Sonia Gandhi walks away from Indian premiership. Leaving Congress feeling like the geeky guy who spends a lot wooing the prettiest girl on campus, takes her to the prom in a limo, they win the King and Queen of the Prom solely because of the girl and then, she politely asks to be dropped off home and hopefully they can do this again sometime. You know?
For Congress, the turnaround was the debacle of India Shining campaigning by BJP and the It-factor contributed by Rahul and Priyanka. Those things are not going away. However Congress, without a Gandhi at the public helm, runs the risk of losing the admittedly-shady nostalgia vote.
Manmohan Singh, the architect of the first economic liberalization in the early 90s, could be an ideal candidate. The Indian stock market has already nose-dived among fears that Congress will go all Socialist on them. Manmohan Singh, educated at OxCam [his thesis was on trade policy], is an accredited free-market, liberal stalwart. He was responsible for opening up Indian economy and working solely at the discretion of Narasimha Rao (then PM) without any support inside or outside of Congress. The news of his possible premiership is already helping the Indian stocks. So, this is at least a positive development for the technorati elites.
Turning towards the impact of this development on Pakistan, this is what Dr. Singh had to say in April:
Dr. Singh: First the NDA talks of peace and then mobilises forces on the borders, spending Rs. 8,000 crores. One fine day they come to Jammu and Kashmir and extend a hand of friendship. What kind of policy is this?
The Hindu: Even during the Lahore Bus diplomacy the NDA termed it a paradigm shift in the stand of the Pakistani establishment. Days later it was realised that Pakistani forces had occupied Kargil.
Dr. Singh: The NDA is rejoicing over the “progress made” at the SAARC summit at Islamabad but from the statement of the Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, it is clear that there is hardly any change in his stand on Jammu and Kashmir. We have always supported the dialogue process but with caution and keeping the country’s overall interests in mind.
The Hindu: Do you think the opening of historical routes with Pakistan will benefit the two countries?
Dr. Singh: We are in favour of making all efforts for normalising people-to-people contacts between the two countries. As far as economic gain is concerned, time will tell but the process first needs to start.