Sonia Gandhi has finally taken it upon herself to articulate concerns among sections of people about the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), contending that there is no smoke without fire and the suspicions must be satisfactorily addressed.
“Different kinds of suspicions have come up in our country about the electoral process in the last few years. There are lots of people who say the suspicions are legitimate. There are people who also say there is no evidence to prove this. But as the saying goes, ‘there is no smoke without fire’,” Sonia told a public meeting in Rae Bareli on Wednesday.
Sonia added: “There has to be a solution to such suspicions. Today, along with Rae Bareli, I bow to the truth of even those voters who feel their vote didn’t go to the Congress, went somewhere else for some reasons.”
Euphemistically hinting at rigging, she has given voice to those who suspect their votes were not correctly registered or not counted only after receiving a large number of complaints from Congress workers and independent citizens about the sanctity of the exercise that gave Narendra Modi a bigger mandate.
While other leaders such as Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Chandrababu Naidu have made direct references to alleged EVM manipulation, the Congress leadership has chosen to remain silent despite grave concerns.
Some influential Congress leaders reject the theory of manipulation. Others feel they should move cautiously after such a massive defeat and raise this matter only after gathering evidence.
The dominant view in the Congress is that credible evidence won’t come without an independent probe and a thorough checking of a large number of EVMs.
The doubts have deepened after the booth-wise analyses in some constituencies, which show a mismatch between physical support and the votes polled in favour of the party candidate.
Some leaders are still not convinced and they contend that other factors like money and coercion could have played a role.
But the intriguing aspect of Congress politics is the decision of both Sonia and Rahul to speak up about the sanctity of the electoral process when the entire party has fallen silent.
While Congress spokespersons are not being sent to television studios, senior leaders have avoided analysing the reasons for the disastrous performance. A few media conferences that have taken place after May 23 have dealt with sundry governance issues.
Rahul did tell the party’s MPs earlier this month that “there is not one institution that did not fight you and tried to stop you from coming into the Lok Sabha” but the party’s communication department has been in a coma. Other senior leaders have chosen not to offer any political critique of the methods deployed by Modi and Amit Shah to win the election.
Many of them blame Rahul for leaving the party rudderless at this critical juncture but the so-called collective leadership too failed to lift the sinking boat after Rahul’s offer to resign and help whoever is chosen to be become the new president. After almost 20 days, the party looks like an abandoned ship.
But Sonia, who has demonstrated the grit to stand firm in extreme adversity on several occasions in the past, again intervened to signal that the family has not given up.
She mounted a fierce offensive: “We bow to the wish of the voter. But you all were witness to the different kinds of ploys woven to mislead the voters. The country understands what was done was moral or not. I feel nothing can be more unfortunate for India that all ethics and norms are forgotten to capture power.”
Contending that those who conduct politics only for their own interests cannot appreciate value systems that emerged after immense sacrifice and struggle, she warned Congress supporters not to indulge in any activity in that can damage the foundational principles of our democracy. “Mahatma Gandhi took bullets on his chest. Indira and Rajiv Gandhi laid down their lives. It is easy to laugh away these sacrifices but our democracy matured after immeasurable struggle, hard work and foresight,” Sonia said.
Without explicitly questioning the rationale for this mandate, she said: “You all know what kind of achchhe din were brought by this Government. You know how many promises were fulfilled. If they still returned with a bigger mandate, I congratulate them. We will stand with the government for the country’s development, welfare of the poor and strengthening of democracy. But we will fight fiercely if they tried to weaken the Constitution and democracy and acted against the interests of the weak and the deprived.”
Sonia declared: “This land has everybody’s blood and toil; every citizen has equal rights in all aspects. The Congress is dedicated to protection of constitutional values. I stress, we will demolish any conspiracy to undermine India’s basic principles, traditions and beliefs. Our number is less in Parliament but there is world outside legislatures. A large number of voters are still with the Congress and we can come out on the streets in national interest.”