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Thursday, December 9, 2010


There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stands mute.

                                                                                                  David Brooks

 In the New York Times of May 11, 2009, David Brooks, in his article, “They Had It Made,” wrote, “In the late 1930s, a group of 268 promising young men, including John F. Kennedy and Ben Bradlee, entered Harvard College. By any normal measure, they had it made.” The group became the subject of a cohort longitudinal study initiated by Arlie Bock at the Harvard University in the 1930s. It came to be known as the Grant Study.

The purpose of the study was to observe and co-relate, over a long period, the life events of each individual in the group standing, at that point of time, at an almost identical threshold in their lives. The result was surprising for, “Their lives played out in ways that would defy any imagination …...” The conclusion of this fascinating study was that predicting a life course is difficult even of those who, at some stage, seem to have it made. But, perhaps, there could be an alternative explanation – theological determinism.

Maybe, these life stories, like the life stories of the rest of us, were preordained to play out the way they did. This theory of theological determinism is also called predestinarianism. The doctrine propounds that from all eternity, God has foreordained everything that happens. However, it has to be conceded that the definitive paradigm of theological determinism can only be identified in retrospect, for rarely does it give a preview of its flowchart in advance. Still, one wonders if there could be a preset program, assigned to each of us at the time of birth, which mortals do not know of.

A retrospective study of the unbelievable ascendancy of Sonia Gandhi to the pinnacle of political power in India appears to have been made possible by the occurrence of what Pieter Geyl would have described as, ”concatenation of events ……… caused …… by impersonal forces ………independently from the wishes or efforts of individuals.”

Sixty-four years ago, how would one have figured out the possibilities of a just born girl child, to a middle class family in an obscure village of Italy, to attain the highest political office of India? The question, if posed, would have been ridiculed. The girl was an Italian national and was thousands of miles away from India. The primary issue then would have been as to how would she ever reach a country almost unknown to her family? 

Antonia Maino, as she was then, was born on December 9, 1946. In 1965 providence took the first step in propelling Sonia Gandhi, as she is now, towards her destiny. She decided then to leave Italy to go to England to work as an au pair and to learn the English language. Rajiv Gandhi, who also happened to be in England at the same time, saw her in a restaurant there and it was he who sought an introduction to her. 

Rajiv Gandhi was the son of Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi and the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the first Prime Minister of India. Still it took Rajiv three years to convince her to marry him. They were finally married in February 1968 at Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi. Sonia Gandhi without her knowing had moved a step closer to the realization of her destiny. She had landed in the country of her future.

The big question still remained, how could it be possible for a foreigner, a woman at that, to assume the top political leadership of such a large country especially as she would have to democratically battle it out with local aspirants? How could she ever triumph over them? Would she not also be handicapped in communicating with the people of that country as she would not know any of its several languages? 

How would she prevail over the cultural and religious difference, for, was not India a Hindu majority country with a deeply embedded culture of its own? The negatives would be endless and, therefore, the whole possibility of her reaching the highest political office of India would have been dismissed as an exercise in fantasy. But unfathomable are the ways of the higher power that makes the impossible, possible.

Although Sonia had married the son of the Prime Minister of India, she and her husband Rajiv Gandhi were not at all interested in politics. He actually became a pilot in the Indian Airlines and continued to be one till 1980. She became a home-maker in the Gandhi household. However, the years between 1968 and 1980 were politically tumultuous for Sonia’s mother in law, Indira Gandhi. Sonia, who was staying with her throughout this time, must have observed it all from very close quarters. It was like a first-hand tutorial on Indian politics for her. The unseen power, it seems, was readying Sonia for her ordained future. 

In 1980 Sanjay Gandhi, the younger brother of Rajiv, who was attracted to politics and perceived as the natural heir and successor to Indira Gandhi, died in an air crash. Rajiv had to resign from Indian Airlines to help his mother in her political work. Sonia understood the situation and concurred to his taking up active politics. She was totally unaware, at that time, that with the death of Sanjay Gandhi she had actually moved a niche closer to the call of her own destiny.

The tragic assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 must have created in Sonia an abhorrence of Indian politics. It is well documented that she fiercely opposed Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister of India on the death of his mother Indira Gandhi. Rajiv, however, did become the Prime Minister but Sonia, unknown to herself, had also inched closer to her final call in her own right.

Seven years later Rajiv Gandhi was brutally assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur in south India and Sonia Gandhi and her two children were shattered. Sonia’s strongest bond with the country had been snapped. One does not know what inner strength she drew upon at that excruciating time to remain in India and not move back to Italy. However, she withdrew from Indian public life and dedicated the next seven years to bringing up her children. She made just a few public appearances and displayed no personal political ambitions during that period. However, the design of the destiny could not be denied.

In 1998 the Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi seemed to have become rudderless and was in danger of extinction. In this grave hour of crisis, the party turned towards Sonia and implored her to assume its leadership. After great persuasion, she agreed, perhaps, against her own inclinations. However, within 6 years, she single-handedly achieved the almost impossible feat of dislocating the then ruling coalition, headed by ultra Hindu nationalists – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - from its perch of power by narrowly defeating it in the Lok Sabha general elections of 2004 – the then largest democratic elections of the world.

Thereafter, the President invited her to become the Prime Minister of India. The girl child, born in Italy, had finally reached the zenith position in Indian politics – a summit that had been conquered by only 13 persons before her. She, however, graciously declined it by citing it as a call from her ‘inner voice.’ Five years later, she once again reconfirmed her supremacy in the General Election of 2009 by defeating the same BJP but by a larger margin. 

It may be, thus, open to conjecture that an ordained outcome, premeditated by a supreme power, could only have engineered her rise to the high noon of Indian politics. However, it has to be conceded that the law of cosmic design of determinism, in its entirety, will always remain beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

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