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   A prominent member of the coterie dropped... (September 13, 1991)

A prominent member of the coterie dropped in for a cup of tea this morning and he told me: "Sonia Gandhi is back to claim her rightful place as the prime minister of India."

"You really think she is prime minister material?" I asked.

"She is Bharat Mata, she is the protector of the people, theirhope and their salvation, whe is a true descendant of the Nehru-Gandhi family," the member said.

"True, true," I said. "But, you know, being a prime minister of a vast and diverse country like India is not an easy thing. You have to have experience, knowledge, political acumen; so far Mrs. Gandhi has been only a housewife."

"Sonia Gandhi has been a mother to all of us. When she was away in Europe, we all felt that we were rephaned. We did not know who to go to with out troubles, we did not have anybody to direct the country and the party. She is out mother and we are her children."

"I don't think Mrs. Gandhi would like being referred to as the mother of Professor Tewary and Mr. Ahluwalia," I said. "No woman would."

"We seek her blessings and her guidance. All the poor and toiling masses of India are looking to her for protection and guidance. She is an angel among them, a beacon light," the member said.

"That is true," I said. "I like the way whe has conducted herself in public after a personal tragedy of such magnitude has engulfed her and made her a widow. But being a national leader… I mean, there are others, more qualified."

"There are no others. India cannot be ruled by anybody other than members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, that has been established. The whole world is waiting for her to take over the mantle of her late husband and mother-in-law. The people of Amethi are paying that their favourite bahu does bot abandon them in this hour of their greatest need."

"I can understand the people of Amerthi, they have become used to belonging to a privileged constituency," I said. "But the whole world, I am not quite sure."

"Sonia Gandhi is the shining lady in white, she has allosed her husband's martydom her husband's martydom so that the country is not divided," the member said. "She is a courageous and compassionate woman, a symbol of our secularism and a leader of the downtrodden. The people of India are looking to her to carry through and put into effect the legacy that is left behind by her husband."

"Tell me, just one thing," I said. "How does Mrs. Gandhi feel about becoming prime minister?"

"Well, she has not said no to that, has she!" the member of the coterie said.

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