Sonia Gandhi

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Sonia Gandhi
Chairperson of the National Advisory Council
Incumbent
Assumed office
29 March 2010
Preceded byPosition reestablished
In office
4 June 2004 – 23 March 2006
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 May 2004
Preceded byPosition established
President of the Indian National Congress
Incumbent
Assumed office
14 March 1998
Preceded bySitaram Kesri
Leader of the Opposition
In office
19 March 1998 – 22 May 2004
Preceded bySharad Pawar
Succeeded byLal Krishna Advani
Member of Parliament
for Rae Bareli
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 May 2004
Preceded bySatish Sharma
Member of Parliament
for Amethi
In office
10 October 1999 – 17 May 2004
Preceded bySanjay Singh
Succeeded byRahul Gandhi
Personal details
BornAntonia Edvige Albina Maino
(1946-12-09) 9 December 1946 (age 65)
Lusiana, Italy
Political partyIndian National Congress
Other political
affiliations
United Front (1996–2004)
United Progressive Alliance (2004–present)
Spouse(s)Rajiv Gandhi (1969–1991)
ChildrenRahul
Priyanka
Residence10 Janpath
 
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Sonia Gandhi
Chairperson of the National Advisory Council
Incumbent
Assumed office
29 March 2010
Preceded byPosition reestablished
In office
4 June 2004 – 23 March 2006
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 May 2004
Preceded byPosition established
President of the Indian National Congress
Incumbent
Assumed office
14 March 1998
Preceded bySitaram Kesri
Leader of the Opposition
In office
19 March 1998 – 22 May 2004
Preceded bySharad Pawar
Succeeded byLal Krishna Advani
Member of Parliament
for Rae Bareli
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 May 2004
Preceded bySatish Sharma
Member of Parliament
for Amethi
In office
10 October 1999 – 17 May 2004
Preceded bySanjay Singh
Succeeded byRahul Gandhi
Personal details
BornAntonia Edvige Albina Maino
(1946-12-09) 9 December 1946 (age 65)
Lusiana, Italy
Political partyIndian National Congress
Other political
affiliations
United Front (1996–2004)
United Progressive Alliance (2004–present)
Spouse(s)Rajiv Gandhi (1969–1991)
ChildrenRahul
Priyanka
Residence10 Janpath

Sonia Gandhi (born Antonia Edvige Albina Maino,[1][2][3] 9 December 1946)[4] is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and belongs to the Nehru–Gandhi family. After his assassination in 1991, she was invited by the Indian National Congress to take over the Congress but refused and publicly stayed away from politics amidst constant prodding by the Congress. She finally agreed to join politics in 1997; in 1998, she was elected as the leader of the Congress.

Since then, Sonia Gandhi has been the President of the Indian National Congress Party. She has served as the Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha since 2004. In September 2010, on being re-elected for the fourth time, she became the longest serving president in the 125-year history of the Congress party.[5] Her foreign birth has been a subject of much debate and controversy.[6][7][8] Although Sonia is actually the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947.[9]

Contents

Early life

Sonia Gandhi's birthplace, 31, Contrada Maini (Maini street), Lusiana, Italy (the house on the right)

She was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in Contrada Màini ("Maini quarter/district"), at Lusiana,[10][11] a little village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto,[12] Italy, where families with the family name "Màino" have been living for many generations.[13][14][15] She spent her adolescence in Orbassano,[16] a town near Turin, being raised in a traditional Roman Catholic family and attending a Catholic school. Her father, a building mason, died in 1983.[17] Her mother and two sisters still live around Orbassano.[18]

In 1964, she went to study English at the Bell Educational Trust's language school in the city of Cambridge. She met Rajiv Gandhi, who was enrolled in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge in 1965 at a Greek restaurant (the Varsity Restaurant) while working there as a waitress to make ends meet.[19][20] Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi married in 1968, following which she moved into the house of her mother-in-law and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.[21]

The couple had two children, Rahul Gandhi (born 1970) and Priyanka Vadra (born 1972). Despite belonging to the influential Nehru family, Sonia and Rajiv avoided all involvement in politics. Rajiv worked as an airline pilot while Sonia took care of her family.[22] When Indira was ousted from office in 1977 in the aftermath of the Indian Emergency, the Rajiv family moved abroad for a short time.[citation needed] When Rajiv entered politics in 1982 after the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in a plane crash on 23 June 1980, Sonia continued to focus on her family and avoided all contact with the public.[23]

Political career

Wife of the Prime Minister

Sonia Gandhi's involvement with Indian public life began after the assassination of her mother-in-law and her husband's election as Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister's wife she acted as his official hostess and also accompanied him on a number of state visits.[citation needed] In 1984, she actively campaigned against her husband's sister-in-law Maneka Gandhi who was running against Rajiv in Amethi. At the end of Rajiv Gandhi's five years in office, the Bofors Scandal broke out. Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian business man believed to be involved, was said to be a friend of Sonia Gandhi, having access to the Prime Minister's official residence.[24] In 1980, her name appeared in the voter's list for New Delhi prior to her becoming an Indian Citizen, when she was still holding Italian Citizenship.[25] It was a violation of Indian Laws.[26] When she did acquire Indian Citizenship in April 1983, the issue cropped up again, as her name appeared on the 1983 voter's list when the deadline for registering had been in January 1983.[27][28]

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said that she surrendered her Italian passport to the Italian Embassy on 27 April 1983. Italian nationality law did not permit dual nationality until 1992. So, by acquiring Indian citizenship in 1983, she would automatically have lost Italian citizenship.[29]

Congress President

With the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev during his State visit in December 2010.

After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and her refusal to become Prime Minister, the party settled on the choice of P. V. Narasimha Rao who became leader and subsequently Prime Minister. Over the next few years, however, the Congress fortunes continued to dwindle and it lost the 1996 elections. Several senior leaders such as Madhavrao Sindhia, Rajesh Pilot, Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Arjun Singh, Mamata Banerjee, G. K. Moopanar, P. Chidambaram and Jayanthi Natarajan were in open revolt against incumbent President Sitaram Kesri and quit the party, splitting the Congress into many factions.[citation needed]

In an effort to revive the party's sagging fortunes, she joined the Congress Party as a primary member in the Calcutta Plenary Session in 1997 and became party leader in 1998.[30]

In May 1999, three senior leaders of the party (Sharad Pawar, P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar) challenged her right to try to become India's Prime Minister because of her foreign origins. In response, she offered to resign as party leader, resulting in an outpouring of support and the expulsion from the party of the three rebels who went on to form the Nationalist Congress Party.[31]

Within 62 days of joining as a primary member, she was offered the party President post which she accepted.[citation needed] She contested Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Karnataka and Amethi, Uttar Pradesh in 1999. In Bellary she defeated veteran BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj.[32] In 2004 and 2009, she was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.[33]

Leader of the Opposition

Sonia Gandhi welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to her residence, 10 Janpath in New Delhi, India, 2009.

She was elected the Leader of the Opposition of the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999.[citation needed] When the BJP-led NDA formed a government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, she took the office of the Leader of Opposition. As Leader of Opposition, she called a no-confidence motion against the NDA government led by Vajpayee in 2003.[citation needed]

She holds the record of having served as Congress President for 10 years consecutively.[citation needed]

2004 elections and aftermath

In the 2004 general elections, Gandhi launched a nationwide campaign, criss-crossing the country on the Aam Aadmi (ordinary man) slogan in contrast to the 'India Shining' slogan of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance. She countered the BJP asking "Who is India Shining for?". In the election, she won by a large margin in the Rae Bareilly constituency. Following the unexpected defeat of the NDA, she was widely expected to be the next Prime Minister of India. On 16 May, she was unanimously chosen to lead a 15-party coalition government with the support of the left, which was subsequently named the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The defeated NDA protested once against her 'foreign origin' and senior NDA leader Sushma Swaraj threatened to shave her head and "sleep on the ground", among other things, should Sonia become prime minister.[6] The NDA also claimed that there were legal reasons that barred her from the Prime Minister's post.[34] They pointed, in particular, to Section 5 of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955, which they claimed implied 'reciprocity'. This was contested by others[28] and eventually the suits were dismissed by the Supreme Court of India.[35]

A few days after the election, Gandhi appointed Manmohan Singh as prime minister. Her supporters compared it to the old Indian tradition of renunciation,[36] while her opponents attacked it as a political stunt.[37]

UPA Chairperson

Sonia Gandhi speaking at World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2006

On 23 March 2006, Gandhi announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha and also as chairperson of the National Advisory Council under the office-of-profit controversy and the speculation that the government was planning to bring an ordinance to exempt the post of chairperson of National Advisory Council from the purview of office of profit.[38]She was re-elected from her constituency Rae Bareilly in May 2006 by a margin of over 400,000 votes.

As chairperson of the National Advisory Committee and the UPA, she played an important role in making the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act into law.[39][40]

She addressed the United Nations on 2 October 2007, Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary which is observed as the international day of non-violence after a UN resolution passed on 15 July 2007.[41]

Under her leadership, India returned the Congress-led-UPA to a near majority in the 2009 general elections with Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. The Congress itself won 206 Lok Sabha seats, which was the highest total by any party since 1991.

Personal life

Sonia Gandhi in 2009

Sonia is the widow of late Rajiv Gandhi, elder son of Indira Gandhi. She is a practising Christian.[42] There has been considerable media speculation for over a decade about their future role in the Congress. After a period of uncertainty, both Rahul and Priyanka became primary members of the Congress party. While Priyanka has so far restricted herself to organising her mother's election campaigns and taking care of Sonia's constituency, Rahul Gandhi has gone on to take formal charge as General Secretary of the Congress Party. He is also currently head of the Youth Congress.

In August 2011, she underwent a successful surgery for an unspecified ailment in the United States. It has been widely speculated in the media that the surgery took place at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Newspapers reported that she returned[43] to India on 9 September after her treatment. Speaking on 18 July 2012, about his son taking a larger role in the party, she said that it is for Rahul to decide.[44]

Honours, awards and international recognition

Gandhi was named the third most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine in the year 2004[45] and was ranked 6th in 2007.[46] In 2010, Gandhi ranked as the ninth most powerful person on the planet by Forbes Magazine.[47] She was also named among the Time 100 most influential people in the world for the years 2007[48] and 2008.[49] The British magazine New Statesman listed Sonia Gandhi at number 29 in their annual survey of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures" in the year 2010.[50]

YearNameAwarding organisationRef.
2008Honorary DoctorateUniversity of Madras.[51]
2006Order of King LeopoldGovernment of Belgium.[52]
2006Honorary DoctorateBrussels University.[52]

Portrayals and coverage in books

Books

See also

References

  1. ^ Sonia Gandhi. Britannica. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  2. ^ Lok Sabha. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  3. ^ Divided we stand: India in a time of coalitions. Los Angeles : SAGE Publications, 2007.. 2007. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-7619-3663-3. 
  4. ^ INDIA TODAY – The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia. Archives.digitaltoday.in. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  5. ^ Fourth time in a row, Sonia Gandhi is Congress chief. Timesofindia.indiatimes.com (4 September 2010). Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  6. ^ a b Religioscope: India: politics of renunciation, traditional and modern – Analysis. Religion.info. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  7. ^ Ramaseshan, Radhika (30 August 2002). "BJP sees Gujarat ammo in Sonia origins". The Telegraph (Calcutta, India). http://www.telegraphindia.com/1020830/asp/nation/story_1151052.asp. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Uma Bharti does not want to be CM". Rediff.com. 18 May 2004. http://www.rediff.com/election/2004/may/18uma.htm. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "On being foreign and being nationalist". Chennai, India: Frontline Magazine. 22 May – 4 June 1999. http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl1611/16110920.htm. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Pictures from the book-biography "The Red sari" by Javier Moro. Radiopopolare.it. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  11. ^ GeneAll.net - Edvige Antonia Albina Maino
  12. ^ Sonia Gandhi, dalla piccola Lusiana all'India ecco il romanzo di una donna speciale Il Giornale de Vicenza. 05/10/2009
  13. ^ Maini Lusiana.
  14. ^ Sonia Gandy. Il Giornale di Vicenza. 2004 (with picture of her native house)
  15. ^ Lusiana: parish church, townhall square, landscape. Youreporter.it. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  16. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/32475652/The-Red-Sari. Sonia Maino Gandhi from Lusiana to Orbassano, pages 22–27.
  17. ^ In Maino land. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  18. ^ Italy heralds 'first woman PM'. BBC. 14 May 2004. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  19. ^ 'From waitress to world leader'. Rediff.com (17 May 2004). Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  20. ^ "The Sonia Shock". Time. 17 May 2004. http://web.archive.org/web/20110604080555/http://www.time.com/time/asia/covers/501040524/story.html. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  21. ^ The name game of the rich and famous[dead link]. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  22. ^ BREAKING THE SILENCE Retrieved 20 July 2007.
  23. ^ Sonia Gandhi, pressured congress, to return as Congress Party's Leader
  24. ^ Who is Quattrocchi? Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  25. ^ "Sonia's candidature challenged in Madras high court". Rediff.com. 25 August 1999. http://www.rediff.com/election/1999/aug/25sonia.htm. Retrieved 31 January 2010. 
  26. ^ "BJP accuses Sonia of flouting law". The Indian Express. 12 May 1999. http://www.indianexpress.com/Storyold/97153/. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  27. ^ "Elevenses". Rediff.com. 13 May 1999. http://www.rediff.com/news/1999/may/13varsha.htm. Retrieved 31 January 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Venkatesan, V (June 1999). "Citizen Sonia". Frontline 16 (12). http://web.archive.org/web/20110422100148/http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1612/16120300.htm. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  29. ^ "Citizenship: How to lose it?". Trentini Nel Mondo. http://archivio.trentininelmondo.it/cittadinanza/come_si_perde_en.asp. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  30. ^ Sonia Gandhi, Indian National Congress Party Chairman[dead link]
  31. ^ "India's Congress Party rallies for Sonia Gandhi". CNN. 17 May 1999. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/asiapcf/9905/17/india.gandhi.01/index.html. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  32. ^ "General election 1999, Candidate wise result". Election Commission of India. http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/StatisticalReports/candidatewise/GE_1999.xls. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  33. ^ "List of Winning candidates Final". Election Commission of India. http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/press/List%20of%20Winning%20Candidated%20Final%20for%2016th%20May.pdf. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  34. ^ Pioneer News Servic. "Whose inner voice?". CMYK Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. Archived from the original on 9 April 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070409085348/http://www.dailypioneer.com/indexn12.asp?main_variable=VOTE_2004&file_name=vote941.txt&counter_img=941. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 
  35. ^ VENKATESAN, V. "A citizenship question". Frontline – Volume 18. http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl1820/18200340.htm. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  36. ^ "Indian press lauds Gandhi decision". BBC. 19 May 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3727591.stm. Retrieved 6 February 2008. 
  37. ^ "Profile: Sonia Gandhi". BBC. 23 March 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3546851.stm. Retrieved 6 July 2008. 
  38. ^ "'Hurt' Sonia quits as MP, chairperson of NAC". http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/mar/23profit4.htm. Retrieved March 23, 2006. 
  39. ^ Employment Bill not a populist measure: Sonia. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  40. ^ After RTI success, it's right to work. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  41. ^ "Sonia Gandhi raises disarmament issue at UN meet". The Times of India. 2 October 2007. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sonia_raises_disarmament_issue_at_UN_meet/articleshow/2422950.cms. Retrieved 2 October 2007. 
  42. ^ Conspirator History of Christianity against Hinduism. Weekly Blitz. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  43. ^ Sonia returns after surgery. Indian Express (9 September 2011). Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
  44. ^ "It’s for Rahul to decide: Sonia". 18 July 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3652898.ece. 
  45. ^ Sonia Gandhi 3rd most powerful woman. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  46. ^ Sonia Gandhi in Forbes' list for 2007 Retrieved 31 August 2007
  47. ^ In Maino land. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  48. ^ Sonia Gandhi among Time's 100 for 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2007
  49. ^ Sonia Gandhi among Time's 100 for 2008. Retrieved on 1 May 2008.
  50. ^ "Sonia Gandhi – 50 People Who Matter 2010". New Statesman. http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/09/mother-superior-sonia-gandhi. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  51. ^ "University of Madras honours Sonia Gandhi". Chennai Online. http://news.chennaionline.com/newsitem.aspx?NEWSID=220a9617-cf5a-42fb-98cc-9e2744fb6cbd&CATEGORYNAME=CHN. Retrieved 9 June 2011 (2011-06-09). 
  52. ^ a b "Belgium honours Sonia Gandhi". Daily News and Analysis. India. http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_top-belgium-honours-for-sonia-gandhi_1063591. Retrieved 9 June 2011 (2011-06-09). 

Further reading

External links

Official
Others
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sitaram Kesri
President of the Indian National Congress
1998–present
Incumbent
New officeChairperson of the United Progressive Alliance
2004–present
Lok Sabha
Preceded by
Sanjay Singh
Member of Parliament
for Amethi

1999–2004
Succeeded by
Rahul Gandhi
Preceded by
Satish Sharma
Member of Parliament
for Rae Bareli

2004–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Sharad Pawar
Leader of the Opposition
1998–2004
Succeeded by
Lal Krishna Advani
New officeChairperson of the National Advisory Council
2004–2006
Position abolished
Position reestablishedChairperson of the National Advisory Council
2010–present
Incumbent