Opposition parties might not be pleased with the re-election of Sonia Gandhi as congress president, but for the rank and file of the Congress, it is a moment of jubliation.
While hundreds of cheering, slogan-shouting party men gathered inside and outside the AICC headquarters at 24 Akbar Road, party top brass from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ailing Arjun Singh pushing his own wheelchair braved the truant weather to celebrate the event on September 3.
Really it was matter of celebration for every congress men as it is a feat no other Congress leader has accomplished – not even her husband, the late Rajiv Gandhi, or her mother-in-law, or her grand father-in-law, the late Jawahar Lal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.
Like a true commander of an army Sonia Gandhi, just after receiving the election certificate from central election authority chairman Oscar Fernandes, re-dedicated herself to the task of re-energising her party.
“Since the beginning, the Congress has been working for every section of the society. Whether we are in government or not, we should not forget this big responsibility,” Sonia told workers and at the same time like a veteran politician she exhorted party men: “Together we can strengthen this great organisation.”
In the last ten year Sonia has become so mature politician that even seasoned leader have become envious of her. The opposition is so threatened with her popularity that it do not want to see her as congress chief for a long time.
Shortly before the Lok Sabha elections in 1998, in response to widespread demands from Congress Party rank and file, she entered public life and became the President of the Indian National Congress Party same year. She campaigned vigorously on behalf of the party but at that time she could not take party to the power.
In 2004 her struggle worked. Congress met with success after defeating BJP-led NDA government in the general elections. The Congress Party unanimously elected her as its leader in Parliament, and she was therefore expected to be sworn in as Prime Minister. However, she declined to accept the position and nominated Dr. Manmohan Singh to lead the coalition government.
Sonia Gandhi nee Maino, was born in Italy on December 9, 1946. After her early education, she attended a foreign language school where she studied English, French and Russian. She met Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge where she was doing an English language course. They were married in New Delhi in 1968.
Sonia spent most of her married life largely as a private citizen looking after her family. She was a companion to her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, during many of her official duties and frequently acted as her hostess. During the years 1984 to 1991 when her husband was Prime Minister and then briefly leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, she assumed a limited public role, mostly accompanying him on his tours in the country and abroad. At the same time, she looked after his parliamentary constituency, Amethi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, concentrating on health-care camps and other welfare activities.
After the assassination of her husband in May 1991, she set up the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, a non-governmental organization, and its associated think-tank, the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for ontemporary Studies. As Chairperson of these, she kept herself occupied in their activities which commemorate her husband’s legacy.
Shortly before the Lok Sabha elections in 1998, in response to widespread demands from Congress Party rank and file, she entered public life. She campaigned vigorously on behalf of the party and became the President of the Indian National Congress Party in April 1998.
Sonia was first elected a Member of Parliament from the Amethi in 1999, following which she became Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In the 2004 General Elections, she led the electoral campaign of her Party which secured the largest number of seats. This enabled the Congress Party to form a coalition government UPA. In this election, she was elected as a Member of Parliament from Rae Bareily in Uttar Pradesh.
As a Chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC) she makes periodic recommendations to the government in areas of socio-economic importance. She is particularly interested in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Health Mission, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and the Communal harmony.
She also takes deep interest in issues related to the environment, empowerment of the disadvantaged, especially women, and the welfare of children.
She has authored two books on her husband, Rajiv and Rajiv’s World, and has edited two volumes of letters exchanged between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi between 1922 and 1964, entitled Freedom’s Daughter and Two Alone, Two Together.
Undoubtedly the re-election of Sonia for the record fourth term as party president is matter of delight, but the nation expects more from her. The country is still passing through many problems. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy and communal enmity are prevalent in many part of India. In the coming days, if she succeeded in addressing these issues, Sonia could become a national leader and would not remain only a congress leader.