Son in tow, Sonia to address UN, NRIs

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York/New Delhi : Accompanied by Rahul Gandhi, the newly appointed general secretary of the Congress party and her son, chairperson of India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi is visiting the US. But virtually nothing is known about her engagements beyond the two already announced.

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She is arriving in New York primarily to address the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Oct 2 and for the formal declaration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday as International Day of Non-Violence.

Sonia Gandhi and her son Sunday left New Delhi for New York.

According to the UN website, besides Sonia Gandhi three other speakers are to make statements during the half-hour slotted for the Oct 2 morning event – General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The UN earlier this year adopted an Indian-sponsored resolution to declare Oct 2 as International Day of Non-Violence as a tribute to the satyagrah movement launched by the Father of the Nation against the British colonial rule.

On Monday evening, Sonia Gandhi will address the NRI community at a reception hosted in her honour by the Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) at Hotel Marriot Marquis in Manhattan.

Said Surinder S. Malhotra, president of INOC’s US chapter: “There is great enthusiasm in the community here about her visit. People are eager to listen to her. We have reached out to all Indian organisations here, irrespective of their political, ethnic or religious affiliations, to make it a pan-Indian reception.”

Malhotra said 60 community organisations would be represented at the event, to be attended by over 2,500 people.

On the protest planned by some organisations against Sonia Gandhi representing India at the UN event, Malhotra reiterated that in a democracy, expression of dissent and differences was welcome.

Rahul Gandhi, during his first visit abroad after assuming his new office, does not have an official role at Sonia Gandhi’s New York engagements, but is expected to accompany her.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and other Indian ministers who have been in town for the Incredible [email protected] fest will also be present.

Sonia Gandhi addressed the UNGA in June 2001 on the subject of AIDS. On that trip, she also addressed the Asia Society, Indian Congressional Caucus and a gathering of top entrepreneurs organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will lead the Oct 2 celebrations in New Delhi. He will flag off a rally from the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road that will go up to Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat.

Senior Congress leaders, ministers and MPs and others are expected to participate in the rally along with a large number of party workers.