Vol 3, PW 9 (26 May 99) People & Policy

Now that Sonia Gandhi has announced her intention to re-enter the political fray, we can expect a dirty election campaign ahead.

Already her opponents are releasing details about her past. Some Indian commentators argue the real issue is not the fact she is of foreign origin, but her lack of experience, track record and qualifications.

In the weeks ahead, Sonia Gandhi will come under the scrutiny of a hostile press, which has already let it be known that:- *She is only a high school graduate and has no university education. *While studying in Cambridge when she met Rajiv, she was an "au-pair" and learning English at an unknown school.

*She married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968 and was eligible to become an Indian citizen 5 years later but waited until April 1983. *It is still unclear if she has renounced her Italian citizenship.

An irritated Pranab Mukherjee, Congress Party spokesman, recently had to admit that he did not know. Indian citizen are not allowed dual citizenship.

*According to Maneka Gandhi, Sonias sister-in-law and BJP ally, in 1977 when Congress lost the elections, Sonia Gandhi and her children took refuge in the Italian Embassy in Delhi, ready to flee to Italy. *She has never given an interview to the press.

Her views on economic, political or other issues are not known. No one knows her stand on foreign investment, disinvestment, insurance bill, patents, WTO, hydrocarbon deregulation, telecoms etc.

*She has no experience of parliament or administration. The only posts she has held is Chair of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and President of the Indian National Congress.