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Italy celebrates Sonia win

May 13, 2004 17:55 IST

The mayor of Sonia Gandhi's birthplace in northern Italy offered warm congratulations after she led her Congress party to apparent victory in the Lok Sabha elections.

Many other Italians were caught by surprise.

 Gandhi was born Sonia Maino in the town of Orbassano, near Turin.

Her father was a building contractor and she was raised in a conservative Roman Catholic family before moving
to India as a 21-year-old bride.

Orbassano Mayor Carlo Marroni "expresses his great satisfaction at the elections," his office said in a
statement. "We're making contacts to send a telegram to Sonia Maino, and we will watch the situation as it develops
in the coming days."

Despite satisfaction in Orbassano, many other Italians were unaware of the results. Gandhi has a surprisingly low
profile here despite her Italian origins.

"Even though she's Italian, they don't seem to know much about her," said Firdosh Anklesaria, a 56-year-old
Indian-born tour operator who is married to an Italian and has lived here for years.

"I would say the average Italian wouldn't even know what the Congress party in India is."

Gilberto Fulvi, a 30-year-old who works in a youth center, hadn't heard the results. But he was impressed to
hear of them.

"It's good that an Italian can get elected in a country that's so far away, and that's culturally so
different," he said. "Imagine here in Italy, if a foreigner were elected premier!"

University student Lidia Tromby was pleased for a different reason. "It's good that she's a woman more than
that she's Italian," Tromby said. "There aren't many female leaders anywhere in the world."

Riccardo Leoni, a 35-year-old businessman, was less impressed.

"I think it's only relatively important because it's in such a far-away country," he said. "By now, she's probably
more Indian than Italian."


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