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Foreigner versus National debate: Is Sonia Gandhi Eligible to become the Prime Minister?
05/30/2004
By Ram Puniyani

As the election campaign is drawing to its close (April-May 2004) the issue of Sonia Gandhi being suitable or not for Prime Minsitership due to her being a foreigner are coming to fore once again. Here one is not talking of her suitability for holding the top position in Indian administration but is restricting to the point whether Indian Citizens, whose place of birth does not happen to be in India are eligible for such a post or not? Needless to say this issue is being raked up since Sonia Gandhi first joined the Congress and has been contender for the top job in the country. Needless to say this also reflects the bankruptcy of the electoral campaign in a country, which is riddled with infinite problems for the poor masses irrespective of its being shining for a miniscule section of the society. It also hides the fact that those raising it can twist the logic the other way around when it suits their own electoral needs.

The latest argument being put forward is that giving the sensitive posts to such people may be a security risk. In between the same argument has been extended to other posts apart from the one of Prime minister. In between the argument was also put forward that the children of such citizens also are not eligible for the top jobs. For those raising this issue, it is not much of their concern as to what does constitution says on this. It is not of much concern here that people have accepted whole-heartedly, such people through the electoral system. Lately, Amma (Jayalalitha) has come forward to ask that is there not a single Indian capable for such a post, that we have to look at a foreigner to lead the country? It must be pointed out that two words are used interchangeably here, the word foreigner and the word person of foreign origin.

Talking of Sonia Gandhi, she has been the main target of such snipes. Initially it was also said that the work of conversion being carried on is also drawing support from her. Her connections with Italy are ridiculed by posing the alternative between Ram Rajya and Rome Rajya. The mudslinging has no end and bucket full of muck can be located on this issue. How does a country decide this point in a globalising world?

One recalls that there is a great joy and celebration whenever we hear about the person of Indian origin holding top jobs in other countries. There are small countries where the people of Indian origin are and have been holding the top job. Bobby Jindalís surge for the medium level job was a matter of three or four cheers in Indian media and psyche. While talking about the people who were born in other parts of the world but adopted this country for their major commitment one recalls the likes of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Annie Beasant and Mother Teresa to be the shining examples in this category. Even the worst of communalist would not have objected to Maulana Azad holding the post of Indian National Congress or than becoming the education minister just because he was not born in this part of the land.

Where does one draw the cut off date? A person of Indian origin in the proper sense of the word is the current dictator of Pakistan, and had been the most hated name just prior to the cricket series. A person of Pakistani origin happens to hold the post of Deputy Prime minister in India currently.

Today there are some countries where their constitution says that only person who has been born in that country can be Prime minister or President. There are also countries where such a norm does not prevail. Our constitution does not hold any prescription about he place of birth of the citizen. Citizenship is the criterion for holding the top posts. To begin with those saying that being born in this land is a must, are saying something, which violates the Indian constitution. Any way the people of Sangh combine, who began it all, have no respect for this constitution, as this constitution has emerged from the freedom struggle, due to India becoming a modern nation state through the anti British struggle, with which they had nothing whatsoever to do. They are itching with all their might to do away with this and are waiting in the wings to do so. None other than RSS supreomo K.Sudarshan went on to say the same.

Other politicos, like Sharad Pawar and Amma, those who have picked up the cue initially thrown in the circuit by RSS progeny, are doing so in a purely opportunistic way. Sharad Pawar who broke away from the Congress on this ground did come back to ally with the same party for electoral reasons. Amma and others again are playing the role of holier than thou, lacking other political issues they are trying to make an issue out of it. It can whip up emotions in section of society, thatís for sure. This politics like the one of Ram temple movement is a sort of one based on emotional pitch.

Is being a citizen not good enough for holding any post of the people find you fit enough for that? The transnational movement of people across the countries is on the rise. Many of those who are of Indian origin are active in the politics in other countries. Sonia Gandhi or no Sonia Gandhi the guidelines should be derived from the constitution. We have multitude of examples of Islamic countries, where fundamentalism prevails, where the concept of citizenship is modulated according to the whims of the ruling coterie. Taliban in Afhganistan during their brief tenure did dictate about how people of different religions should wear and behave.

In our own country books of Golwalkar and Savarkar have given the guidelines about the status and ranking of citizenship according to their religion. Savarkar defines the citizen on the ground of oneís Holy land and Father land. Golwalkar calls Christians and Muslims as Foreign races. If we keep going back in time the results will be disastrous. Mahatma Jotiba Phule calls the Arya Bhats as the invaders, and thereby foreigners. In Shrilanka, the dominant Buddhists called themselves as the first comers and so having a bigger ownership of the country. Golwalkar also says that the county is in possession of the Hindu race, and the Muslims and Christians, who as they are foreigners, should have no citizenship rights. When this was being written large section of Muslims and Christians were participating in the process of building of India as a nation state through the struggle for freedom, along with the Hindus and people of all the religions of the country.

Where will the logic of all this takes us is any bodyís guess. The politics should operate within the constitutional limits, it should be purged of the emotive content so that the real issues of the people are to the fore and there by headway can be made for a more egalitarian society, a society where the concept of human rights is the final arbiter of social and political norms.