Sonia checks into US cancer hospital
There was a hush on Thursday afternoon when the Congress made a surprise announcement that party chief Sonia Gandhi was indisposed and was in the United States for a surgery. AICC General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, who made the announcement, did not specify the nature of her ailment. Over the next few hours, worry turned into fear as it started to emerge that Sonia was in a New York hospital that specialised in treating cancer. Tehelka tweeted that she was admitted to New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Sources said she had flown out of Delhi early this week along with son Rahul and daughter Priyanka. She had been ailing for the last two months, and could be away for up to six months to undergo chemotherapy. The Gandhi family had kept Sonia's ailment such a well-guarded secret that no one seemed to know about it. Even senior cabinet ministers were all informed only through the public announcement by Dwivedi on Thursday afternoon. "On the advice of her doctors, she travelled abroad and she is likely to be away for two to three weeks," Dwivedi said, adding that she would have the surgery in two to three days. Her absence will mark the first time in 13 years that the Congress will have to function without Sonia playing an active role in the party's day-to-day running. What makes the scenario more intriguing from a political perspective is that Sonia has, through a letter, has put in place a pecking while she is away. A team of four leaders, led by A K Anthony and consisting of Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel and Janardan Dwivedi will handle the party's affairs. No senior minister - not even Pranab Mukherjee or Kapil Sibal - has been put on the list. The fear in the Congress camp is that any long-term illness could put Sonia out of action not just for daily party work but also the election campaign in UP early next year.