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Sonia Gandhi Out of Hospital After Becoming Ill During Debate

Image: Sonia Gandhi Out of Hospital After Becoming Ill During Debate

By Newsmax Wires   |   Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 06:22 AM

India's Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi returned home from the hospital Tuesday after becoming ill during an extended debate  the previous night in the nation's lower house.

Gandhi, 66, was led limping out of the lower house on Monday evening by her son and colleagues, and then taken by car to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in New Delhi, Reuters reported.

A Congress party official said Gandhi had a touch of viral fever and was fine now. "Madam Gandhi is home now. She is perfectly fine," the official said.

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The Italian-born politician, widely considered the most powerful politician in India, has led her party to two successive terms governing the world's largest democracy and has played a slightly reduced public role since being treated abroad for an unknown illness in 2011. Still, she is the world's sixth most powerful woman, Forbes magazine said last year.

The party is usually very secretive about Gandhi's health, but several media reports said in 2011 that she had been treated for cancer at New York's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

On Monday, Gandhi participated in a parliament debate on a scheme to provide cheap food to more than two-thirds of India's poor - one of her pet projects - when she felt unwell.

Gandhi and her son, Rahul, are banking on the nearly $20-billion food security program to boost the Congress party's prospects ahead of a difficult election next year and the party's campaign is built around the two members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Television images showed the normally strong-looking leader trembling as she read out from a clutch of papers a short speech on the food security bill, one of the world's largest welfare programs and one that Gandhi has insisted on to ensure India's poor are not left behind in its emergence as an economic power.

"It's time to take the historic step," she said. "It is my fervent appeal that we shall pass this unanimously."

Critics say the program will strain government finances further at a time when the economy has slowed and the country's external imbalance has deteriorated, with the rupee currency languishing at record lows.

The food security bill was passed two hours after Gandhi and her son left parliament. It must now go to the upper house.

Gandhi became Congress party president some years after the 1991 assassination of her husband, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

She declined to become prime minister despite pressure from the party after the first victory in 2004, and chose the quiet economist Manmohan Singh for the top job. However, she arguably wields more power over policy than the prime minister.

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Her son is now leading the party's preparations for a national election - due to be held in less than a year.

Despite having the same last name, the Gandhi family is not related to the nation's well-known independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, but rather is descended from India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were however close allies.

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India's Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi returned home from the hospital Tuesday after becoming ill during an extended debate the previous night in the nation's lower house.
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