By – M K Tayal
Once acclaimed as one of the most powerful women in the world, Sonia Gandhi may be down, but not out. She is very much there.
Narendra Modi took over reigns from Manmohan Singh by beating the United Progressive Government hands down and launching a massive worldwide confidence building drive, but it is Sonia who still catches the fancy of the toddlers across the globe.
Believe it or not, international students are reading about her in their history books.
In the IB curriculum, taught in the perhaps the most prestigious schools across the globe, Sonia Gandhi is a part of the history where students get to know about her life. With no official post to her credit, just being a member of Parliament, Sonia is a part of the grade 6th history syllabus.
It is not a cursory mention but in fact a complete chapter is devoted to her in the MYP (middle year program) book published by Pearson Education Inc.
India, the second most populous country, also has one of the fastest growing economies. By 2009, India stood ready to take its place as one of the most influential nations in the world. And the most influential woman in India was Sonia Gandhi.
“Though herself was born in Italy, Gandhi led both India’s ruling coalition and its largest party, the Congress party. Time called her one of the 100 people transforming the world, Forbes ranked her among the world’s most powerful women.
“Sonia fell in love with Rajiv Gandhi, when both were in college in England”, goes the narrative in the book. She studied English. (Though this much of topic of discussion in the country)
Sonia knew India as a land of “snakes, elephants and jungles, but where it was and what it really was, I was not aware.”
Though she married into a political dynasty, she spent many years trying to avoid politics.
Sonia’s mother in-law, Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, liked her cooking Italian food and Sonia took over household duties such as caring for saris.
After the brutal assassination of Indira, Sonia pleaded Rajiv not to enter politics. But Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has seldom refused call of duty. As prime minister, the Gandhis pulled their children out of school due to security concerns.
When Rajiv was dealing with the country, Sonia stayed in the background studying art restoration and working to preserve India’s artistic heritage.
After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, she stopped eating for days and went into seclusion.
She then set up a foundation to help women and children and also published books about the Gandhi family.
As the years passed, she met more often with India’s leaders. At first, she just listened, then asked questions In time, she became well-informed about India’s problems, such as widespread poverty.
Sonia was reluctant to enter politics. But in 1998, she finally agreed to become the head of the Congress party – the party that Indira had led. She said she couldn’t let it fail.
To prepare, she studied videos of Indira’s stirring speeches and copied her style. Some people objected because Sonia had been born in Italy. But she considered herself as Indian and had full citizenship.
Elected to the Parliament that year, she proved herself as a strong leader. In 2004, she refused the post of Prime Minister. Her son, Rahul, became a MP.
Though not Prime Minister, Sonia stayed involved in politics as head of the biggest political party. Some people think that she might even have more power that if she had accepted the position of prime minister.
In 2008, deadly terrorist attacks shook Mumbai, one of India’s major cities, Sonia warned, “Our patience should not be treated as our weakness… We will not tolerate any act against India.” Now one of the most powerful women in the world, she is dedicated to making life better for the poor.
The World History was published in 2012 but it is still in the IB curriculum. Frank Karpiel and Kathleen Kruli are program authors and Grant Wiggins is the consultant. The book has over two dozens teaching and academic reviewers.