Sonia Gandhi recuperating, visitors banned

Sonia Gandhi returned to India early Sep 8 after spending about 5 weeks in the US, where she reportedly underwent a surgery.

New Delhi: Amid intense speculation about Sonia Gandhi`s health, the Congress party says its president is recuperating after a surgery in the US but no visitors are allowed to meet her.

Many Congress functionaries are reluctant to discuss Gandhi`s health condition. Most of those who are ready to discuss the subject request that they should not be identified by name or designation.

Gandhi, 64, returned to India early Sep 8 after spending about five weeks in the US, where she reportedly underwent a successful surgery at New York`s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Newly appointed Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told a news agency: "Sonia Gandhi is back and in good health. I cannot say anything more on this matter."

Another Congress leader said details about Gandhi may be provided by chief spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi, who declined to speak on the subject.

A senior Congress leader who did not want to be identified said Gandhi was recuperating at her 10 Janpath residence here.

"As doctors have advised her complete rest, she is not meeting party colleagues," he said.

However, she was abreast of the political developments and reads newspapers without fail, the source added.

Her own family members are in constant touch with her, according to informed sources.

Aruna Roy, a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Gandhi, told the agency that she had no first hand knowledge of the Congress president`s condition.

"I only know what all others know through media reports. There has been no communication from the NAC Secretariat on her illness," she said.

Yet another party leader told the news agency: "I hear she is improving and will be resuming duties after a month. Visitors are not permitted now. Otherwise, party leaders will flock to 10 Janpath."

This leader added that he and his colleagues were aware that there were rumours that Gandhi`s condition was serious.

"I know that our rivals, both from the Left and the Right, are spreading these rumours," he added.

A senior intelligence official told the agency that the Gandhi family was very quiet about her condition.

Officially, neither the Gandhi family nor the Congress party has said what is her ailment and what was she treated for -- and where.

"The family is maintaining strict privacy about Sonia`s illness," the official said. "Most Congress leaders did not even know about her leaving for the US till it was announced by the party spokesperson."

Gandhi, often seen as the key force behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has not attended any known event since her return to India.

Her last public engagement before her departure to the US was a visit to Bangladesh.

Gandhi has pursued a punishing schedule since leading the party back to power in 2004 and again five years later.

According to media reports, she was last treated for mild asthma for six days in 2008.


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