New Delhi: It has truly come a full circle. The longest serving Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, hit the road in a show of solidarity for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a day after a special court summoned him as “accused” over the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocation scam.
The last time Sonia took part in a street protest and was detained was in 2000 in New Delhi, when she campaigned against the then Atal Behari Vajpayee-led government. That was when she was still warming up to her political role, when the agitation had been an initiation programme of sorts.
But on Wednesday, a long road already traversed, she put up a determined face as she led her party colleagues towards Singh’s bungalow and back — gone were the nervous laughs.
Just about everyone who is anyone in the Congress — A K Antony, Ghualm Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, P C Thomas, P Chidambaram, Mohsina Kidwai, Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh, T Subbirami Reddy and other senior and middle rung leaders — took part in the solidarity march.
It was reportedly Gandhi’s idea to call the members of the Congress Working Committee and Parliamentarians to the AICC headquarters early on Thursday morning in a show of unity and to send across the message that the party would “do everything in its capacity to defend’’ the former PM. It was also a closing of ranks as a sense of being under siege took over the grand old party. “Manmohan Singh is our former prime minister, he is known not only in the country but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity. We are here to offer support and solidarity. The Congress is fully behind him and we shall fight this legally with all the means at our command. We are sure and convinced that he will be vindicated,” Gandhi told the waiting media, after a short meeting at Singh’s residence.
Thereafter, she walked back to her own residence, around the bend.
A senior party leader said that while the primary idea was to stand behind Singh, the march also indicated that the party wants to do away with the image that it does not unite and stand behind its top leadership in any situation.
“I am upset, but this is a part of life,” Singh said on Wednesday after the court summons. Singh is likely to make an appeal against the summons from the special court, according to Congress sources.
Post-solidarity march, the MPs went to Parliament and even Singh was seen in Rajya Sabha, where members cutting across party lines were seen coming and expressing their solidarity for him.
Ajay Maken said it would be difficult to find a more honest person in public life than Dr Manmohan Singh, while Chidambaram said he was confident that the summons against the former PM will stand withdrawn after some time.