Information is the lifeblood of the knowledge era, but not – as has become clear from the functioning of the UPA Government – for the Congress, which sees the giving of information as a crime. Hence, the fevered reaction to Narendra Modi’s declaring in his nomination form that he is married. Until the Supreme Court made the giving of such information mandatory, it was commonplace for many to leave that particular column blank, including the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, none of the others pose the existential threat to the Nehruvian system that has enabled the Congress to flourish in a context where its rule, and that of its clones and offshoots, has ensured that more than three hundred million citizens go to bed hungry each night, while less than 10 per cent of the population has a standard of life that any other than a UPA-appointed Planning Commission member would deem to be adequate. In Narendra Modi, the country is witnessing an individual who bids fair to change the very chemistry of governance and politics in the country, so that those who have for seven decades fattened off the Nehruvian colonial-model system would finally face oblivion. Small wonder that there is the whiff of panic in Lutyens Delhi, leading to a reaching out for any issue that could possibly derail the chances for this son of humble but determined parentage to be sworn in by the President Pranab Mukherjee as the next Prime Minister of India.
Those who read the Times of India in the 1990s would know that Sonia Gandhi has two sisters and a mother, for the same was mentioned in that venerable newspaper by this very columnist, together with details about the struggles of the three young ladies with higher education, of course at the school level. They would also have discovered that the two sisters were separated and then divorced from their husbands after the men came in possession of wealth through channels that are as unexplained as those which have propelled the entire Maino clan from penury to plenty in the twenty years since Indira Gandhi won back the Prime Ministership in 1980 and Sanjay Gandhi passed away. To trace the standard of life of Nadia and Annoushka or their surviving parent as its graph moved upwards at an accelerating clip in the middle of the 1980s (and, interestingly,in the middle of the first decade of this century as well, or around the time an “honest” Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was chosen by Sonia Gandhi to be what this columnist had described long before Sanjaya Baru’s brilliantly written expose as a ”virtual PM”) would be child’s play for our media, except that they have been very bashful about uncovering any of the details about Sonia Gandhi’s family, in contrast to the zeal with which they have commented on Narendra Modi’s spouse who, by all accounts, seems a remarkable individual who is as willing to sacrifice a normal life as her husband has shown himself to be.
Now that Narendra Modi has himself pulled away the curtains from the only aspect of his family life that was still largely obscure, it is time that Sonia Gandhi do likewise. It is time for her to reveal details about her own Italian family, especially because she almost never has contact with her Indian relatives, including the mother of her own son-in-law. Robert Vadra has received more than a smidgen of negative publicity for having been incautious enough to have deployed his investments in India rather than squirrel them abroad the way some of his relatives have, but by credible accounts, he is a loving and dutiful son. However, it is not Vadra about which there is silence from 10 Janpath but about Sonia’s sisters,mother and their other friends and relatives, many of whom live (and it is learnt, work, if such their activity can be called) in India. Sometimes at Number Ten itself, sometimes at miscellaneous farmhouses scattered in and around the national capital. Among the reasons why they are invisible to the naked eye is their penchant for flying by chartered aircraft both within this country and while travelling to and from India. The advantage of having influential relatives is that one’s luggage never gets checked, even if they contain works of art or antiques taken away from their habitat. Manmohan Singh is not a loquacious man, except when he converses with visitors from the NATO bloc, in whose presence he ceases to be robotic and can even pass off as friendly. Small wonder that he has thus far stonewalled every query about the foreign travels of Sonia, her sisters and her children, to Istanbul or to Dubai, or to destinations further away. As the media in India or abroad is unlikely to stir themselves sufficiently to pull away the unhealthy veil of secrecy which surrounds Sonia Gandhi’s own family, perhaps it is time for The Madame to do so herself, even while exhorting her son and heir to draw attention to Narendra Modi’s family.