Saturday, 29 January 2005

Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin

In my first post, I had posed the question: `why does questioning why Sonia Gandhi did not take Indian citizenship for 20 years mean that you are a jingoistic nationalist who is against people of foreign origin ruling the country?’

Let me explain the statement. I am most definitely not against an Indian citizen of foreign origin becoming prime minister. If someone put a gun to my head and told me to choose between Laloo Yadav/Mulayam Singh Yadav/Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi as prime minister, I would have Sonia Gandhi any day. (If the only choices were Laloo, Mulayam, Mayawati, Mamata Bannerjee and Jayalalitha, I’d ask him to go ahead and pull the trigger.)

But since it is claimed that Sonia Gandhi is as Indian (or more Indian, as a lot of the profiles on her are now claiming she is) than any one of us and that she always considered India her home, then certain questions cannot be avoided. The main one for me is: if she did accept India as her home (and stopped speaking in Italian, eating pasta or wearing western dresses after her marriage, as a recent profile will have us believe, never mind various photographs we have seen over the years), then why did she not take up Indian citizenship till the 1980s? I vaguely remember the controversy being raised in the media and it was only after that incident that she applied for citizenship.

That is the only problem I have with Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin. Don’t tell us that your heart always beat for India when it took you a controversy to apply for citizenship.

But I have a problem with Sonia Gandhi per se. It has nothing to do with her parentage. It was about her competence at one point of time, but she seems to be working on that. Nor about her Hindi or lack of it.

The problem I have is with the assumption that the Gandhi family has some kind of divine right to lord it over the Congress Party and the country. That is the only reason Sonia Gandhi was brought to lead the party, reluctant though she was. So my objection to Sonia Gandhi would have remained even if she were Indian born.

I am equally opposed to Maneka Gandhi. People generally tend to absolve Maneka Gandhi of this dynasty perpetuating charge. But wasn’t her umbrage with Mrs Gandhi and subsequent split with the family because Sanjay Gandhi’s mantle was not passed on to her? She worked her way up in politics only because she was forced to.

And let’s not get taken in by the BJP’s fulminations about the Gandhi family dynasty. After all, it is not above using the same name (only it couldn’t get it to work). What else could explain getting Maneka and her son Varun to join the BJP amid much fanfare into the party before the 2004 elections? Or appointing Varun, a complete greenhorn, to the national executive? By the way, the buzz goes that the young boy apparently had the gumption to demand an office bearer’s post! Clearly, this belief in the divine right to rule is clearly imprinted in the DNA of all branches of Indira Gandhi’s family.

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