Sonia Gandhi is an Italian-born Indian politician, who has served as President of the Indian National Congress party since 1998. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi who belonged to the Nehru–Gandhi family. After her husband’s assassination in 1991, she was invited by Congress leaders to take over the government but she refused and publicly stayed away from politics amidst constant prodding from the party. She finally agreed to join politics in 1997; in 1998, she was elected 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.Also controversial was her alleged friendship with Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused of being a middleman in the Bofors scandal. Although Sonia is the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947.
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, Stefano Maino, was a building mason, who owned a small construction business in Orbassano.Stefano fought against the Soviet military alongside Hitler’s Wehrmacht on the eastern front in World War II, he called himself a loyal supporter of Benito Mussolini and Italy’s National Fascist Party. He died in 1983. Her mother and two sisters still live around Orbassano.
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. 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. The BJP has alleged that she appeared on the voters’ list in New Delhi prior to obtaining Indian citizenship in April 1983, in contravention of Indian law.
Leader of the Opposition
She was elected the Leader of the Opposition of the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999. 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.
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. She was re-elected from her constituency Rae Bareli in May 2006 by a margin of over 400,000 votes.
Sonia is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, elder son of Indira Gandhi. Sonia has In August 2011, she underwent a successful surgery ftwo children, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi.or 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 to India on 9 September after her treatment. Speaking on 18 July 2012, about her son taking a larger role in the party, she said that it is for Rahul to decide.