A life of great sacrifices
Sonia Gandhi is an Italian-born Indian politician belonging to the Indian National Congress (INC). She is part of the Nehru-Gandhi family and has been the President of INC since 1998. She has served as the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the Lok Sabha since 2004. She is also a Member of Parliament (MP) from Lok Sabha. She has inherited the political legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi family, after the assassination of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and husband Rajiv Gandhi, both of whom had served as the Prime Minister of India. The twin assassinations in the family had created a leadership vacuum for INC, something that Sonia Gandhi has tried to fill by taking charge of party affairs and political workings of UPA. Sonia Gandhi has been ranked amongst the most powerful women and the most powerful people in the world by Time and Forbes magazine.
Early Life and Education
Sonia Gandhi was born in Lusiana, Vicenza (Italy) on December 9, 1946 to Stefano Maino and Paola Predebon. She was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic family and spent most of her adolescent life in Orbassano, a town near Turin in Italy. Her father was into construction business and had fought in World War II alongside Hitler’s Wehrmacht on the eastern front. She went to study at the Bell Educational Trust’s language school in the city of Cambridge. On a fateful day, she met Rajiv Gandhi at a Greek restaurant (the Varsity Restaurant in Cambridge). At that time, Rajiv Gandhi was studying in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. They got married in 1968, after which Sonia Gandhi moved to India. Sonia Gandhi has two children from her marriage, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
Initially, both Sonia and Rajiv avoided politics. Sonia looked after the family and Rajiv worked as an airline pilot. Things changed when Rajiv’s younger brother Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash on June 23, 1980. Then later, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Sonia was requested to take charge of the party and serve as the Prime Minister of India. However, she refused the offer of Prime Minister and suggested P. V. Narasimha Rao for the top leader position. In view of the party’s sagging fortunes, she agreed to lead INC as its President in 1998.
- March 1998 onwards: President, Indian National Congress; Chairperson, Congress (I) Parliamentary Party (CPP)
- 1999: Elected to 13th Lok Sabha
- 1999 – 2004: Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha
- 1999-2000: Member, General Purposes Committee
- 2004: Re-elected to 14th Lok Sabha (2nd term); Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance
- 2004 – 2009 and 2009 – 2014: Chairperson, National Advisory Council
- 23 March 2006: Resigned from 14th Lok Sabha
- 15 May 2006: Re-elected in a bye-election
- 16 May 2009: Re-elected to 15th Lok Sabha (3rd term)
- 29 March 2010: Appointed Chairperson of the (re-constituted), National Advisory Council
- May, 2014: Re-elected to 16th Lok Sabha (4th term)
Sonia Gandhi has interests in reading, writing and gardening.