Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, led Congress to victory in last year’s regional elections, which were fought over such bread-and-butter issues as the country’s onion shortage. “By projecting Sonia as a Christian and implying that there’s a threat to Hindus from conversions, they’re trying to create an issue with which to beat Congress,” says Rahman. Still, that’s unlikely to impress voters unless there’s an onion in every pot.
NEW DELHI: Throwing a few Christians to the lions may be a government reelection strategy in India. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sunday visited the southern state of Gujarat, which has seen a wave of attacks on Christians -- but instead of simply calling for the attacks to stop, Vajpayee issued a call for a national debate over religious conversion. “India’s constitution guarantees the right to propagate one’s religion,” says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. “The reason Vajpayee is raising the conversion issue is to put the opposition Congress party on the defensive, because its leader, Sonia Gandhi, is an Italian-born Catholic.”