Sound and Fury

India Today - - INSIDE -

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.



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