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Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi ( pronunciation ; born Edvige Antonia

Albina Mino,[4][5][6] 9 December 1946) is an Italianborn Indian politician, who has served as President of
the Indian National Congress party since 1998.[5] She
is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv
Gandhi who belonged to the NehruGandhi family. After her husbands 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.[7] She nally agreed to join
politics in 1997; in 1998, she was elected President of the
Congress party.[5]
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.[8] Her foreign birth has
been a subject of much debate and controversy.[9][10]
Also controversial was her alleged friendship with Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused of being a
middleman in the Bofors scandal.[11] Although Sonia is
the fth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress
Party, she is the rst since independence in 1947.[12]

Early life

She was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in Contrada

Mini (Maini quarter/district), at Lusiana,[13][14] a little
village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto,[15] Italy, where
families with the family name Mino have been living for many generations.[16][17][18] She spent her adolescence in Orbassano,[19] 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.[20] 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 Italys National Fascist Party.[20]
He died in 1983.[21] Her mother and two sisters still live
around Orbassano.[22]

Sonia Gandhis birthplace, 31, Contrada Maini (Maini street),

Lusiana, Italy (the house on the right)

of her mother-in-law and then Prime Minister, Indira

The couple had two children, Rahul Gandhi (born 1970)
and Priyanka Vadra (born 1972). Despite belonging to
the inuential Nehru family, Sonia and Rajiv avoided all
involvement in politics. Rajiv worked as an airline pilot while Sonia took care of her family.[27] When Indira
Gandhi was ousted from oce in 1977 in the aftermath
of the Indian Emergency, the Rajiv family contemplated
to move abroad for a short time.[28] 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.[29]

In 1964, she went to study English at the Bell Educational

Trust's language school in the city of Cambridge.[23] In
1965 at a Greek restaurant (the Varsity Restaurant in
Cambridge) she met Rajiv Gandhi, who was enrolled
in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.[24]
Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi married in 1968, in a Hindu
ceremony[25] following which she moved into the house



Political career
Wife of the Prime Minister

Sonia Gandhis involvement with Indian public life began after the assassination of her mother-in-law and her
husbands election as Prime Minister. As the Prime Ministers wife she acted as his ocial hostess and also accompanied him on a number of state visits.[30] In 1984,
she actively campaigned against her husbands sister-inlaw Maneka Gandhi who was running against Rajiv in
Amethi. At the end of Rajiv Gandhis ve years in ofce, 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
Ministers ocial residence.[31] 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.[32][33]

In an eort to revive the partys sagging fortunes, she

joined the Congress Party as a primary member in the
Calcutta Plenary Session in 1997 and became party leader
in 1998.[5][36]
In May 1999, three senior leaders of the party (Sharad
Pawar, P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar) challenged her
right to try to become Indias Prime Minister because of
her foreign origins. In response, she oered 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.[37]
Within 62 days of joining as a primary member, she was
oered the party President post which she accepted.[38]
She contested Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Karnataka and Amethi, Uttar Pradesh in 1999. She won both
seats but chose to represent Amethi.[39] In Bellary, she
had defeated veteran BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj.[40]

Former senior Congress leader and the currently the 2.3

President of India 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


Leader of the Opposition

Congress President

Sonia Gandhi welcomes US 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.[41] When the BJP-led NDA formed
a government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, she took the
oce of the Leader of Opposition. As Leader of Opposition, she called a no-condence motion against the NDA
government led by Vajpayee in 2003.[42]
With the then 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 many of
whom quit the party, splitting the Congress into many

2.4 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 was
re-elected by a 200,000-vote margin over nearest rival,
in the Rae Bareli.[43] 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 sup-

port of the left, which was subsequently named the United won 206 Lok Sabha seats, which was then the highest toProgressive Alliance (UPA).
tal by any party since 1991.[55] She was also re-elected to
term as a member of parliament representing Rae
The defeated NDA protested once again her 'foreign ori- a third [56]
gin' and senior NDA leader Sushma Swaraj threatened to
shave her head and sleep on the ground, among other
things, should Sonia become prime minister.[9] The NDA
also claimed that there were legal reasons that barred
her from the Prime Ministers post.[44] They pointed, in
particular, to Section 5 of the Indian Citizenship Act of
1955, which they claimed implied 'reciprocity'. This was
contested by others[33] and eventually the suits were dismissed by the Supreme Court of India.[45]

In 2013, Gandhi became the rst person to serve as

Congress President for 15 years consecutively.[57] In the
same year, Gandhi condemned the Supreme Courts
judgement supporting Section 377 of the Indian Penal
Code and backed LGBT rights.[58]

In the 2014 general election, she held her seat in Rae

Bareli.[59] However the Indian National Congress and the
Congress-led UPA electoral alliance suered their worst
A few days after the election, Gandhi recommended result in a general election ever, winning only 44 and 59
Manmohan Singh as her choice as prime minister, that seats respectively.[60][61][62]
the party leaders accepted. Her supporters compared it
to the old Indian tradition of renunciation,[46] while her
opponents attacked it as a political stunt.[47]

3 Personal life


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 oce-of-prot
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 oce of prot.[48] She was re-elected from
her constituency Rae Bareli in May 2006 by a margin of
over 400,000 votes.[49][50]

Sonia Gandhi in 2009

Sonia is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, elder son of Indira Gandhi. Sonia has two children, Rahul and Priyanka

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.[51][52]

In August 2011, she underwent a successful surgery for

an unspecied ailment in the United States. It has been
widely speculated in the media that the surgery took
place at Memorial SloanKettering Cancer Center in
She addressed the United Nations on 2 October 2007, New York. Newspapers reported that she returned[63] to
Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary which is observed India on 9 September after her treatment. Speaking on
as the international day of non-violence after a UN reso- 18 July 2012, about her son taking a larger role in the
lution passed on 15 July 2007.[53]
party, she said that it is for Rahul to decide.[64]
Under her leadership, the Congress-led UPA won a deci- Sonia was listed as one of the fty best-dressed over
sive majority in the 2009 general elections with Manmo- 50s by the Guardian in March 2013.[65] She follows
han Singh as the Prime Minister.[54] The Congress itself the style quote Simple is Stylish and looks no fur-

ther than mother-in-law Indira Gandhis innate sense of

According to an adavit led during the Indian general
election, 2014, Sonia had declared assets worth 92.8
million 28.1 million in movable and 64.7 million in
immovable properties. This is an almost six-fold increase
since her declaration in the last election.[67]

Honours and recognition


[6] Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Shankar Raghuraman (2007).

Divided we stand: India in a time of coalitions. Los Angeles : SAGE Publications, 2007. p. 148. ISBN 978-07619-3663-3.
[7] ASSASSINATION IN INDIA; Sonia Gandhi Declines
Invitation To Assume Husbands Party Post. The New
York Times. 24 May 1991. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
[8] Fourth time in a row, Sonia Gandhi is Congress chief.
The Times of India. 4 September 2010. Retrieved 25 May
[9] Religioscope: India: politics of renunciation, traditional

and modern Analysis. Retrieved on 9

In 2004, Gandhi was named the third most powerful
December 2011.
woman in the world by Forbes magazine[68] and was
ranked 6th in 2007.[69] In 2010, Gandhi ranked as the [10] Ramaseshan, Radhika (30 August 2002). BJP sees Guninth most powerful person on the planet by Forbes
jarat ammo in Sonia origins. The Telegraph (Calcutta,
magazine.[70] She was also named among the Time 100
India). Retrieved 2 February 2010.
most inuential people in the world for the years 2007[71]
and 2008.[72] New Statesman listed Sonia Gandhi at num- [11] Nelson, Dean (14 January 2011). Sonia Gandhi under
pressure over Bofors scandal relationship. The Telegraph
ber 29 in their annual survey of The Worlds 50 Most
(New Delhi, India). Retrieved 1 March 2014.
Inuential Figures in the year 2010.

Books featuring Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi An Extraordinary Life, An Indian
Destiny (2011), a biography written by Rani Singh.
Sonia Gandhi: Tryst with India by Nurul Islam
Sonia: A Biography by Rasheed Kidwai[76]
The Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjaya Baru,

See also
List of political families
List of Italians

[12] On being foreign and being nationalist. Chennai, India:

Frontline Magazine. 22 May 4 June 1999. Retrieved 2
February 2010.
[13] Pictures from the book-biography The Red sari by
Javier Moro. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
[14] Edvige Antonia Albina Maino.
[15] Sonia Gandhi, dalla piccola Lusiana all'India ecco il romanzo di una donna speciale Il Giornale de Vicenza. 5
Oct 2009
[16] Maini Lusiana.
[17] Sonia Gandy. Il Giornale di Vicenza. 2004 (with picture
of her native house)
[18] Lusiana: parish church, townhall square, landscape. Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
Sonia Maino Gandhi from Lusiana to Orbassano, pages
[20] Meeting Mr Maino. Retrieved 19 July 2013.


[1] Prole: Sonia Gandhi. BBC News.

[2] By stressing Hindu values Sonia Gandhi enhances personal acceptability and Congress appeal : NATION - India Today.

[21] In Maino land. Retrieved 23 March 2007.

[22] Italy heralds 'rst woman PM'. BBC. 14 May 2004. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
[23] Sonia Gandhi Biography. 23 September
2011. Retrieved 11 March 2014.

[3] N. I. Sarkar. Sonia Gandhi: Tryst with India.

[24] Perry, Alex (17 May 2004). The Sonia Shock. Time.
Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 12
June 2009.

[4] Sonia Gandhi. Britannica. Retrieved on 9 December


[25] News Features. Catholic Culture. 20 November 2001.

Retrieved 11 March 2014.

[5] Sonia Gandhi Biography. Retrieved 24

May 2014.

[26] Prole: Sonia Gandhi. BBC News. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.

[27] BREAKING THE SILENCE Retrieved 20 July 2007.

[28] Ramachandran, Aarthi. Decoding Rahul Gandhi.
1973. Retrieved 27 May 2014.


[29] Citizen Sonia. Frontline. 5 June 1999. Retrieved 30

May 2014.
[30] Rasheeda Bhagat. Sonia Gandhi: Ordinary Italian
to powerful Indian | Business Line. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
[31] Who is Quattrocchi? Retrieved 23 March 2007.
[32] BJP accuses Sonia of outing law. The Indian Express.
12 May 1999. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
[33] Venkatesan, V (June 1999). Citizen Sonia. Frontline
16 (12). Archived from the original on 22 April 2011.
Retrieved 12 December 2011.
[34] Citizenship: How to lose it?". Trentini Nel Mondo. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
[35] The Sitaram Kesri case: How dynasty trumped ethics |
Latest News & Updates at. Daily News & Analysis. 10
July 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
[36] Sonia Gandhi re-elected Congress president, unopposed. NDTV. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 30 May
[37] Indias Congress Party rallies for Sonia Gandhi. CNN.
17 May 1999. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
[38] Sonia Gandhi Biography about, family and professional
history, political journey and awards won.
Retrieved 11 March 2014.
[39] A Congress bastion since 1952. The Hindu. 28 February 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
[40] General election 1999, Candidate wise result. Election
Commission of India. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
[41] Detailed Prole Smt. Sonia Gandhi Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) Whos Who Government: National Portal of India. Retrieved
11 March 2014.
[42] LS to witness 26th no-condence motion in its history.
The Times of India. 17 August 2003. Retrieved 30 May
[43] Statistical Report on General Elections, 2004 to the 14th
Lok Sabha (PDF). ECI. p. 308. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
[44] Pioneer News Service. Whose inner voice?". CMYK
Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. Archived from the original on 9
April 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2007.
[45] Sonia is Indian, rules SC. The Times of India. 13
September 2001. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
[46] Indian press lauds Gandhi decision. BBC. 19 May 2004.
Retrieved 6 February 2008.
[47] Prole: Sonia Gandhi. BBC. 23 March 2006. Retrieved
6 July 2008.

[48] "'Hurt' Sonia quits as MP, chairperson of NAC. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
[49] Rae Bareli Lok Sabha. Retrieved 21 May
[50] Sonia strides to victory with record margin. Redi. 11
May 2006.
[51] Employment Bill not a populist measure: Sonia. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
[52] After RTI success, its right to work. Retrieved 13 July
[53] Sonia Gandhi raises disarmament issue at UN meet.
The Times of India. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
[54] Indias new government sworn in. BBC News. 22 May
2009. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
[55] Hail to the chief: Sonia spurs Cong to new heights. Hindustan Times. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
[56] List of Winning candidates Final (PDF). Election Commission of India. p. 8. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
[57] Sonia Gandhi completes 15 years as Congress president.
Livemint. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
[58] Disappointed over court ruling on gay rights: Sonia
Gandhi. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
[59] Sonia Gandhi wins by over 3.52 lakh votes. The Indian
Express. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
[60] After its worst defeat ever in Lok Sabha elections, what
can Congress do to recover?". Daily News & Analysis. 19
May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
[61] The worst defeat: Where the Congress went wrong. IBN
Live. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
[62] Results. NDTV. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
[63] Sonia returns after surgery. Indian Express (9 September
2011). Retrieved on 9 December 2011.
[64] Its for Rahul to decide: Sonia. The Hindu (Chennai,
India). 18 July 2012.
[65] Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Hungton, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). The 50 bestdressed over 50s. The Guardian (London).
[66] Simple is stylish: Sonia. telegraph India. 8 November
2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
[67] Sonia Gandhi les papers, shows six-fold hike in assets.
The Times of India.
[68] The Worlds 100 Most Powerful Women. Forbes. 20
August 2004. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
[69] Sonia Gandhi in Forbes list for 2007. Forbes. 30 August 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
[70] In Maino land. Retrieved 23 March 2010.


[71] Sonia Gandhi among Times 100 for 2007. Retrieved 14

May 2007

Works by or about Sonia Gandhi in libraries

(WorldCat catalog)

[72] Sonia Gandhi among Times 100 for 2008. Retrieved on

1 May 2008.

Works by Sonia Gandhi at Open Library

[73] Sonia Gandhi 50 People Who Matter 2010. New

Statesman. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
[74] M. R. Venkatesh (6 September 2008). Madras University honours Manmohan, Sonia. Chennai: Hindustan
Times. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
[75] Belgium honours Sonia Gandhi. Daily News and Analysis. India. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
[76] Arbiter at the Gates | Sheela Reddy.
Retrieved 11 March 2014.

Further reading
S. R. ET AL. BAKSHI (1998) Sonia Gandhi, The
President of AICC South Asia Books. ISBN 817024-988-0
Rupa Chaterjee (1999) Sonia Gandhi: The Lady in
Shadow Butala. ISBN 81-87277-02-5
C. Rupa, Rupa Chaterjee (2000) Sonia Mystique
South Asia Books. ISBN 81-85870-24-1
Moro, Javier El sari rojo (Ed. Seix Barral, 2008)
Il sari rosso (Il Saggiatore, 2009)

External links

Parliamentary prole at
Prole at BBC News
Prole at Forbes
Sonia Gandhi collected news and commentary at
The New York Times
Sonia Gandhi collected news and commentary at
The Guardian
Sonia Gandhi collected news and commentary at
The Wall Street Journal
Sonia Gandhi collected news and commentary at Al
Jazeera English
Sonia Gandhi at the Internet Movie Database

Sonia Gandhi at the Notable Names Database


Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


Sonia Gandhi Source: Contributors: Jimbo Wales, Zundark, DanKeshet,

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