Samvaad: A Conversation
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Monday, May 17, 2004
Sonia Gandhi's Foreign Origin
Let's get one thing clear before we proceed. Who is qualified to be Prime Minister? According for the Constitution, for which the BJP-Alliance is showing scant regard, Sonia Gandhi is a citizen of India. And according to the same constitution ANY citizen of India over the age of 35 can become Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi is 57 and thus meets both criteria. The BJP-Alliance was desperate to amend the constitution while they were in power to prohibit someone of foreign-origin aka Sonia Gandhi to be eligible for the Prime Ministerial post. They failed to gain any serious political traction on the issue. They then made this issue a part of their campaign platform and we all know how they fared there. Even after the people of India have let their wishes known the BJP-alliance is in denial and is pushing for what I can only term as a racist campaign by sore losers. This racism will resonate with people in the diaspora, who can easily relate to this situation through the personal challenges in assimilating into societies different from their countries of origin.
This is not about whether I have any personal admiration for Sonia Gandhi or the Congress. The Congress too has done ridiculous things in the past but such a blatant disregard for the outcome of democratic elections is shameful. The founders of the Indian nation knew what they were doing. The current protestations do not have ANY legal basis. They are regretably prejudicial. I am aware that the protestors also include people who don't even consider Mother Teresa an Indian. Just a Christian zealot out to convert people. How tragic is that? I am hoping that a parliamentarian and statesman of Mr.Vajpayee's stature will show leadership and guide his colleagues.
Last week a friend of mine, who is dear to me, asked how I would feel if George W.Bush became India's Prime Minister. I told her that IF George W.Bush-
1. moved to India and raised his kids there
2. spent 36 straight years even after his wife is blown to pieces by extremists.. fully having the option to return to the US!
3. became a citizen of india, learnt the language and the customs and wore kurta-pyjama or even better the traditional dhoti!
4. resurrected a dead political entity
5. connected with his constituents
6. led his party to a national victory
I would be glad to see him have the chance to be India's Prime Minister as he will have outdone many of those who have come to regard democracy as an entitlement. I say this with great thought and conviction that democracy is not about entitlement but about participation. And Sonia Gandhi HAS participated.
If the BJP-alliance ever came up with a leader who was born outside India and dedicated his/her own and family's life to live and grow in India. Had the desire to serve India then I will be the first person to defend him or her against ANY and ALL attacks. Because to attack such a person is wholly un-Indian! The fact that a naturalized citizen can become the Prime Minister of India shows how much more emancipated Indian democracy is compared to its counterparts in the other parts of the globe. Sonia Gandhi's becoming Prime Minister doesn't diminish my pride in my country... but only enhances it.
My faith in India is not based on who's at the helm and what their first name or last name is. My faith in India is based on its incredible ability to assimilate. That is why all religions have found a great home in India. How could the founders of a nation that fought discrimination create a discriminating constitution?? They couldn't and they didn't. It's a fine constitution for a great nation!
ps. remember Al Gore being present at George W.Bush's inauguration. i hope the BJP revises its stand and does the right thing.
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