by S. Gurumurthy  published in New Indian Express

The issue concerns her. Not just her. Itconcerns the nation. For, she is presently the Leader of the Opposition in thecountry. The main opposition, Congress party, has projected her as its primeministerial candidate.

It had already tried to make her the Prime Minister when the 13-month Vajpayeegovernment fell in 1999. Remember madam Antonia Maino”s statement after meetingPresident Narayanan that day? “That she has the support of 272 members of theLok Sabha”, which turned out to be a lie later. Had Mulayam Singh not calledher bluff she would have become the first foreign-born Prime Minister of thisnation. A shame this nation narrowly escaped from.

So she is not just one of those questioned citizens. She is today theCongress Party”s candidate to be the PM, just with a conditional, eventheoretically terminable, citizenship. In fact, the Nationalist Congress Partyled by Sharad Pawar and Willimson Sangma walked out on the very issue of hereligibility even to be the president of the party, let alone becoming and beingthe Prime Minister.

The issue is not her personal stay in India. There are over 20 million Bangladeshi infiltratorsin India according to the intelligence gathered byNarasimha Rao”s IB. So this country has not turned away even infiltrators. Butwhen a foreign-born like Antonia Maino who has shown no inclination to Indiaother than stay here with her husband, seeks to rule this country with aconditional citizenship, the issue is not just about the person, but concernsthe country.

So the fundamental issue is about Antonia Maino”s association with the soul of India, not its geography. It is about hernationality. It is a not a personal matter. Nor is it just a party matter, as aJaipal Reddy, Antonia Maino”s most articulate spokesman, would argue. He asks`Who is Jayalalithaa to tell us how we should run our party?” The issue is notabout who should run, but who should run the government. Is she the onlycompetent person in the Congress Party for the office of the PM?

Not just Jaipal. Come in the Congress Working Committee members, thenthe Congress Chief Ministers, as the pack to defend Antonia. The pack charges`it is a personal attack by Jaya” on Antonia. But there was nothing personalabout what Jayalalithaa had said. It was all about the un-denied and undeniablefacts concerning Antonia Maino”s nationality.

Antonia Maino is the most relevant person to talk about this issue. In fact,the only person, who can talk about the issue, and should. It concerns not justher, not just the party, but the country. She has to answer the doubts andqueries the people of the country have in their mind. But she does not. Perhapsdare not. Her own party is split on this issue. Yet she did not. NowJayalalithaa has revived the issue. Still she does not. She employs her minionsinstead to defend her. Why can”t she talk? Especially when the matter concernsthe entire nation. Which has aroused strong feelings in the nation. Which hasvertically split even the Constitution Review Commission on the issue ofprohibiting foreign-born from occupying high constitutional positions. She hasbarely escaped a recommendation for her disqualification.

Who can answer the questions in public mind about why she did not apply forIndian citizenship for 15 years after her marriage. Not Jaipals, nor the CWCmembers or the Congress chief ministers. It is only Antonia Maino who cananswer that question. Who can answer the question why did she not accept thename Sonia given by her mother in law and continued to use the Italian name inher citizenship application. It is only she, not Jaipals, or the CWC members orthe Congress CMs who can answer it.

She alone can and should talk. Yet it is not she who talks. She commands a packto defend her. And they do a command performance. Madam Antonia Maino, will youtalk on this issue? Not hide behind a pack to defend you.