Sonia Gandhi (Born as Antonia Edvige Albina Maino) on December 9, 1946 is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress (INC), one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of India’s former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and belongs to Nehru-Gandhi family.

After Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, she was invited by the Congress to take over the party but refused and publicly stayed away from politics. 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 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. Her foreign birth has been a subject of much debate and controversy. Although Sonia is actually the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947.

Sonia’s early life

She was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in Contrada Màini at Lusiana a little village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto, Italy, where families with the family name "Màino" have been living for many generations. She spent her adolescence in Orbassano 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. Her mother and two sisters still live around Orbassano.

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.

Family of Sonia

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. The couple had two children, Rahul Gandhi (Born in 1970) and Pariyanka Gandhi (Born in 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.

When Indira was ousted from office in 1977 in the aftermath of the Indian Emergency, the Rajiv family moved abroad for a short time. 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.

Personal Life of Sonia Gandhi
Sonia is a practising Christian. 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 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. She returned to India on September 9 after her treatment.

Honours, Awards and International recognition

Gandhi was named the 3rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine in the year 2004 and was ranked 6th in 2007. In 2010, Gandhi ranked as the ninth most powerful person on the planet by Forbes Magazine. She was also named among the Time 100 Most influential people in the world for the years 2007 and 2008. 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.

Year          Name                             Awarding organization    
2008         Honorary Doctorate          Universtity of Madras    
2006         Order of King Leopold       Government of Belgium    
2006         Honorary Doctorate          Brussels University    

JPN

Latest News from India News Desk