Which country does Sonia Gandhi come from

It is not often that "Madam", as they are called in India, addresses the nation with a televised address. Sonia Gandhi is still not a friend of big appearances, but this time she obviously felt called upon, beyond all party-tactical calculations, namely "as wife and mother", as she put it.

India is no stranger to naked, brute force. But the mass rape of a young woman who died as a result has shocked the country. You can see it in the demonstrations, in the vigils, in the indignation that ranged from Bollywood to the Parliament of Delhi, and you can also see it in the TV appearance of Sonia Gandhi.

That a woman from Northern Italy from a Catholic family would one day speak to the world's most populous country after China with sensitive words from the wounded soul could not have been foreseen. But love sometimes goes strange ways, and in this case it made a couple out of the Italian student Sonia Maino and the Indian student Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge, England in the 1960s.

It was not a bad match for the Italian, because she married into a royal family, so to speak. It became part of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty, which had long ruled India's major congress party and thus the country's politics. But the gloss had a downside, and the new one quickly felt it. Mother-in-law Indira murdered, brother-in-law Sanjay died in a plane crash, and then Rajiv, the political heir and young prime minister, husband and father of two children, butchered by a suicide bomber.

The power in the background

That was the end of the dynasty, or so it seemed. Son Rahul and daughter Priyanka were too young to succeed in the party, and the widow did not want to. She was smart enough to stay away from the mud battles of Indian politics and instead let herself be flattered as a power in the background and as the secret queen of the party. But then Madam gave in to the advertising and was elected to the head of the badly run-down party.

That was 14 years ago. Sonia Gandhi has given campaign speeches, in Hindi with an Italian accent. It lost elections, it won elections, the last one in 2009 very convincing. She could be head of government if she only wanted the party to roll out the red carpet for her immediately. But that would make the woman with foreign roots vulnerable, she knows, and she doesn't need the office anyway. It has much more than the dignity that a high post bestows. She has the smell of the dynasty, which is one of the reasons why most Indians have long considered her the real ruler of the country.