Sound and Fury
In all the 15 hours of tumult which made up the debate on the privilege issue—the shouting, the jeering and the gesticulating which violated the dignity of the Lok Sabha—there was one silent gesture which beat all the rest in sheer political imagery.
The debate was nearing its end on the penultimate day, and the mob-like temper was at its worst. The silent centre of the storm, Mrs Gandhi, sat in the front row, dressed in yellow and black silks, exchanging whispers with colleagues in the Opposition and frowns with those on the Treasury benches.
Then she got up to go, collected her papers, walked down the green carpet to the exit, followed by shouts from Janata backbenchers: “Gayi,gayi, wohgayi (She is going).” Their tone, however, conveyed more than the meaning of the words. They would have sounded lascivious in a less august place.
Mrs Gandhi ignored the shouts at first. As she reached the door, she suddenly turned round to wave back with a mixture of good humour and defiance. Then she froze the waving for a split second and held up the hand in a purely defiant gesture. It looked like the election symbol she had used in Chikmagalur, an ‘I-will-be-back’ proclamation. She was to repeat it 24 hours later as cameras captured her departure for jail.
Her talkative colleague, C.M. Stephen, told waiting reporters as she left for jail: “She’ll come back with the fire of lightning and the thunder of clouds.” Whether she will or not, only time will tell. But her early return to power is probably an exaggerated hope. When Lok Sabha voted on her punishment, Mrs Gandhi demonstrated that she had scored one solid gain already, apart from arousing popular sympathy which she will be able to cash in when she returns to Chikmagalur.
The voting showed she had the backing of twice as many MPs as in Congress(I), and that about two-thirds of the MPs belonging to the rival Swaran Singh Congress have now swung behind her. Apart from the 43 MPs who abstained as they thought the punishment too harsh, 138 voted against Desai’s motion as they believed she should not be punished at all. This is 63 more than Congress(I)’s strength of 75.
INDIRA GANDHI EXITS LOK SABHA