Sonia had tears, put food bill ahead of illness: Rahul

Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh), Oct 17 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said Thursday his mother Sonia Gandhi, despite being ill, was more concerned about passing the "historic" food security bill that ensures subsidised food for the poor and hungry.

Addressing a Congress rally here, about 522 km from state capital Bhopal, Rahul Gandhi said his mother first refused to go to hospital and when she finally agreed she had tears in her eyes.

"I was sitting behind (in the house) and was watching my mother as I knew she was not well. After sometime, I saw her leave with (Kumari) Selja (minister of social justice and empowerment). I got little worried.

"I told her (Sonia) let's go to hospital. But she refused. She said 'I will not leave until the food bill is passed'. She said 'do whatever you want to do, but I will not leave. She said 'she has fought for it for years," a visibly emotional Rahul Gandhi said, launching the election campaign in the state that will go to the polls Nov 25.

He then went on to say that, despite illness, his mother went inside parliament, but came out again after 10 minutes.

"By that time voting had started. This time I was adamant that she has to go to hospital. I dragged her to hospital. But even then she was not ready to go. She was crying. And I asked her and she told me that she wanted to vote (for the bill) but could not."

It is the first time Rahul Gandhi has spoken publicly about his mother and Congress president's sudden illness while the Lok Sabha was debating the food bill Aug 26.

Sonia Gandhi was rushed that day to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for treatment.

Parliament has since passed the bill which gives right to subsidised grains to two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion population, numbering around 800 million, the largest such scheme anywhere in the world.

"It is a historic bill. After this legislation, no one (in India) will go hungry," Gandhi declared.

The bill is the pet welfare measure of Sonia Gandhi and was a part of the Congress election manifesto of 2009.

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