by S. Gurumurthy  published in New Indian Express

Jayalalithaa has done it again. She didit in the right place, Delhi. Not inChennai. She stunned the Congress Party when she told the media “it is acrying shame and moral bankruptcy of the Congress” that its leaders whofought against the foreigners, “should think of having a foreigner as thePrime Minister”.

She did not stop at that. She said thather party the AIADMK “was firmly committed to supporting an Indian to bethe Prime Minister”. She went further. She said that her party would”support any legislation to ban persons of foreign origin from holdingconstitutional posts”. Poor Congress. Lost for words, pressed in itsone-time enemy, Jaipal Reddy, to defend the beleaguered Italian-born presidentof the party.

Jayalalithaa is bang on target on thelady president of the Congress. Not only did she want to remain an Italian, shenever wanted to become or be an Indian, even after her marriage. She remained aforeigner for 15 years after she entered the household of the Nehrus. This ladygot married to Rajiv Gandhi in the year 1968. She did not think of becoming anIndian citizen then, but chose to remain an Italian in India. She obtainedpermits under the Foreigner”s Act every five years to live in India. Thiscertificate is a facility for foreigners who come here for temporary stay. Sheobtained certificates as a foreigner to stay in India in 1968 validtill 1973; in 1973 again, valid till 1978; once again in 1978, valid till 1983.So it is not that she lost in her newly acquired Indian consciousness. Sheconsciously, and unfailingly, every five years took a permit to stay in India as aforeigner, as an Italian.

Suddenly in 1984 she applied to become acitizen. Why? By that time, her husband Rajiv Gandhi had become the obvioussuccessor to Indira Gandhi. With the next general elections due in less than ayear, she had hurriedly to become a citizen of India, so that herhusband”s career was not affected. Even when she finally relented to become anIndian citizen, she did not obviously want to give up her Italian identity.Though named by Indira Gandhi as Sonia, she signed the citizenship applicationnot as Sonia Gandhi as she is widely known today. She signed as Antonia MainoGandhi – `Antonia” being her baptised name, `Maino” being her father”s name,and `Gandhi” being the name of her father-in-law Feroze Gandhi. Even hersignature on the citizenship application shows her rejection of things Indianas she refused to sign as ”Sonia”, the name given by her mother-in-law. Had shewanted she could have changed her name. It just costs a notification in theofficial gazette.

What other proof is needed to say thatshe did not want to become and be an Indian. It was for her husband”s careerthat she finally relented on her love of Italy, unwillinglyrenounced the proud tag of Italian citizenship and accepted the not so covetedtag of being an Indian. Not out of love of India. So she is notjust an Italian-born. If her conduct were any indication, her soul remainsItalian. Contrast her with a Margaret becoming a Nivedita and wandering in thestreets of Calcutta and beggingfor donations to run schools for Indian children. Here Antonia Maino wasenjoying the highest status and the best comforts India could offer toany foreigner, the status as the daughter-in-law and part of household of thePrime Minister of India. Yet she was unwilling to become part of India. Rejected eventhe Indian name given by her mother-in-law, when she forced herself to becomean Indian citizen.

So Jayalalithaa is correct not 100%, but200%. Antonia Maino did not just hesitantly take the formal Indian identity.She did so under pressure. Jaya is right. It is a shame to think of AntoniaMaino as the Prime Minister of India. Not just the shame of the Congress thatit has projected this Italian-born as the Prime Ministerial candidate of theCongress. Equally the shame of the BJP and other parties calling themselves asnational parties to have silently acquiesced in it without protest.

Ms Jayalalithaa, you have shamed these `national” partiesand leaders. Will you also force them to bring a law as suggested by you to barforeigners from becoming the constitutional masters of India?