By S. Gurumurthy published in New Indian Express

Jayalalithaa has chargedSonia on two counts. First, not just on her Italian origin, but, as Jayapointed out, on Sonia insisting on remaining Italian on the Indian soil for 15years after she married Rajiv Gandhi. Citing Sonia’s extreme reticence to takeIndian citizenship for 15 long years, Jaya has attacked that Antonia Maino,that is, Sonia, lacks ‘deshbhakti’. Second, on the way Sonia U-turned and gavecharacter certificate to the DMK, suspected by Jain Commission of harbouringthe LTTE which extinguished her husband Rajiv Gandhi, for just votes and seatsnow. Sonia lacks ‘pathibhakti’ also, charged Jaya. Of course strong charges butit perfectly fits the personality of Jaya.

WhatJayalalithaa spoke on the streets of Tamilnadu in different places is actuallyin print in the AIADMK election manifesto. On some one’s complaint that itconstitutes personal attack, the media says Election Commission has promised tolook into it. Some ‘seculars’ for whom Sonia still holds out the promise tosave the nation from the not-so-secular BJP, also are shedding tears that theelection campaign was becoming dirty and personal. The Prime Minister’s appealfor dignified campaign is also interpreted to imply that he had the remarksagainst Sonia in mind.

Butis what Jaya spoke about Sonia, or what the AIADMK manifesto says about Sonia,just personal? That Sonia remained an Italian for 15 years after she marriedinto in Indiaand was explicitly shy and reluctant to become an Indian citizen may be aprivate affair so long as Sonia chose to remain just a private citizen. Evenhere that she was part of the PM’s household would definitely bring it withinthe domain of public concern. But undoubtedly the moment Sonia decided to stepout of her house and join the race for the highest office in the country thesequestions assume public character. The nation has the right to ask why she wasshy and reluctant to become an Indian national. She cannot claim that it is herpersonal life, which no one can pry into. Nor can any one including theElection Commission or the secular media plead it is just her personal affair.

Again,Sonia pulled down the United Front government headed by Inder Gujral explicitlyon the ground that it comprised the DMK suspected of connections with LTTEwhich bombed out her husband Rajiv Gandhi. If her party could finish off agovernment and impose an election on the country because of the government’sLTTE connections via the DMK obviously she was acting out of public concern,not just wreaking vengeance on the DMK as a hurt wife. Now with her need forDMK’s alliance, she has U-turned. That the man assassinated, Rajiv Gandhi, wasSonia’s husband, may give her the private right to pardon both the DMK and theLTTE. But it does not give her, as the aspiring candidate for the highestoffice in India,the right to give a public certificate to DMK.

For,the office of the Prime Minister of India is no personal affair. The seeker ofsuch office has to stand all questions about his or her past. Even strictlyprivate issues may at times be publicly scrutinised. Remember Senator Gary Hartwho stayed with a woman through a night, but lied he did not, had to quit therace for US Presidency. Had he been just an ordinary American, not aspiring forsomething big like the US presidency, no one would have asked him even if hehad stayed with, not one, but ten of them. Gary Hart could not claim that itwas his personal affair. Even in a country like the US withflexible morals, Gary Hart’s private behaviour ruined his public career. Soeven the private lives of people in public life cannot be regarded as purelyprivate should the private life have implicit public concerns. For, seekers ofthe highest office of the country cannot be equated to fallible privateindividuals. Where their private life ends and public life begins is not markedprecisely.

Obviously,the reluctance of Antonia Maino, a seeker of the highest public office in India,to become Indian citizen for 15 years on the Indian soil raises the issuewhether she is a good citizen even if she is a legal citizen. So is whetherSonia who U-turned on the DMK for striking an opportunistic political deal withthe party whom the other day she accused of being connected to the assassins ofher husband can be entrusted with the high office. So, there is nothingpersonal about it, gentlemen.