25 February, 2021

Arbiter At The Gates

A political biography cobbled together from secondary sources explains how Sonia grew into her true calling

Arbiter At The Gates

So how did the Cinderella of Orbassano, Indira Gandhi’s mute and retiring bahu, survive the brutalities of political life and emerge as India’s most powerful woman? By means of two weapons, as journalist-biographer Rasheed Kidwai seems to suggest in his revised biography of the enigmatic Sonia Gandhi, carrying forward her extraordinary journey to the helm of national affairs. The first is her unflinching ability to wield the butcher’s knife as deftly, if not as ruthlessly, as any of her rivals, both within and outside the Congress, showing a surprisingly good stomach for the blood and mess and loud squealing that this involves. But it is the second weapon she has made uniquely her own, flooring her enemies time and again: her "inner voice".

We heard her inner voice speak up famously on May 18, 2004, when she did the unthinkable by turning down the top job as prime minister. Was it because she was unsure of herself and of running a coalition of unpredictable allies, as critics claimed? Kidwai insists her refusal was not from lack...

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