Congress celebrates Sonia’s 10 years as its head

March 14th, 2008 - 9:42 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) It was jubilation time for Congress workers Friday as party president Sonia Gandhi - named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes - completed a decade as the head of India’s oldest party, an achievement that none of her illustrious predecessors could claim. A battery of Congress leaders led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached the 10 Janpath, her official residence, to greet Gandhi, the enigmatic Italy-born widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The party workers, from the national capital as well as the neighbouring states, beat drums and danced while some distributed sweets amid the shouting of the slogab, “Sonia Gandhi Zindabad” (Long live Sonia Gandhi).

They were carrying the banners and photographs of Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and their children - Rahul Gandhi, MP, and Priyanka Vadra.

The party leaders showered praises on Gandhi and her leadership. She was described as “simple, compassionate and inspiring”, a far cry from the politically gauche leader that she was thought to be not so long ago.

None of her predecessors since 1929 - 24 of them including India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru - claim such a long uninterrupted presidency of the Congress.

In the last 10 years, Gandhi, 62, has proved every sceptic wrong. Although three of her party colleagues - Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar - had questioned her leadership pointing out that she was a foreign-born, the Nationalist Congress Party they launched after quitting the party is now a constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

In the 17 years since the assassination of her husband, Gandhi has managed to steer the Congress, which had been written off at a time the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was riding high, back to power.

But when it came to becoming prime minister in 2004 after the Congress’ stunning electoral victory, she withdrew and anointed economist Manmohan Singh at the helm of government instead.

That one act earned Gandhi - who insists she is a practising Hindu despite being born a Roman Catholic - a legion of new loyalists.

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