Sonia Gandhi – BiographyBorn into a family of modest means in an Italian village on the banks of a river 57 years ago, Sonia Maino, now Sonia Gandhi, has weaved a dramatic way to a place in history by becoming the President of India's century-old Congress party. Being the third woman of foreign origin to hold the prestigious post after Annie Beasant and Nelli Sengupta, Sonia Gandhi also became the fifth from the Nehru family to take over the Congress reins. The other four were Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
She also is the eighth person of the foreign origin to be the Congress president.
On 28th May 2005 Smt. Sonia Gandhi was elected as President of the Indian National Congress by overwhelming support from across the country from all states.
In a short span since she plunged into active politics before the February mid-term Lok Sabha elections, Sonia in fact, had wrought a political miracle by becoming the dual chief of the 113 year old Indian National Congress and its Parliamentary party.
In the process, Sonia Gandhi also emulated her husband, mother-in-law and grandfather-in-law—Rajiv, Indira and Nehru— who all held the two posts during their career.
Sonia Gandhi, nee Maino, was born in a place called Ovassanjo, 80 km away from Turin, on Dec. 9, 1946.
Married into India's best known family of Nehru-Gandhi in 1968, the 57-year-old Sonia Gandhi became a primary member of the Congress less than a year ago before the Calcutta Congress Plenary Session in August 1997.
Since Rajiv's death, Sonia had led a life of near recluse for six years but for her appearances at a few official functions. She touched many a heart when she poured out her 'vedna' (agony) at a public meeting a few years ago in Amethi about the delay in the probe of Rajiv assassination case.
Barring such vieled political statements, Sonia hid her emotions behind a thick veil of secrecy keeping observers guessing about whether she nursed political intentions at all. But fawning Congressmen, looking for a charismatic personality to lead the party to electoral success, kept sending their appeals to her to come and take over the party.
After an excruciating spell of suspense, Sonia, who long remained something of an enigma to many, finally decided to campaign for the Congress in the just-concluded Lok Sabha electors and is credited by observers with preventing a doom for the party.
Congress, which was forecast not to cross the double digit mark managed a tally of 141 seats, largely due to her charismatic presence during the campaign.
In fact, the top job of the Congress organisation was offered to her on a platter immediately after the death of her husband on May 21, 1991. But a grieving and reluctant Sonia declined the offer.
Travelling the length and breadth of the country in a hurricane election tour, Sonia caught the imagination of the masses, by her emotional speeches in Hindi prepared in advance.
Observers commented that Sonia successfully adopted her mother-in-law's mannerism and style in warming her way to large crowds which had turned up at her election rallies.
Sonia, whose Italian origin gave her opponents propaganda grist became a full-fledged Indian citizen in 1984 after the death of Indira Gandhi.
Sonia met Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge during 1960s when the former Prime Minister was studying at the famous British University. They were married in 1968 after three years of courtship which began in a Greek restaurant in the university town. The simple ceremony was held on Vasant Panchami day in February, the same day when Indira Gandhi married Feroze decades earlier.
The wedding was a simple nondenominational ceremony in the garden of 1, Safdarjang Road. Sonia wore a pink sari made from cotton which Nehru had spun while in prison... It was the same sari which Indira had worn for her wedding, says biographer Nicholas Nugent in his book Rajiv Gandhi —son of a dynasty.
The new addition to the family became an instant favourite. Sonia and Indira became extremely fond of each other. It was relationship that time would deepen still further, according to Nugent.
Strange as it may sound now, Sonia had, in fact, shown aversion to politics for long. She detested politics and opposed her husband Rajiv entering it, according to Nugent. Sonia had even threatened to divorce Rajiv if he ever entered politics, according to Nugent quoting Indira Gandhi in the book.
Rajiv commented to this later saying Sonia felt she would be losing me.
Tariq Ali, author of the Nehru's and the Gandhi's, an "Indian dynasty", says at one point Sonia had told a friend that she would rather have her children beg in the streets than Rajiv going to politics.
Eventually, Rajiv resigned from Indian Airlines to join politics after Sanjay's death in 1980. It was a joint decision arrived at after long talks with Sonia, Ali quotes Rajiv as saying.
That was history. Now not only Sonia is in the thick of politics, but her children, Rahul and Priyanka, too are in great demand in the Congress circle for taking over the Youth Congress
"The Congress is unique. Our uniqueness arises from several basic features of the Congress s history, its character, its ideology and the legacy of its leadership. I am convinced that the time is ripe for a massive renaissance of our political culture so that we build that society which combines compassion with competence, equity with excellence."