Sonia Gandhi receiving garlands during a road show in Varanasi in August 2016. (Photo: PTI)

Sonia Gandhi Opens Up About Politics, Leadership

In a deeply introspective speech, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi today spoke on a wide range of topics, including her children, her own shortcomings and the role of democracy in India, the first time she has opened up since relinquishing the party president post.

Addressing the India Today Conclave, Gandhi said democracy allows dissent, debate and not monologues, in an apparent barb at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She also lamented that nation builders are being slandered, and that there was cynical running down of past achievements referring to the constant criticism by the ruling party of the post Independence achievements of the Congress and its prime ministers.

However, Gandhi noted that the Congress also needs to develop a new style of connecting with people at the organisational level.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi and other leaders arrives to preside the party’s ‘Steering Committee’ meeting in New Delhi on Feb. 17, 2018. (Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI) 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi and other leaders arrives to preside the party’s ‘Steering Committee’ meeting in New Delhi on Feb. 17, 2018. (Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI) 

Speaking about her own role in leadership after Congress came to power in 2004, she said that she knew Manmohan Singh would be better a prime minister than her, and that she was aware of her limitations.

Public speaking does not come naturally to me, that is why I was called a reader than a leader.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress Leader

Gandhi, 71, who was Congress president for 19 years, was replaced by her son Rahul last year after internal party elections.

On being asked during the conclave's ‘Q&A’ session if she advises her son on party matters, Gandhi said, “I try not to volunteer. Rahul wants a balance of younger people and senior leaders to revitalise the party and this is not an easy task.”

Reacting on criticism of Rahul not being in the country during counting of votes in the northeastern states, she said the Congress president went to see his grandmother in Italy for three days after he had done his rounds of electioneering.

Taking a question on the political role of her daughter Priyanka, Gandhi said, “Priyanka is preoccupied with her children at the moment. It is up to her and one never knows the future.”