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The Rediff Interview/Renuka Chowdhury, MP

'Once she takes a decision, she is very firm'

May 19, 2004

Frenzied Congressmen surrounded 10, Janpath on Tuesday after news came in that Sonia Gandhi had declined to be prime minister. Congress MPs came running, pleading with Gandhi to reconsider her decision and lead the coalition government.

One of them was Renuka Choudhary, the newly elected Member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh.

In an interview to Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, Choudhary takes on the BJP's anti-Sonia Gandhi campaign.

Why do you think Sonia Gandhi suddenly decided to step down as a prime ministerial candidate?

I have known Soniaji personally. I do not think it was a sudden decision. She must have thought and thought about this decision many times. But I tell you once she takes a decision, she is very firm about it.

The decision comes from her conviction and heart. No one can change it.

That is the finest personal quality which Soniaji has, which many of us politicians do not have.

How are you taking this decision personally?

I have no words to describe my feelings. I met her for a few minutes after this news came in. I pleaded with her to change her decision. Not only me, all the Congress people and MPs want Soniaji to reconsider this decision.

It has been almost a week since the election results were out. Sonia Gandhi had all along given indication that she would be the prime minister.

Perhaps she wanted to announce her decision at a time which she thought is politically correct.

Did the BJP campaign against Sonia's foreign origin force her to abandon the post of prime minister?

This has been a major reason. The so-called tall BJP leaders have been abusing her publicly for many months.

BJP leaders like Narendra Modi have been engaged in the character assassination of Soniaji and her children.

Soniaji must have felt it in her heart. She must have felt that if her becoming prime minister would divide the country, then it was better to abandon power.

The post of prime minister of India is not a small thing. To abandon it, one needs rare courage and conviction. But I tell you she never wished for power. She is the only political leader I have ever met who does not care for power and position.

It is said that BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's attacks against Sonia Gandhi also hurt her.

Sushma Swaraj has proved that she is the worst example of womanhood in India.

She lacks humility and dignity. When the country voted for Soniaji to lead the next government, how can people like Sushma Swaraj oppose it?

Who is Sushma Swaraj to dictate who should be the Congress prime minister?

The BJP leaders do not even show dignity in defeat. They are dejected because they know they will never come back to power.

Is the Congress ready for an alternative prime ministerial candidate?

I know Soniaji very well. Now that she has declined the prime ministerial post, the Congress will elect a new leader.

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