Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the Congress Party in India.|
Although Sonia could have become the first foreign-born Indian Prime Minister, she declined the opportunity.
In the May 2005 Parliamentary Elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, Sonia led the Congress Party to victory over the ruling BJP.
Sonia's victory was aided by anti-incumbency sentiments as well as the large-scale disenchantment of millions of people belonging to the lower classes, who have been mostly left behind in the economic reforms exercise of the BJP.
Sonia's rapid rise in the political arena highlights two interesting aspects of Indian politics - In a country, where Hindus account for a majority of the population, Indian voters have not hesitated to embrace a Roman Catholic Videshi (Hindi word for foreigner).
Sonia's quick rise to the top of the Congress party illustrates the weakness of the Congress party and indeed the Indian political system. As political scientists like Samuel Huntington have written, in mature political systems the path to the top often takes decades during which time the leader gains experience in lesser positions and learns the art of governance in the process.
Sonia has so far had very limited experience in the rough and tumble of politics and almost no experience in the art of governance. This raises questions of how effective Sonia can be as head of the ruling party of a complex nation like India with its myriad castes and religions and multitude of problems.
If Sonia had become Prime Minister, she would have been the fourth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to become Prime Minister of India following in the footsteps of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.