'My parents did not want me to marry Rajiv'
Congress president Sonia Gandhi candidly admitted to the California governor's wife that her parents were against her marriage with Rajiv Gandhi, US embassy cables provided by WikiLeaks reveal.india Updated: Dec 18, 2010 16:49 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi candidly admitted to the California governor's wife that her parents were against her marriage with Rajiv Gandhi, US embassy cables provided by WikiLeaks reveal.
Gandhi also told Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in August 2006 that she would "write a book someday with the whole story" as to why she did not take up the job of prime minister in 2004.
The cable on Gandhi-Shriver meeting, dated Aug 4, 2006 and marked "confidential", is titled A garrulous Sonia Gandhi opens up to Maria Shriver, indicating how freely the Indian leader chatted away.
Shriver met Gandhi as part of her official visit to India. A reading of the cable indicates the conversation might have been taped by accompanying US embassy officials.
The cable says that Gandhi, who is "usually withdrawn and reserved in public ... revealed a rare glimpse of herself" as she spoke about herself, women's issues and compulsions of political life.
"Her comments and demeanour put the lie to cocktail party suggestions that she courts Manmohan Singh's job," the cable said.
The cable says: "Gandhi revealed that her own parents objected to her marriage to Rajiv Gandhi and she 'resented their position' and went ahead and married him anyway."
Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister in 1984 and was assassinated in 1991.
The cable said Gandhi was reluctant to provide details regarding her decision to turn down the prime minister's post after the 2004 victory of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
"I am often asked about this, but tell people that I will write a book someday with the whole story," she told Shriver.
"She would only say that she 'felt better' that someone else became PM and 'did not regret' her decision.
"She elaborated, at (former cabinet minister) Karan Singh's insistence, saying she was under lots of pressure as 'party workers' were 'very upset'. They 'could not understand' why she, as party president, was not taking up the post, since they had voted for her and won a majority."
Among other things, the cable revealed:
-- Gandhi said the situation for women in India was more troubling and traumatic as Indian women must deal with myriad problems not found in the West.
-- Gandhi repeatedly urged her husband Rajiv Gandhi to avoid politics.
-- She herself took to politics when "the Right was becoming strong in India and Congress weak". She said her children were not keen about this but told her: "Whatever you decide, we will back you."
-- Gandhi said "some (political) parties believe that women should not be in power".
-- Gandhi said that south India was "more progressive" than the north on women's issues for historical and cultural reasons.
-- Gandhi agreed with Shriver that many Indians still considered female children "a problem".
-- Gandhi jokingly pointed out that the "Indian Left is anti-American" but agreed that its stance was aimed at "American policy" rather than the American people.
-- Gandhi said that many Indian Muslims "resent certain policies of the US".
The cable said of the meeting: "Sonia Gandhi is often stiff and detached when in public. This was a more relaxed Sonia, possibly because she felt a personal rapport with Maria Shriver.
"In this more relaxed setting, Sonia Gandhi revealed a left of centre political orientation which stresses the strong role of the government in ensuring social progress and her inherent opposition to the social conservatism of the Hindu right.
"At the same time, she entertained no illusions that she or the UPA will bring about rapid social change or uplift quickly India's oppressed women."
It added: "Despite her carefully erected Indian persona, her basic Italian personality is clearly evident in her mannerisms, speech and interests.
"She presents an intriguing enigma of a warm private personality that remains concealed and is available only to her closest confidants and family members."
First Published: Dec 18, 2010 16:28 IST