South Asia

Sonia Gandhi 'recovering' after operation

Sonia Gandhi
Image caption Sonia Gandhi is seen as India's most powerful politician

India's governing Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi is recovering after undergoing "successful" surgery abroad for an undisclosed medical condition, a party spokesman has said.

Janardhan Dwivedi said the "surgery is over [and] the surgeon had indicated that it was successful".

He said Mrs Gandhi was recovering in an intensive care unit of a hospital.

The Italian-born Mrs Gandhi, 64, holds no official government post but is seen as India's most powerful politician.

India has some of the best medical facilities and doctors in the world and speculation is rife as to why Mrs Gandhi chose to go elsewhere for surgery.

Some reports suggest she may be receiving specialist treatment not yet available in India, but these are unconfirmed.

"As this is a personal matter that pertains to her health and medical treatment, her family requests that her privacy be respected," Mr Dwivedi said.

The news that Mrs Gandhi was abroad, possibly in the US, came as a complete surprise when it was announced on Thursday.

Mrs Gandhi was "likely to be away for two to three weeks", Mr Dwivedi had said.

Correspondents say her absence comes at a critical time for the government as it deals with corruption scandals and high price rises.

Mrs Gandhi has named a four-member team to run party affairs during her absence. The team includes her son and MP Rahul Gandhi, who is tipped as a future prime minister.

The Congress president's absence from parliament on Monday was remarked upon in the Indian media, but explained by a "viral infection" from which she was said to be suffering.

Mrs Gandhi is the widow of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. She nominated Manmohan Singh to the prime minister's post in 2004 but is frequently portrayed as being more powerful than him.

She is at the head of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has ruled India for most of the time since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

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