Sunday, December 20, 2009
It's only fitting that we start with the president of the ruling Indian National Congress party and arguably the most influential woman in India today; in fact, according to Forbes Magazine's list of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women of 2008, Sonia is the 21st most powerful woman in the world.
An Italian by birth and widow of the late PM Rajiv Gandhi, a grieving Sonia cut herself off from public life after the assassination of her husband in 1991. She rebuffed repeated entreaties from Congress officials to enter the political arena until 1997, a year after the party lost the national elections and was in a state of utter chaos. In a bid to preserve the crumbling legacy of the Gandhi family, she finally became a primary member of the Indian National Congress and within three months of joining, was party president. Having steered her way into Indian public and political life, there was no looking back -- Sonia led her party to victory in the national polls in 2004. And when controversy arose over the country having a prime minister of non-Indian origin, she stepped aside and recommended renowned economist and present PM Manmohan Singh, who is known to defer to her in all matters.