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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sonia Gandhi Shifts To Rajya Sabha

Congress matriarch Sonia Gandhi will shortly leave the Lok Sabha, 25 years after her first term, with a flawless electoral record that is all the more remarkable considering her non-Indian origins and the circumstances surrounding her entrée into the country’s tumultuous political scene.

Ms Gandhi, 77, will not be retiring from public life just yet; this is more of a repositioning. She will move to the Rajya Sabha.

She submitted her candidacy papers in Rajasthan today and would succeed former Prime Minister and party stalwart Manmohan Singh, who may retire after a storied five-decade career. The Congress has the numbers to ensure her election.

Sonia Gandhi ran in her first election from the party’s bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka’s Bellary. She won both. That was in 1999, eight years after her husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was slain, and she was convinced to help save the party.

In 2004, she moved to Raebareli, the Congress’s second UP stronghold.

The Congress leader has been a constant presence since 1999, serving as a stabilizing and directing influence for her party, notably during the political and parliamentary turmoil of the past ten years.

In parliament and outside, she frequently allowed her colleagues take center stage, but the generally soft-spoken Ms Gandhi was capable of fierce assaults, such as in September and December last year, when she confronted the BJP over the Women’s Reservation Bill and the widespread suspension of opposition MPs.

In 2018, she slammed the government, claiming, “… PM is very good at lectures… but lectures cannot fill stomachs.” You need dal chawal. Lectures do not heal the ill; you need health centers.”

In 2015, she again took on Mr Modi, this time arguing against his “many fraudulent promises about transparency” in a fight over critical positions such as Chief Information Commissioner.

Ms Gandhi’s position as, perhaps, the foremost opposition politician, also meant she was frequently the target of attacks, particularly given her Italian heritage, with many, including now-ally Sharad Pawar, questioning her political credentials. That line of attack was often employed by the BJP too.

She was, though, rarely fazed, even when she was accused of “lying” by a union minister in 2018.

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