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"Long Live Sonia Gandhi" I saw this slogan painted on different structures all over Hyderabad. Clearly, this amazing woman, born in Italy, but an adopted daughter of India, is much beloved by many of the population.

Sonia Gandhi Facts:

Sonia Gandhi (सोनिया गाँधी) (born December 9, 1946), is an Italian-born Indian politician, the president of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party) and the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. She is currently the chairwoman of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha.

Role in Indian politics

She was elected the Leader of the Opposition of the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999, and in the 2004 election launched an aggressive campaign to unseat the ruling National Democratic Alliance. On May 16 she was unanimously voted to lead a 19-party coalition government which was subsequently named the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

A storm of controversy emerged following her party's victory, as the possibility of a foreign-born Prime Minister caused many (especially amongst the BJP's supporters) to agitate against Sonia. Many prominent leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been voted out of power in the elections, threatened to launch a nationwide agitation if Sonia became the Prime Minister. They alleged that she was not only a foreigner but also a political novice with no experience in public life. A prominent drama-queen, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, even threatened to shave her head if Sonia became Prime Minister. However, on May 18, a day before her scheduled inauguration, she showed that she was no political novice by declining the Prime Minister's post. She cited personal reasons (Atma Prabodha) for doing the same. This served three purposes: first, it robbed the Bharatiya Janata Party of an issue to agitate against; second, it won the leftist media, and, thirdly and most importantly, it laid the political foundation for her son Rahul Gandhi, who she hopes will someday become Prime Minister. Sonia renounced the Prime Minister's post in an extremely dramatic situation, and suggested noted economist Manmohan Singh for the Prime Minister's post, despite pleas by members of the Congress party for Gandhi to reverse her decision. Many of her critics openly accuse her of being the power behind the throne, and nowadays call her the Super Prime Minister, but it is probably true that she exercises great policy influence, and is instrumental in all issues and affairs of keeping the coalition together.

Her lone figure, tragic story (the violent deaths of her husband and mother-in-law left her the sole guardian of her young children, all this while being a foreigner in a foreign land) and her eventual triumph have left her a "God-mother" figure to many people in the country.

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Additional Photos by John Maddocks (jmaddocks) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 204 W: 122 N: 68] (563)
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