Mother India, most powerful person in India
Sonia Gandhi, Congress party and head of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, America to undergo an operation has highlighted the extraordinary powers she enjoys and brought to the fore the question of her successor.
Hardened members of parliament in Delhi wept when, after leading the Congress party to a surprise victory in the 2004 general election, Sonia Gandhi announced that she would not become prime minister.
Those tearful MPs need not have worried: Sonia was not about to go away, to leave them leaderless.
And now every member of the ruling party, from the top down, is worried about whether Sonia will recover to continue leading them, and if not, how she will manage the succession.
When Sonia gave up the chance to become prime minister, she made it clear that she would still be the boss by choosing Manmohan Singh to do the job.
He is renowned for his honesty and his knowledge of economics, but has spent most of his life as a bureaucrat and politically he is entirely dependent on Sonia.
Sonia Gandhi's power derives from being the head of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which has dominated Indian politics since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister after India gained its independence.
Italian by birth, she became a member of the family by marrying the imperious Indira Gandhi's eldest son Rajiv.
Sonia always puts across the message she learnt from her mother-in-law - the message which says: "I am on the side of the poor".
Typically, there was no government announcement about Sonia's departure for America. The Congress party issued a bald statement bereft of any information about her illness or the hospital where she was being treated.