Silence about Sonia’s illness fans speculation

August 5th, 2011 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) The silence on the illness of Congress president Sonia Gandhi has triggered speculation about her disease and a;sp a debate if political figures should hide their medical condition.

Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said Friday that the operation performed on Gandhi was successful but did not disclose the condition that led to her surgery in the US.

“The surgery (Thusday) is over… The surgeon has indicated that the operation was successful,” Dwivedi said.

“As this is a personal matter that pertains to her health and medical treatment, her family requests that her privacy be respected,” he said.

On Thursday, the Congress said Gandhi has “been recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires surgery”.

The party’s silence on the nature of Gandhi’s illness has elicited diverse reactions — and fanned speculation.

“Ideally, people have the right to know about the health of their leader. People want to know what has happened to her but that is not the same thing as saying people have the right to know about it,” Brajesh Mishra, principal secretary to then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, told IANS.

“If she were the prime minister, people would have the right to know about her health. She may be the most powerful person in the country, but she is not the prime minister and therefore can choose to be silent about her illness,” he said.

Mishra added that when Vajpayee was the prime minister and underwent a knee surgery, medical updates on his condition were provided to the media.

Similarly, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underwent angioplasty here in January 2009, the government shared the details with the media.

Political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan cited the American system where politicians and their health are under constant media scrutiny, but argues that it’s like taking transparency to the extreme.

“Health is a private issue. Many politicians have debilitating diseases, but they go on to recover and lead active public life,” he said.

“In Sonia Gandhi’s case, she has gone abroad for treatment after putting a transition team in place to manage the day-to-day affairs of the party. That’s the proper way to do it,” said Rangarajan.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not joined the issue. “We wish her speedy recovery,” was all BJP leader Prakash Javadekar would say.

Some analysts pointed out that this was not the first time a leader had kept his illness under wraps.

India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a stroke in Bhubaneshwar, but people were kept in the dark about his health right till his death in May 1964.

The silence has, however, its flip side.

The secrecy on the the nature of the disease Gandhi is suffering from has fuelled speculation that she is suffering from cancer.

Informed sources said she was being treated at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York. The hospital has, however, refused to confirm or deny she was admitted there.

As for the Congress, it has said that Gandhi is not suffering from cancer.

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