Vantage point

Friday, October 18, 2002


Author�s Note: This story is set in the future, not very distant future, but 2004. Whatever I have written is something that my freakish mind thought up, and is to be read only as a story. I do not will this to happen.

3:00 p.m. September 14th 2004
Nagpur, India

The huge crowd waited impatiently as the hot sun beat down mercilessly on them. A good monsoon had left the residents of the Orange City relieved and now, as the clouds had moved on to the north of the country, summer was back for a short stint before it gave way to a frail winter. The whole ground was packed to capacity.

�I hope she comes soon. This heat is getting unbearable� Kamla said to her sister Mohini. Both were maids by professions and had been working for the whole morning and a bit of the afternoon. It was Kamla�s idea that they attend this �meeting� as it was called. She had been proud of the fact that she had voted in every election since she turned eighteen and she had voted for the Congress Party every time. This time too, she would vote for the Congress. The General Elections were just about a fortnight away and Nagpur went to polls in the first phase.

�Look at that man� Mohini nudged Kamala. She followed Mohini�s eyes as they fell on a man who was crouching about 10 feet away from them. He was obviously praying with both his palms joined together. It seemed as if he was furiously muttering some chant to himself.

�What a place he has chosen to pray�, Kamala laughed. �I think he is praying for Soniajee to come soon.�

Kamala was right. The man was praying for it. And the prayers seemed to have been answered. There was commotion at the entrance of the ground, and people shouted, �Tya aalya, tya aalya (she has come, she has come)�. The motorcade had arrived. Sonia Gandhi, the President of the oldest political party in India had arrived to address a meeting in Nagpur, the city that housed the Headquarters of the party�s oldest surviving opponents, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The latest opinion polls had shown that the 2004 elections would throw up a hung parliament yet again. However it was clear that the ruling coalition, led by the BJP was sure to lose power. The Congress, though all set to emerge as the single largest party, would still fall short of the magic figure of 272 by almost 60 seats, after including the regional allies.

By going in for Sonia Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate, many felt the Congress had committed political hara-kiri. She was an Italian who had married the eldest scion of the Gandhi family, and the fact that she was a foreigner had not helped her chances any.
In fact the BJP in its campaign had coined a slogan � �Videshi nahi banenge, Pradhan Mantri Bharat Ke!� (Foreigners shall not become Prime Ministers of India). The BJP workers kept chanting this nationalistic slogan at every rally and it had become as common as a cola ad-line.

Still, the dissatisfaction among the Indian population about the incumbent government was such that it was sure to be voted out. Many analysts said that had Sonia Gandhi not been the candidate, the Congress could have aspired to form a government on its own. Others however said that a Congress led coalition could still be cobbled up and she could still occupy the top position in the world�s largest democracy.

Sonia Gandhi walked on the narrow carpeted pathway that led to the stage. She had her head covered with the pallu of her sari as she folded her hands and said �Namaskar� to the people on either side of the pathway. Four TV cameras belonging to four separate news channels followed her, as did the correspondents.

�She is coming close to us�, said Kamala grabbing Mohini�s arm excitedly. They were sitting quite close to the wooden barriers that separated the crowd from the pathway. They got up, and stood leaning against the wooden barrier. A lot of people also crowded near the barrier to get a glimpse of the �bahu� (daughter-in-law) of the Gandhi family. Kamala hardly noticed that the praying man was now standing behind her, clutching at a cloth bag in his hand. Finally Sonia Gandhi approached, with the TV cameras surrounding her.

� Her skin is as white as flour� Mohini said �And look at���.�

Mohini could not complete her statement since the man behind her pushed her and Kamala aside. They both fell, just as Sonia Gandhi was right next to them.

There was a loud gunshot. Sonia Gandhi fell dead right in front of Kamala�s eyes. In fact some blood fell on Kamala�s clothes.

There were two more gunshots, as two Congress workers who had been on duty at the wooden barrier, keeping the people away from the pathway also dropped.

Then they heard a loud cry.

�Videshi nahi banenge, Pradhan Mantri Bharat Ke!�

And there was another gunshot. The man had yelled this looking at the TV cameras and then shot himself in the head. The correspondents and the cameramen took a few seconds to realize that death which seemed such a surety till moments ago was not a threat to them anymore, and they started chattering into their mikes.


8:05 p.m. September 14 2004
A house in New Delhi, India

A news channel on the television was being watched carefully by two men.

��.and it has been confirmed now that the assassin of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was indeed an RSS member by the name of Arun Bhosale. The RSS has condemned the assassination and said that Mr. Bhosale was acting alone. It says it has no hand in this and�..�

The older man turned the TV off. He got up and went to the mini-bar he had in his living room and opened a bottle of Scotch whisky. The younger man followed him.

�That is what was crucial. It had to be revealed that he was an RSS member. Now no one can stop us from winning.� He said.

� You really are a genius, Sir� the younger man said �I know it may sound cliched but you really have killed two birds with one stone. How on earth did you plan this so cleanly?�

�It was easy to get a man to do so. I however never met the man personally because if he realized that it was a Congress Party member who was financing his activities, he would have smelt something rotten. Fortunately he was not too bright and he died thinking he is doing the RSS a great favour�

� You are right, Sir. Now let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that the emotional nature of our countrymen is brought to fore again, like the way it was in 1984 and 1991.�

�Oh they will.� The older man said. �Many people have made the mistake of berating us Congress leaders for bringing Sonia into the party. They said that the Congress was now ideologically bankrupt. But they did not realize our masterplan.�

�Our?� the younger man was puzzled.

�Oh yes, such an elaborate plan requires many heads, kid. Have you played chess?�

�Yes, I used to be good at it in college, but I quit it.�

�Never quit chess if you want to be a politician, kid, never� the older man said �A military man and a politician should always be good at chess. You know that if a pawn walks moves six squares it can become queen?�

�Yes, sir, I know that�

�Well, everyone made the mistake of assuming that we wanted to make this pawn a queen. While the enemy was trying its level best to stop the pawn from becoming queen, the rest of us knights, rooks and bishops were at our job, kid. We never wanted her to become queen. We were always going to sacrifice her one square away from Queenhood before we moved in for the final checkmate.�

�Brilliant, Sir absolutely brilliant. In their own castle too, Nagpur.�

�So kid, learn from this. Things are not what they seem to be in politics. Maybe you will succeed.�

�Yes sir. What shall we toast to?� the younger man said as he realized his drink was going warm.

�To power�

�To power� they both raised their glasses.


9:00 p.m. October 22 2004
Congress Headquarters,
Akbar Road, New Delhi.

A TV was on and throngs of Congress workers were listening to it attentively as the correspondent spoke

�So the final results are in. The final tally of the Congress Party stands at 335, which is 63 seats more than the required majority. As expected, the sympathy factor has tilted the scales of a nation already dissatisfied with the Vajpayee government. It is expected that the President will extend an invitation to the Congress party to form the next government. Now the attention shifts to within the Congress as the race for Prime Ministership hots up. As of now the clear leader in this race is Mr. ______________ who had been given a lot of power and responsibilities by Mrs. Gandhi in the last two years. The Congress has swept the state he comes from and he seems all set to head the next Government of India. Of course��..�

The Congress party headquarters was the scene of two emotions. While the sorrow of Sonia Gandhi�s death was still apparent, as was seen by the numerous garlanded photographs in the office, there was also palpable joy at this electoral victory. Everyone knew that the victory was largely owing to the mindless assassination by an RSS fanatic, even though the Congress Spokeswoman had said

� The splendid victory of the Congress party in the elections is an indication of the trust that India places in us to take it forward on a path of progress. It shows that the people are tired of the BJP�s fanatic and corrupt leaders and want more responsible and experienced leaders now. Attributing this victory to the so called �sympathy factor� is not only demeaning to the political maturity of the country, but also insulting to the memory of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. We wish she were here to lead us and pray that her soul rest in peace��..�


10:00 p.m. October 22 2004
A house in New Delhi, India

The two men sat with glasses in their hands. They had just returned from a meeting in the headquarters. The leader was to be chosen the next day by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) by an election. It all looked very rosy. The two men sat in the study, away from the noise, with strict orders not to be disturbed, even if the President himself calls.

�Congratulations, Sir. Or should I say Prime Minister?� the younger man beamed. Not only was he happy that his mentor was all set to rule the country, but also that he himself would surely be in the cabinet, and hold a powerful post.

The older man smiled.

�We need to be smart now, though. We cannot afford to commit the same mistakes that our predecessors committed. It is up to us to rejuvenate the Congress Party and make it a strong successful entity again. We need to make sure that the BJP can never challenge us again. Already it is disgraced because of the assassination, but we need to solve this Ayodhya nonsense for once and for all, or they will come back�..�

The mobile rang. It belonged to the older man, and he had given the number only to his personal secretary. She would not call unless it was absolutely urgent.

� This better be important� he growled.

�Turn the TV on� his secretary said. He did so.

The face of a young woman filled the screen. The hair was short and the skin was fair. The pretty face had taken the best of Kashmiri and Italian genes. Her eyes showed sorrow, but her face showed determination, just like her grandmother�s face would show in the most difficult of times.

��.of my family have laid down their lives for the country. I can�t ignore my duty to the country and the party in a time like this. I have been requested by hundreds and thousands of Congress Party members to join the party but I have always given my personal life more importance. Now I cannot be so selfish. I will be joining the party today and at the request of thousands of my well-wishers and supporters from the party, shall be filing in my nomination for tomorrow�s AICC��.�

The older man turned the TV off. His face was red with rage. The younger man did not know what to say.

�That is a pawn I ignored, kid. The pawn that has now become queen.�


On October 31st 2004, 20 years after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own body guards, her granddaughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadera was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India.