NEW DEHLI: The author of a “fictionalised biography” of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born power broker of Indian politics, has vowed to fight attempts to stop it being published.
Javier Moro said allies of Gandhi were “taking lines out of context and manipulating the text” as part of a campaign by India’s elite to have the book banned and protect her from scrutiny.
Gandhi is the widow of assassinated former prime minster Rajiv Gandhi and – as president of the ruling Congress party – is widely thought to be preparing the way for her son Rahul, 39, to become the country’s next leader.
“India is a democratic country which respects freedom of speech,” Moro told the Press Trust of India news agency in comments released on Sunday. “I don’t need permission to publish the book.”
“The Red Sari: When Life is the Price of Power” has already been published in Italy and Spain, and touches on the sensitive subject of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign birth and upbringing, and the fact that she had to learn Hindi.
She met Rajiv at Cambridge in Britain in the mid-1960s when they were students, and she was living with his family in New Delhi when Rajiv’s mother, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, was murdered in 1984.
The book – due out in India later this year – also suggests that Gandhi thought of leaving India with her two children after Rajiv was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991.
In the London-based Guardian newspaper, Moro described his biography as “not strictly accurate, but it’s researched and realistic”. He said he took a “literary” approach after her close family and friends declined to cooperate.
Congress party lawyers have described the book as full of “untruths, half truths, falsehoods and defamatory statements” and served Moro, from Spain, with a legal notice.
“My book is a book on the glory of the Gandhi family. It defends the ideals of the Gandhi family. These ideals I myself defend,” Moro told PTI, accusing lawyers of “terrorising” his Indian publishers with threats.
Supporters of Sonia Gandhi, who led Congress to victory in 2004 elections but handed the prime minister’s job to current incumbent Manmohan Singh, on Saturday burnt copies of the book downloaded from the Internet.
“The book should not be published in India,” the protesters in Mumbai said in a statement. “The script and depiction of the happenings in the life of Ms Gandhi [are] distorted, vague and defamatory.”
The Mail Today newspaper on Sunday printed extracts from the book under the front page headline: “The Sonia story Cong(ress) doesn’t want you to read.”
The Gandhi dynasty, which is unrelated to spiritual leader and independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, has dominated Indian politics since Indira Gandhi’s father Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first prime minister in 1947 after partition.
Sonia Gandhi, 63, rarely appears in public but holds great sway within the Congress party and is credited with its welfare and anti-poverty policies as India undergoes rapid economic development.
Her equally shy son, Rahul, took a key part in Congress’s successful election campaign last year and is thought likely to succeed the elderly Singh.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 7th, 2010.