In no country, except India, is one political family given more importance than every other political leader including the Prime Minister of the country. Ever since the time of Nehru, Congress has been all about one family. During the time of Indira Gandhi, they raised the slogan ‘Indira is India, India is Indira’. In essence, they extended what was previously applied within the party to the entire country. At that the time the slogan rang a bell with the illiterate masses. This is one of the reasons why Rae Bareli and Amethi are secure with the family. One would never find any member of the Nehru family fight an election outside their stronghold.
Bigger place of residence
The official residence of Sonia Gandhi is 10 Janpath while the PM resides is 7 RCR. The former’s bungalow sprawls over 15,181 sq.m as against 14,101 sq. m of the PM. This information was obtained through an RTI application. The question that now arises is whether it is fair for someone who holds no official posts to enjoy benefits at the cost of the taxpayer. Such privileges were extended to Sonia Gandhi by the previous government, even when she held no constitutional post, under the pretext that she had to entertain foreign dignitaries and also citing security reasons.
A popular online pollster ‘My Vote Today’ recently ran a poll seeking public opinion on this issue. They asked people “With 44 MPs in Lok Sabha, should Congress President Sonia Gandhi have an official bungalow larger that the PM of India”? A total of 16,781 votes were registered with 73% of those polled saying that Sonia Gandhi should not have a bigger residence than the Prime Minister.
It is interesting to note that her residence falls under the ‘official bungalow’ category even though she holds no constitutional post. This translates into taxpayer’s money being used to fund someone who is not authorized to such a privilege. In 2013-14 a sum of Rs. 51.43 lakhs was spent on just maintenance of electrical fittings at 10 Janpath. How justified is it to spend such huge sums of money which could be put to better use by investing in developmental projects?
The property, spread over 3.75 acres, is worth Rs. 1600 crores. Public money is being spent on unjustified privileges just because Sonia Gandhi belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi clan. Sycophancy during the Congress era and by the Congress can be expected. However, it is high time that those holding no official posts be given no official privilege. Public money cannot and should not be used to satisfy egos of a few politicians just because they belong to a certain family and carry a certain surname.
Latha Iyer **