Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
Essay No. 01
Mrs. Sonia Maino (Sonia Gandhi) was born on December 9, 1946, in the town of Orbassano (Near Turin), to a building contractor and his wife. She was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic household. In 1964, she went to Cambridge to study English at a language school. She met Mr. Rajiv Gandhi there who was studying Engineering at the University. The couple married in 1968 and she moved into the house of her mother-in-law and the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi. Although she has learnt Hindi, she is not a fluent speaker of the language.
After the assassination of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, she did not intend to enter politics besides being pressured by the Congress Party. But in 1998, she formally entered politics assuming the helm of the Congress Party and declaring herself a candidate for Prime Minister. But her initial efforts were overshadowed by the party’s humiliating defeat by the B. J. P. in the 1999 elections. Later on, she largely through her family name was able to draw large crowds and nearly single-handedly revitalised the Party. However, she remained a somewhat enigmatic figure, and her opposition constantly played off the fact that she was foreign-born and was not a fluent Hindi speaker.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is the most familiar figure in Amethi, her husband’s rural parliamentary constituency in the northern region of Uttar Pradesh. In the 2004 elections, she launched aggressive campaigning. She had been tipped to be the Prime Minister of India following the Party’s surprise victory in the elections. She was unanimously voted to lead a 19-party coalition government.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has presented an ideal instance of service and sacrifice, in announcing that she does not intend to become the Prime Minister. On May 18, 2004, a day before her scheduled nomination, she addressed a meeting of Congress lawmakers and declined to become Prime Minister. Amid indignant shouts from her supporters, she said, “I request you to accept my decision and recognize that I will not reverse it. It is my inner voice, my conscience.” Later, hundreds gathered outside Gandhi’s home in New Delhi. A former provincial Congress legislator held a revolver and threatened to commit suicide against her decision.
However, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is the latest torchbearer of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty. She is the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance. She is representing the Rai Bareilly parliamentary constituency. Gandhi’s name is still revered in India and Congress looked to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to translate that feeling into votes.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
Essay No. 02
Sonia Maino was born on 9 December 1946 to Stefano Maino, a building contractor, and Paolo Preledon on the banks of the Po in Orhassano near Turim in Italy (she is the second of three daughters). In 1965, she went to Cambridge to enroll in an English language school. She met Rajiv Gandhi at the Varsity Restaurant in Cambridge. He was at Trinity College then.
In the year 1967, the marriage of Rajiv and Sonia was announced. In 1968, the marriage of these two took place on the lawns of the Safdarjung house of Indira Gandhi on Vasant Panchami day in February, the same day Indira married Feroze in 1942; Sonia wore the same cotton pink sari that Indira had worn for her wedding, the sari spun by Jawaharlal Nehru while in prison.
In 1970, Rahul was born, Priyanka two years later. In 1980, Sonia became an Indian citizen. In 1980, Rajiv’s brother, Sanjay died in an air crash in June. Rajiv was forced to enter politics—through Sonia opposed it vehemently. In 1981, she contributed to Rajiv’s election campaign in Amethi.
In 1984, Indira Gandhi was shot dead. She then opposed Rajiv becoming prime minister. But reconciled and maintained a low profile as prime minister’s wife.
On 21 May 1991, Rajiv died in a bomb blast in South India. She was then offered the leadership of Congress but gracefully declined. During 1991-97, she focused on Rajiv Gandhi Foundation’s social work. In 1997, she joined the Indian National Congress. During 1998, she campaigned for Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. In March 1998, she became party president. She was also selected as chairperson of the parliamentary party.
On 22 April 1999, she informed the then President, K.R. Narayanan that she had the support of 272 members after the NDA government fell; Samajwadi Party backtracked and Sonia lost face. In October of the same year, she won the Lok Sabha seat from Amethi in UP and Bellary in Karnataka but did not bring the party to power. She became the opposition leader.
During 2004, she launched Jan Sampark Abhiyan to counter L.K. Advani’s Bharat Uday Yatra. She forged alliances with DMK in Tamil Nadu; NCP in Maharashtra; TRS in Andhra Pradesh and JMM in Jharkhand. March 2004 saw Rahul Gandhi nominated to contest from Amethi. Sonia decided to contest herself from Rae Bareli, and Priyanka Vadra campaigned for the Congress.
In May 2004, the Congress party got 145 seats out of 539 making it the single largest party. Sonia was elected Congress Parliamentary Party leader, but declined the post of prime minister and proposed the name of Dr. Manmohan Singh to take over this post. While giving up the prime ministership, Sonia has however retained her control over the organisation and the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP). It was at her instance that the party constitution was amended to enable her to retain the CPP leadership. It will be the first in parliamentary history that the prime minister is not an elected, but a nominated person (Rajya Sabha member).
Italians are by nature, happy persons. They have inner beauty. She does not look her age. Sonia is a slim, gracious, beautiful lady. She exercises tremendous self-control. She has given the country a new lease of life. Change is in the offing-change for the better. The country will indeed be beholden to her for good governance than ever before. The people are going to shower untold blessings on her for doing the country proud nationally and internationally. India will soon be at its best-that is for sure.