Sonia Gandhi: The devoted spouse who was forced to save the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty

The Italian college freshman who found duty in her new family kept away from the galore of fame. It was in this thriving political dynasty where she was coronated against her wishes as the heiress to continue the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Advertisement

Sonia Gandhi is the President of the Indian National Congress. The then Italian national was an 18-year-old student at a small language college in Cambridge and worked as a part-time waitress.

She was born in a small village near Vicenza, Italy and was raised in a Roman Catholic family. She moved for language classes to Cambridge where she met her future husband Rajiv Gandhi, and later married him in 1968.

Soon after marrying into Indian political royalty, she led a happy life as a devoted wife, daughter-in-law and mother of 2 children bearing the Gandhi grace. Her mother-in-law was Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India and that threw Sonia quite as anticipated in front of the press.

However, of Indira Gandhi’s 2 children, the younger Sanjay Gandhi was expected to take hold of his mother’s reigns. Thus, in the future the heir would contest in elections taking aboard his mother’s constituency allowing the Gandhi line to fall into the Prime Minister’s office again.

Sonia Gandhi after moving to India started living with her mother-in-law, the then-Prime Minister of India at her New Delhi residence. However, she kept away from the public sphere.

Sonia and Rajiv both avoided any involvement in politics of any kind. Rajiv worked as an airline pilot while Sonia took care of her family. She spent considerable amount of time with her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. In a 1985 interview with the Hindi-language magazine Dharmyug, Sonia said. “She [Indira] showered me with all her affection and love”.

Sonia Gandhi and Indira Gandhi

Unfortunately, Sanjay Gandhi died instantly succumbing to his head wounds in an air plane crash. Which took place on the 23rd of June, 1980. Near the Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi while he was flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying Club. And in attempts to successfully perform an aerobatic maneuver which was over his held aviation office, Sanjay lost control and crashed.

The only passenger in the plane who was Captain Subhash Saxena also died present in the crash. 

The Heir is dead, Crown the Spare

The death of Sanjay Gandhi impacted the political future of India. His death led his mother to induct her other son Rajiv Gandhi into politics. Thus, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard, Rajiv succeeded her as Prime Minister of India.

When Rajiv entered politics in 1982 after the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi. Sonia continued to focus on her family and avoided all contact with the public.

As the prime minister’s wife she acted as his official hostess and also accompanied him on a number of state visits.

Sonia Gandhi and Spanish Royals
The Gandhis seen with the former King Juan Carlos I & Queen Sophia of Spain

 

With the former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Prince Claus, the former queen’s late husband

 

Sonia Gandhi with the Prince and Princess of Wales
With Prince Charles and late Princess Diana of Wales

 

The Gandhi Heiress: Sonia Maino

She started her political career after her husband, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination when she was pleaded by the party to join them. Gandhi was invited by Congress leaders to lead the party, but she declined. She agreed to join politics in 1997 after much pleading from the party; the following year, she was nominated for party president, and elected over Jitendra Prasada.

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi was a homemaker who was pushed into the shadows of politics.  Since, she refused to succeed him as the Congress president and prime minister, the party settled on the choice of P. V. Narasimha Rao. Later, he became the Prime Minister after winning elections that year.

However, over the next few years, Congress fortunes continued to weaken and the party lost the 1996 elections. Several senior leaders such as Madhavrao Sindhia, Rajesh Pilot, Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Arjun Singh, Mamata Banerjee, P. Chidambaram and Jayanthi Natarajan openly revolted against former Congress President Sitaram Kesri.

These quitters of Congress created their own factions later on.

With no choice left, Sonia Gandhi was forced to prevent her late husband and his dynastical family’s legacy from falling apart. In an effort to recover from a fall from grace, she joined the Congress Party as a primary member in the Calcutta Plenary Session in 1997. Later becoming the party leader in 1998.

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. Since she was of foreign origin (Italian). In this response, she offered to resign as party leader. This resulted in outpouring support. The 3 rebels were hence kicked out from the party and formed their own Nationalist Congress Party.

Within 62 days of joining as a primary member, she was offered the party President post which she accepted.

She contested Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Karnataka and Amethi, Uttar Pradesh in 1999. She won both seats but chose to represent Amethi. In Bellary, she had defeated veteran BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj

Under her leadership, the Congress went on to form the government post the 2004 elections in coalition with other centre-left political parties. Gandhi has since been credited for being instrumental in formulating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Which was re-elected to power in 2009. Gandhi declined the premiership following the 2004 victory; she instead led the ruling alliance and the National Advisory Council. 

Throughout her political career, she has been the topic of conversation revolving around her foreign birth.

In December 2017, She stepped down as the Congress president citing health concerns. But returned to lead the party in August 2019. Although she has never held any public office in the Government of India. Gandhi has been widely referred to as one of the most powerful politicians in the country. And is often credited as one of the most powerful women in the world.

In accordance with a successful and long political career of 22 years, Sonia Gandhi has also drawn criticism relating to the Bofors scandal and more recently the National Herald money laundering case. The National Herald case is still being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and Sonia Gandhi has been summoned by the agency for questioning. Her son Rahul Gandhi and few of the other party leaders have already been questioned by the central agency.

The Italian college freshman who found duty in her new family kept away from the galore of fame. It was in this thriving political dynasty where she was coronated against her wishes as the heiress to continue the family legacy. The Indian politician Sonia Gandhi continues to hold office as the Congress President and a member of the Lok Sabha.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time