Thiruvananthapuram : In a high decibel emotional response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swipes about her Italian roots, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday declared at a political rally that India is her home and “it is here that my ashes will mingle with my loved ones”.
While concluding her speech at the rally, she said she wanted to share something personal with the gathering “about the Congress and particularly about me”. “Yes, I was born in Italy. I came to India in 1968 as the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I have spent 48 years of my life in India. This is my home. This is my country,” Sonia asserted in a message to her detractors, especially Prime Minister Narender Modi who had made sarcastic remarks about her Italian connection.
“I have no family in Italy. I have never been there,” the Prime Minister had said on Sunday, the second time in the last three days while making a veiled attack on Sonia over the controversial chopper deal.
The thrust of what Sonia left unsaid to Modi was equally loud and emphatic: She is not running away in the face of the Agusta chopper scam.
But even as the Congress president struck a personal note, which she normally desists from doing, she asserted her Italian origins. “I have a family in Italy I am not ashamed of. I have a 93-year-old mother I am not ashamed of,” she said in a remark that political observers said was laden with meaning.
Delving into her personal angst, Sonia said that in her 48 years in India, the RSS, BJP and some other parties “have taunted me and shamed me for my birth”. “I was born to proud and honest parents. I will never be ashamed of them. Yes, I have relatives in Italy. I have a 93-year-old mother and two sisters. But it is here, in my country, India, it is in this part that the blood of my loved ones is mingled. “It is here that I will breathe my last. It is here that my ashes will mingle with yours and my loved ones,” she said, pointing out that the sole objective of Prime Minister Modi was to “indulge in character assassination of his adversaries and spread lies”.
The Prime Minister can “sink to whatever depths” to challenge my integrity, she said, but he cannot take away the truth from ‘‘my commitment and love for India’’. “I cannot expect Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to understand this, but I know, I am sure, you will,” she told the gathering at her second rally on the first day of her campaigning in poll-bound Kerala.
Gandhi also gave her critique of the Modi government and charged that it is “weakening the roots of democracy.” “Democratically elected governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand have been toppled by unconstitutional and devious means. The Prime Minister and his government do not believe in constitutional and Parliamentary norms,” she said.
She also lashed out at Modi for promising the moon to the masses and faltering in delivery, lamented the revenue generation by taxing the poor and referred to rich businessmen like Vijay Mallya who had defaulted banks of thousands of crores and were allowed to scoot ‘‘under the very nose of Prime Minister Modi”.