Sonia Gandhi I came to know is tender and yet tough, recalls Priya Dutt

Like everything else, politics too has a good side and a bad side, she told me. She spoke of my father and contributions he made. But she left the choice of joining politics to me

Sonia Gandhi I came to know is tender and yet tough, recalls Priya Dutt

Priya Dutt

She is the strongest woman I know.

When my father passed away in 2005, politics was farthest from my mind. I was four-months pregnant and devastated by the loss. My father had used politics to make a difference. His constituents loved him immensely and felt orphaned. But the chatter about who next had already begun and before I knew it, my name had cropped up.

That’s when I spoke to Ma’am for the first time on the phone. I told her I didn’t want this. Why me? I didn’t even like politics.

She explained to me how there was good and bad in everything, a good side and not a very good side to any job, ‘but it all depends on you’. She spoke just like my father had done. She never put any pressure on me, but left me with a thought, explaining to me about my father and his contribution - just like a parent would do.

My decision to take a leap of faith into a world I knew so little about was entirely because of Mrs. Gandhi. I knew she had my back. That’s how she made me feel, giving me a sense of security. She too was a woman who came into politics due to tragic circumstances and her struggles have been far greater than any one of us.

Since she took on the task of heading the Congress party, her leadership had been strong, yet compassionate. Her ability to meet and listen to people was phenomenal. Initially, I used to meet her for the smallest of things or with complaints I had. I was too new and the only person I could turn to was her and she would give me time and listen. She did that not just with me but with anyone who had a problem. I was amazed by her commitment to the party and the country.

She worked so hard to ensure everyone was happy, addressing their issues. We all worked cohesively under her leadership and were free to give our opinion on party matters, related to the betterment of the party in our respective states. She would hear us out and take down notes diligently.

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, like all women, had to prove herself in a man’s world, particularly in the world of politics. Her resilience, courage, and determination shone through. She went on to be the longest-serving President of the grand old party, taking the party to great heights. I still believe that under her leadership the country has seen the best of times, be it in respect of poverty alleviation, economy, or social harmony.

She is a passionate leader. She was the one determined to bring in the food security bill, the farmers' loan waiver and the criminal laws amendment bill. Under her leadership, the number of young Parliamentarians rose - many among them first-timers. She encouraged youngsters to take on a more substantial role in politics, assigning them greater responsibility.

She noticed every little thing. Her presence and participation in Parliament were admirable, especially for the youngsters. She led by example and all of us were inspired by her presence.

She attended Parliament every single day, no matter what – that too at a time when the House was getting adjourned very often, with little or no work happening, thanks to the opposition creating a ruckus over everything and stalling proceedings and important bills. But Mrs. G was always there without fail.

Sonia Gandhi I came to know is tender and yet tough, recalls Priya Dutt

I would see people around her looking at her in awe, hanging on to her every word. But when I saw her, I also saw a person who had no choice but to always be on her guard and put up a tough facade, considering what she was dealing with daily.

I would always wonder what it must be for her to be always under scrutiny, her time was not hers but belonged to everyone else. She met people every day and everyone who met her, wanted something from her. How did she deal with all that?

I soon realised that I too was one of those people. I decided then that I would never go to her with any frivolous issues and instead meet her only when I needed to discuss urgent matters, not just to say ‘hello’.

But what I also saw was a soft, compassionate woman. I used to see how impeccably dressed she was. She had a motherly warmth about her. When she smiled, she meant it and when she laughed, her face lit up.

My kids accompanied me once when they were very little; I had taken them to Parliament House and asked for an appointment to meet Ma’am. She was kind enough to meet us immediately and that was a big deal for us. She was so happy to meet them. My kids had no clue who they were meeting. I told them I was taking them to meet my boss and Parliament was my workplace. So, my little one went and sat next to her and she took him on her lap, asking questions. That day I saw the mother in her.

Another day I and my husband were in Delhi and I had an appointment to meet Ma’am in the evening. We decided to go to Khan Market for lunch. As we were entering the place, a car pulled up and Rahul and Ma’am got off, without any fanfare - just the two of them. They were going to the same place we were and invited us to join them.

We were thrilled to meet them so informally, over a meal. That day we spoke about everything but politics. We had a wonderful time. It was like sitting with friends and family. Of course, my husband had his fan moment and we had to click a picture together before leaving.

There have been many moments like these that gave me a glimpse of Mrs Sonia Gandhi - the woman and the mother. Her vulnerabilities made her human, though people see her only as the High Command. But she is a complete woman and a wonderful human being.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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