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Mr speaker, Sir! - Statesman

The Editorial ()
March 25, 1998

Title: Mr speaker, Sir!
Author: The Editorial
Publication: Statesman
Date: March 25, 1998

Yet again, the BJP have exposed the bankruptcy of thought and
action in the Congress, now under new management, and in the
United Front, under no management at all. P A Sangma, the Speaker
of the dissolved Lok Sabha, agreed to serve again if, but only
if, he were the consensus choice of the Congress, the United
Front and the BJP. Congress had earlier jumped the gun and
adopted him after a hurried meeting with the Chairman of the
Congress Parliamentary Party, Sonia Gandhi. Rightly or wrongly
the convention is that the Speaker belongs to the ruling party
and the Deputy Speaker to the Opposition. But conventions are for
the birds. Sonia decided that Sangma's proximity to her required
that he be her party's candidate and let lesser mortals fall in
line. It is possible to feel a little sorry for Sangma who was
certainly taken for a ride. He made a popular Speaker and if he
did not hide his links with the Congress he made up by
participating in a BJP training course for their M Ps. It was not
difficult to see that Sangma had some remaining ambitions left
and this newspaper had made it plain that he was overreaching

In the event the BJP outplayed them all. It is no answer to say
that they did not play fair, leading Sangma up the garden path.
Without defending them, it is necessary to ask who had the last
opportunity to turn the tables on the BJP. Reports of the lady of
Janpath being difficult to reach and when reached being difficult
to extract assorted verdicts from, have more than a grain of
truth. After exhausting herself taking over the Congress party,
she retired and left behind a committee of six chosen by her to
negotiate everything relating to Parliament. Sonia is like Bal
Thackeray, she wants to be absolute boss even as she feigns
unconcern but woe betide anyone who takes the gesture seriously.
Only two of her committee of six were available, a prospect to
which her lack of experience did not alert her. Consider what
might have been. Naidu was looking for an opportunity to set a
distance between himself and the Front as he watched them drift
inevitably to the Congress. A Narasimha Rao would have called
Naidu and told him that now that he (Naidu) was interested in the
speakership for one of his own, the Congress would be delighted
to support him. After some characteristic dithering, Sharad
Pawar would have done the same. It would have forced Naidu to get
back on top of the fence on which he has been perched since the
election results were declared and the Congress and the Front
would have lived to fight another day. But Sonia's six-man
committee had to meet and consider, then journey to 10 janpath,
talk to the SPG guards at the gate, gain admission to the
faithful George at best, who in turn would have to go looking for
madam. Assuming she was free and in a mood to listen, she would
have dismissed the flunkeys to reassemble when she was ready with
her decision. This is no way to lead a party. The Congress is
destined to suffer much more before the penny drops in the minds
of those who have so far refused to think.

The result is predictable and not unwelcome. Ganta Mohana Chandra
Balayogi is Mr Speaker of the 12th Lok Sabha.

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