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Signora's Story

Sonia's poll campaign creates major media interest in Italy

Signora's Story
As the Sonia hype gets hyper, the Italian media is stepping on the pedal. She made it to the front page of La Repubblica the day she launched her campaign; she is on the cover of its weekly supplement this week; and a correspondent has been assigned to tail her at every step of the arduous journey she has begun.

"There's a lot of interest in Sonia's election campaign back home," says the paper's Vanna Vannuccini. "Rajiv and Sonia have always been well-known names in Italy. Now, when it turns out that Sonia could be the next PM of a country of India's size, it definitely is a story."

For Botti Ettore of the daily Corriere Dellasera , Sonia's decision to plunge into the political hurly-burly is only the latest twist in the life of the woman they call Cinderella in pizza country: a fairy tale of love, blood and sorrow, with a fresh new topping. "It's real opera material, you know," says Ettore. Poor Italian girl falls in love with rich Indian prince in England, marries and settles down in an alien land, till death does them apart. Seven years later, she goes for broke.

"India is a such a far-away country for Italians," says Ettore. "And suddenly they find that one of them has a chance to lead it. Naturally curiosity is kindled. But Italians see Sonia as Italian, not Indian. How can she become Indian just by marrying an Indian?"

The interest though, is only in Sonia, not in Indian politics. Already, says Ettore,Italian papers are after Sonia's parents, sister and old teachers: "Her school teacher remembered recently, rather surprisingly, that she was just an average student!"

Vannuccini hesitates to hazard a guess on Sonia's poll impact, but she gives a 7.5 to 8 for her Sriperumbudur performance. "Priyanka was a 9. She was more natural, her gestures were more Indian, she looked more like an Indian woman than her mother." Douiela Beeg from the women's magazine Doli Rejuheico is, however, intrigued at the Indianness Sonia is projecting. "Can she really become an Indian like all of you just by wearing an Indian dress?"

Beeg says many of her countrymen feel Sonia has a good chance of being PM. "We also feel this is a launch pad for her daughter. Italians know little about Priya-nka and Rahul. They aren't interested either. They're only interested in Sonia's story." So far, chapter one has made for gripping reading.

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