Sonia returns home after undergoing surgery abroad

Sonia returns home after undergoing surgery abroad

New Delhi: United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi returned home on Thursday after a month of medical treatment in the United States which left the government rudderless to deal with the biggest protests in decades.

“She came back this morning and she is fine," Congress party spokesman Janadhan Dwivedi told Reuters.

The absence of the 64-year-old leader has caused serious problems for the coalition government, accused of mishandling the anti-corruption protests and worsening ties with parliamentary allies.

Gandhi’s illness added to an already long list of problems besieging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has fallen behind schedule with a reform agenda he himself considers vital to bringing India’s economic growth closer to double-digits.

Concern remains whether Gandhi will be well enough to take the reins of a divided party and a drifting coalition government sagging in opinion polls.

“She will take advice from the doctors now," Dwivedi said.

Asked when Gandhi could resume her public life, he said: “How can you talk about something like that now? It will depend on doctors. All I can say is that she is fine."

Broadcaster CNN IBN, citing party sources, said she may need another month to recover.

The party has declined to comment on the nature of her illness.

Concern about son’s leadership

After leaving for surgery, Sonia Gandhi promoted her son Rahul Gandhi, still seen as inexperienced, to help manage the party in her absence. He is widely expected to be the next prime minister if the Congress party returns to power in 2014 elections.

The government looked rudderless during anti-graft protests led by 74-year-old activist Anna Hazare, who forced the prime minister to back down and agree to tougher anti-corruption legislation.

The government was sharply criticized for failing to head off a bomb attack at Delhi high court on Wednesday which killed 12 people. The court has no CCTV cameras and handheld scanners were not working on the day of the attack.

A low-intensity bomb exploded at the same court in May.

Recent opinion polls show support for the centre-left Congress party sharply falling behind the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Congress party is still expected to hobble along until 2014 elections as the opposition feels a snap election will not yet be an automatic return to power.

In an attempt to regain the political initiative, the government presented to Parliament on Wednesday a reform to replace a century-old land acquisition law that seeks to placate a rural voter base worried it is being short-changed in the country’s rush into modernization.