Sonia suffers asthma attack, to resume campaign on Tuesday
A Congress politician said, requesting anonymity, that the Congress president had an asthma attack
New Delhi: The Congress party on Monday sought to allay fears over party president Sonia Gandhi’s health, with one leader saying she had suffered an asthma attack and would resume election campaigning on Tuesday.
“Because of the harvest season, every asthma patient gets uneasy and is prone to asthma attacks. The Congress president had an asthma attack and she will resume her campaigning tomorrow (Tuesday),” a Congress politician said, requesting anonymity.
“There is no health issue now,” party spokesperson Shobha Ojha said, also confirming that Gandhi, 67, will continue her programmes from Tuesday. She is expected to address election rallies in Valsad and Kheralu in Gujarat on Thursday.
Congress leaders expressed concern about Gandhi’s health after the party cancelled three of her campaign rallies in Maharashtra on Sunday, saying she was indisposed. One of the rallies, in Mumbai, was addressed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi underwent a surgery and treatment for an undisclosed illness three years ago in the US. However, the party continues to look to her to energize the cadre and earn the confidence of voters.
Gandhi, credited with the Congress’s resurgence in 2004 and its re-election in 2009, has been a late joiner in this year’s general election, leaving it to her son Rahul Gandhi, who became vice-president of the party in January 2013, to lead the campaign in the initial weeks.
But she swung into action in the last week of March with the party scheduling at least two rallies almost every day in April and in May till the last day of campaigning for the final phase on 12 May.
With opinion polls giving a clear edge to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the current general election, a section of the Congress leadership has been keen on Sonia Gandhi taking on a more active campaign role as she is strongly identified with the party’s core ideology of secularism and national integrity.
The Congress’s recent campaigning indicates that Gandhi will focus on secularism and campaign against what the party calls the divisive politics of the BJP, while Rahul Gandhi will focus on the Congress’s social agenda as well as its entitlement regime unveiled by the United Progressive Alliance government.
Sonia Gandhi’s presence is important to the Congress in the election campaign, according to Balveer Arora, chairman of the Centre for Multilevel Federalism, a New Delhi-based think-tank.
“She is the unifying factor for the Congress,” Arora said. “Undoubtedly, she is the biggest star for the Congress in its campaign.”
Political analyst N. Bhaskara Rao added: “She brings in more vibrancy to the party campaign, makes it more appealing among women voters and her speeches have a stronger punch than that of Rahul Gandhi.”
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