The ‘legitimacy’ of Sonia’s politics — A Surya Prakash

The ‘legitimacy’ of Sonia’s politics

By A Surya Prakash
August 16, 2012 |

Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the President’s ‘At Home’ on Independence Day. (AP)

Lal Krishna Advani’s description of the United Progressive Alliance Government as “illegitimate” led to a ruckus in the Lok Sabha last week with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is the de facto head of the Union Government, goading her party MPs to raise a loud protest and demand a retraction from the senior BJP leader.

Sonia Gandhi nee Antonia Maino has indeed come a long way from the days when she was supposedly reticent to lead the Congress and thereafter even more reticent to head the Government. Her alleged act of renunciation in 2004 took sycophancy to new heights when her party men and women began comparing her to Sister Nivedita and Mother Teresa.

However, the live telecast of the Lok Sabha’s proceedings on August 8, which showed an angry Sonia repeatedly gesticulating and becoming part of a coarse drama, must have brought many of them down to earth. She gave people a glimpse of the real Sonia, which was hitherto hidden from public view by the obsequious media.

Since Sonia Gandhi has taken umbrage at the reference to the UPA Government as ‘illegitimate’, and made Advani look like a man who has committed a terrible blunder, we need to examine how righteous was her indignation that day, specially in the context of her own conduct before and after her entry into Indian politics.

Here is a glimpse of that real Sonia and the steps she has taken since her arrival in India and marriage to Rajiv Gandhi in 1968, which is closer to the image one saw last week.

Sonia married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968. Under our Citizenship Act, she could have applied for and obtained Indian citizenship as the spouse of an Indian national in 1973. But she chose not to. She eventually put in her application in April, 1983, 15 years after marriage, and was granted citizenship that month. However, although still an Italian citizen, she entered the voters’ list in the New Delhi Parliamentary Constituency effective January, 1980.

In India, as also in Italy and every other nation, only citizens can be voters and only citizens can hold public office. The Representation of the Peoples Act, 1950, prescribes a one year jail term or fine for persons who make a false declaration about their citizenship and sneak into the voters’ list. But, of course, since Sonia Gandhi is a bahu of the Nehru-Gandhi family, there is nothing ‘illegitimate’ about her conduct!

In 1973, in gross violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, which prohibited foreigners from becoming directors of Indian companies, Sonia Gandhi, an Italian citizen, became Managing Director of Maruti Technical Services Private Limited. Sometime thereafter, again in violation of FERA, which prohibited foreigners from holding shares in Indian companies, Sonia Gandhi acquired 2,000 shares in this company.

In 1974, she became Managing Director of yet another firm – Maruti Heavy Vehicles Private Limited, which was to manufacture road rollers – and thereafter acquired 5,000 shares in it. Both these actions – becoming Managing Director of the company and acquiring shares in it – were violative of FERA, which stipulated imprisonment for terms ranging from six months to seven years on each of these counts. However, she was never prosecuted for any of these offences because, presumably, all this was ‘legitimate’!

In 1999, when The Pioneer ran a series of articles on her citizenship status and the contempt she displayed for Indian laws, Sonia Gandhi displayed her arrogant side (as she did in Parliament last week) and by way of a threat told a television channel that “those who rake up the foreigner issue do not know the stuff I am made of”.

During the Gujarat Assembly election in 2007, she described Chief Minister Narendra Modi as “Maut ka Saudagar” (Merchant of Death). Prior to that, when the National Democratic Alliance was in power, Sonia Gandhi described Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, held in high esteem and respected by the masses, as a “gaddar” and a “liar”. Obviously, the hurling of such abuses and use of such crude expressions is “legitimate”, so long as it comes from an Italian expatriate!

Finally, it must be said that those who are acquainted with the history of her citizenship, politics and conduct since she arrived in India in 1968 are less prone to shocks and surprises when they get to see the real Sonia Gandhi, as they did a week ago.

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