In 2003, ahead of the cricket World Cup in South Africa, the Sri Lankan team brought back its legend Aravinda de Silva from wilderness hoping that the man, whose exploits made it the champion in 1996, will work his magic again.

Aravinda was, however, a pale shadow of his former self then. He was less than fully fit. His form was patchy. His international outings till that previous year were far and few between. But rather than going for a young player, Lanka conservatively went for an older player based on his previous glory.

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In the event, Sri Lanka huffed and puffed up its way into the semi-finals where it was humiliated by a fighting-fit Aussies. And Aravinda announced his doleful retirement on the day his team was knocked out unceremoniously in the World Cup.

It is a cautionary story worth remembering in the context of politics, too. In the context of Sonia Gandhi, to be precise.

Congress sticking with Sonia for Rae Bareli constituency seems a case of misplaced hope triumphing over logical reasoning, as it happened with Aravinda and Sri Lanka.

Sonia, the former president of the Congress, has been the least seen leader of the party in this election campaign.  In a sense, it is understandable. She has her health issues, and she deserves all space and time to recuperate. Only the cussed will question that.

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But questions can surely be raised about the Congress' wisdom of making her contest from Rae Bareli. Sonia's presence will be certainly reassuring to the Congress party. But to foist a person, who is suffering from health complications, on unsuspecting electorate is not reassuring to the electorate. It is to heap disrespect on people by gaming their loyalty.

Sonia, in her present situation, cannot be expected to be at hand to serve the constituency. Already the constituency is being taken care of mostly by her daughter Priyanka only. This is problematic as it degrades democracy to dynastic politics through default and deceit. Rae Bareli is not property of Gandhi household to be shared between mom and daughter. 

Of course, such mockery of democracy is not exactly new to Indian politics.

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In 2016, in Tamil Nadu, the then DMK chief M Karunanidhi was suffering health complications due to age-related ailments. He campaigned sparingly. Much of the electioneering was spearheaded by his son MK Stalin. Every one understood that Stalin was in charge. But the DMK, which was targeting its campaign on young voters, rather than project Stalin as its chief ministerial candidate, still said Karunanidhi was its choice.

In the event, an election that the DMK should have won, considering that there was a set anti-incumbency mood in the state at that time, still went to the AIADMK. The DMK paid a price for still focusing its energies around Karunanidhi.

Though Karunanidhi himself won from Tiruvarur, he couldn't do anything of note as an MLA, and he eventually died last year. And the constituency is without a legislative representative since then. The people are suffering because a party chose to be considerate and loyal to its patriarch.
It is not our case to say that ageing people should step aside. That would be patently wrong and 'ageist', which is an unacceptable position. One can also understand and appreciate what Sonia means to the Congress. 

But parties should be more responsible in making candidates with known health issues to contest elections. In Sonia's case, it not only amounts to playing a fraud on the voters of Rae Bareli, but also weakens the party's campaign in totality. If, say, Priyanka had stood from Rae Bareli, it would have greatly enthused the party cadre and motivated them to better heights.

Our wish is for Sonia's health to get better and, if she wins, to serve the constituency long and well. But in current circumstances, when she is picking and choosing her campaign days, we wish the Congress had taken a better decision for itself and for the electorate of Rae Bareli.