If you have been watching the news recently, you should know by now that Sonia Gandhi has made the most passionate speech of her career.
The Congress president spoke of India lovingly in her latest speech: "But it is here in my country India, it is in its earth that the blood of my loved ones has mingled. It is here that I will breathe my last and it is here that my ashes will mingle with those of my loved ones."
And the person who gave her the much coveted opportunity to do that was none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
|Perhaps, her husband Rajiv Gandhi's entry into politics triggered off a realisation that her life lies here in India. Photo credit: Internet/Business Standard|
Modi recently asked at an election rally in Thiruvanthapuram: "Madam Soniaji, do you have anyone known to you in Italy? Relatives in Italy? Have you gone to Italy?"
It was an extremely foolish move on his part because it put the spotlight back on Sonia and gave her an opportunity to fully play the part of the wronged victim. Which she did, to the hilt.
"Yes I have relatives in Italy. I have a 93-year-old mother and two sisters," said Gandhi in another speech.
She evoked the public emotion in mentioning her old mother and said, "I was born to proud an honest people. I will never be ashamed of them."
She used the speech brilliantly to remind people that she has been in India for 48 years now. She seized the chance to refresh the public's memory of how she came here as a young bride, how she stayed on after the tragic deaths in the family, raised her children in India and has made many contributions to the country through her political career.
She may have been born an Italian, but she is Indian now and has learnt how the country is emotionally attached to family and its roots.Gandhi is used to these "foreigner allegations" and through the years she has perfected her speeches in denouncing them. She has also become a master and to constantly bait her publicly is a misguided strategy.
Her speech was well played and prominently reported by the media. Bollywood is probably taking notes and the citizens were silently and privately applauding.
The BJP has played this Italian connection to death. It's becoming tedious. And although they keep losing the battle, they keep trying to stir up the hornet's nest in many ways.
When are they finally going to realise that it has never impressed the public. From day one, Sonia has been the perfect "bahu", while Maneka has been the imperfect one. She was also the perfect political "bahu", taking over the reins of the family. During her time in India, she avoided a visit with the Pope to downplay her Roman Catholic allegiance.
The BJP and other politicians use every chance they get to jump at Sonia, whether it's her white skin, Italian descent, her accented Hindi and her "seditious heart". It's the same "outsider" narrative that they keep harping on.
All those opponents who want to make fun of her command over Hindi, what about the Indians who are born there and still can't speak the language properly?
And it is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the BJP to praise Modi's "chaiwala" humble beginnings and to ridicule Sonia's "Italian waitress" student job, like Subramanian Swamy routinely does.
What about the overseas BJP pals of Modi? He treats them like rock stars and they all have American or British passports? How about that? He praises them and promises them a visa on arrival.
Why does the BJP insist on aligning patriotism with a person's citizenship? Why don't they remember that there is a long list of home grown Indian politicians who are born and raised in the country and who have proved that they have no shame or qualms about freely robbing their motherland blind?
Does the name Lalu Prasad Yadav ring a bell?
Tax evaders, bankruptcy scandals and other dubious deeds by Indians who conveniently flee abroad are all forgotten. They were raised in India.
They did not have previous foreign passports. I do understand the reservations that some had like Sushma Swaraj who opposed the idea of Sonia becoming a PM because she was a foreigner, but then when it came down to it, the Congress president walked away from the position.
She played her cards well. She earned the respect of the nation. It might be a good idea to keep that in mind when criticising her.
But it's not only the politicians. There are journalists who have always been on board with the "Let's shame and disgrace Gandhi for her Italian origin."
Journalist, columnist and author Tavleen Singh's obsessive "stalking" of Sonia for decades has given her enough material for two books - Durbar and India's Broken Tryst.
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Singh says she will not apologise for her "obsession" with Sonia and will continue to pursue it.
I respect a journalist's relentless pursuit of a story but after decades of research, I am not sure she has enough to prosecute Sonia in a public court of opinion.
Which is why she seems to be strengthening her attacks and aligning them closely with the BJP's Hindutva agenda. Consider one of her latest tweets: "If Sonia Gandhi loves India so much why did she become an Indian citizen only in 1983 after Rajiv entered politics?"
What kind of a question is that? Does changing her citizenship make her public enemy number one?
There are many reasons why a spouse retains her foreign passport. Perhaps, Rajiv's entry into politics triggered off a realisation that her life lies here in India, so she went ahead and took the plunge.
Is Singh trying to insinuate that Sonia is not loyal to India? She is making it reasonable to assume that Sonia is involved in the Agusta Westland helicopter scandal? That there was an Italian connection?
Why can't it be investigated independently without factoring in Sonia's previous passport?
We could put aside Singh and her shenanigans. But the BJP should not be following her lead because every time the party mocks the Congress president, it shames itself without realising it.
If Sonia is truly guilty of corruption, she must be exposed, tried and punished.
Either way, isn't it time to put the story of her Italian roots to rest?