Parents in India hope or somewhat expect that their children will follow in their footsteps. So, actors’ children become actors; doctors’ kids become doctors; industrialists’ progenies become business owners. Believing in this tradition, one public leader’s four generations followed his footprints fittingly.
Motilal Nehru was a member of the Indian National Congress during the late 1800s and the party’s President in 1919 and 1928. His son Jawaharlal became the first Prime Minister of India in 1947, a role which he held until his death in 1964. Jawaharlal’s daughter Indira Gandhi was elected to be Prime Minister in 1966; in turn, her son Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984. Currently, Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi is the President of the Congress party, and their son Rahul is the Vice President. The mother and son are also members of Parliament. This is a rare family — combined, three of its members led India in the role of Prime Minister for over 37 years.
What is unique about Indian-Italian Sonia Gandhi is that she is the longest-serving President of the Congress party. During her 16 years in power, the party came to power twice, in 2004 and 2009. However, during the 2014 election, the party’s prospects seem dim. The economy is faltering, and Indian voters tend to throw out the party in power when this is the case.
Should the Congress party ask Sonia Gandhi and her son to resign from their positions? Or should the two step down voluntarily and let others take over the party? The latter is the wise and right thing to do, largely because they are unlikely to come up with any ideas that they haven’t tried before to resurrect the 129-year-old party.
The political history of advanced and mature democratic nations is full of examples of elected as well as nominated leaders who came to office, remained there for a fixed number of years, and then left the political stage for others to carry on the nation’s business. The duo should leave the stage with their heads held high.
Sonia Gandhi should be proud of herself: She learned India’s difficult national language, Hindi, adopted India’s food, culture, and traditions, and assimilated with us. She came very close to becoming Prime Minister of India; not many foreigners have the opportunity to serve in public office in their adopted nations. The people of India, too, should be proud of themselves for allowing a person of foreign origin to hold a high office and thus respecting her as one of ours. This is one more reason we should be proud of our democratic nation and who we are.
Motilal’s son, granddaughter, great-grandson and his wife, and great-great-grandson have served our nation to the best of their abilities. But now it’s time for us to let them go so that they may enjoy peace and privacy as private citizens.