How PM 'led' Sonia Gandhi into reforms
In stepped Sonia Gandhi to revive the morale of the ruling party's lawmakers, exhorting them at a meeting to stand up and fight, fight with a sense of purpose and fight aggressively. It was a stunningly assertive speech from the normally temperate matriarch of a dynasty that has ruled India for most of its post-independence era.
And yet few at the gathering were aware that just a week earlier she had performed an even more dramatic about-face, agreeing to a raft of economic reforms that would be unveiled on Sept. 13 and 14.
Gandhi has no official government post, but as Congress party president and torchbearer of India's widely revered first family, she has the last word on big policy issues: and for her, social welfare has always come before liberalising the economy.
However, more than a dozen officials and party leaders close to the secretive inner circle of the Italian-born leader said that Gandhi was persuaded of the need for urgent action to avert a repeat of the crisis that took India to the brink of bankruptcy in 1991.
This time there was a very grim scenario, said Rashid Kidwai, a Sonia Gandhi biographer who was given an account of the arguments made over weeks by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his new finance minister P Chidambaram behind the