argument against Sonia Gandhi's right as an Indian citizen, member of parliament and leader of the Congress Parliamentary Committee to hold the highest elected office in the land. Having lost the election fair and square, Sushma Swaraj threatened to shave her hair and Narendra Modi once again began his nonsense about "Italy ki beti."

The Constitution says that anyone who is a citizen can be prime minister, and it makes no distinction in the manner of the US government between a naturalized citizen and a citizen by birth. There is no such distinction in India, where there is only one kind of citizen.Meanwhile, in the land of Indian America, the response from the supporters of the BJP has been as atrocious, but more hypocritical. Here we champion pluralism and demand the rights of Hindus to worship as they must and fight to get Indian (sorry, Hindu) Americans elected to political office. We want our rights here as human beings, and indeed are incensed when we are discriminated against. All this is as it should be. Why should we not demand pluralism, tolerance, rationality and dialogue?

But these same people look back to India with a perverted kind of nostalgia, tempered by guilt for having left in the first place, and want to see Bharatmata given over only to Hindus and to have only Hindus in power.Govindacharaya is their hero because he went to see the president and demanded that a woman born in Italy not be allowed (he is charitable, for he says that for now he will not raise the issue about the foreignness of the children).These same Yankee Hindutvawadis want to see India as a theocracy and a racially defined state, one that says Hindus first, Hindus second, Hindus forever. Others are not welcome, or if they are, they must live under the sufferance of the Hindus.

When Sonia Gandhi almost became prime minister, the web bristled with the vitriol of our Yankee Hindutva writers, many of whom piled on abuses that are not fit to be printed.They wrote malevolently and violently with no sense of the Hindu tolerance that they often mouth. The anti-Christian tendency was so strong that I was reminded of the anger at Bobby Jindal's conversion to Christianity. Actually, by the logic of these Yankee Hindutva writers, Bobby did the right thing: when in America, become Christian, because why should Hindus be allowed to attain office here when they can do so in Mother India?

The Congress is in power. The saffron NRIs cannot bear it. Their emergence in the US had coincided with the rise of the BJP in India. They got B.K. Agnihotri as ambassador at large, they got the relationship between India and Israel going, to open doors for their relationship with the Israeli lobby in Washington, D.C., they got some India newspapers to open their columns to their intellectuals.

Suddenly Hindutva had become the in-thing, whose fashion might fade with the election results. The anger on the Internet, and elsewhere, against Sonia Gandhi is as much a result of their frustration at being turned away by the people. They had no economic agenda to deal with IMFundamentalism, and nothing to offer the unemployed and hungry. All they wanted to feed
the people for votes is the gloss of "India Shining" and the sheen of Hindutva. The Indian electorate spurned them.Good for them. Good for Sonia Gandhi for listening to her "inner voice." Some of these fascists are crazy and one of them might well have assassinated her. That was a provocation of little worth. Her family has shed enough blood for its own dynastic delusions. We don't need more Gandhian martyrs.

In the darkest of nights, the stars are seen clearest. The rule of Hindutva was a dark night, and the struggles of India's people had the luster of stars. Let us hope that these stars will rule their leaders, egg them to justice and refuse to entertain intolerance and cruelty again.