Early Life of Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi was born as Edvige Antonia Albina Maino, on 9th December 1946 to Paola and Stefano Maino in Lusiana, a little village 50 km from Vicenza, Italy. Her father, a building contractor and reportedly former Fascist supporter of Mussolini, died in 1983. Her mother and two sisters still live around Orbassano. Before going to the city of Cambridge to study English at The Bell Educational Trust's language school, she spent her adolescence in Orbassano, a town near Turin being raised in a Roman Catholic family and attending a Catholic school. Sonia met with Rajiv Gandhi, who was attending the Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, in the year 1965.
Political Career of Sonia Gandhi
Despite the family's heavy involvement in politics, Sonia Gandhi had, in fact, shown aversion to politics for long. After the assassination of her mother-in-law, Rajiv Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi's involvement with Indian public life began from that period. Sonia did not enter politics until after her husband's assassination on May 21, 1991. Following his death, she was pressured by the Congress Party to enter politics and to continue the party's dynastic tradition of being led by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Sonia Gandhi as a President of Indian National Congress
She officially took charge of the Congress party as its president in 1998. Sonia Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1999 from Amethi (Faizabad division) and Rae Braille district in Uttar Pradesh 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 the year 1999, Sonia Gandhi defeated the veteran BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj. She was elected the Leader of the Opposition of the 13th Lok Sabha. Though initially due to her origin, her credibility in Indian politics was questioned, but with time Sonia proved her mettle and gave Congress the much needed lease of life. It was under her leadership that the Congress won the Lok Sabha elections in 2004. Since 2004 she has served as the Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha. In 2004 and 2009, she was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. In 2003 as a Leader of the Opposition she called a no-confidence motion against the NDA government led by Vajpayee. In 2006 she was re- elected from her constituency Rae Bareilly in May 2006 by a margin of over 400,000 votes. On being re-elected for the fourth time, in September 2010, she became the longest serving president in the 125-year history of the Congress party.
Sonia Gandhi as a UPA Chairperson
On 23 March 2006, Sonia Gandhi declared her resignation from the Lok Sabha and also as chairperson of the National Advisory Council as the Office-of-Profit controversy came as a hot news and the speculation that the government was planning to bring an Ordinance to let off the post of Chairperson of National Advisory Council from the view of Office-of-Profit. After that she was again re-elected from her constituency Rae Barrely in May 2006 by a margin of over 400,000 votes. While she is holding these posts, National Advisory Committee and the UPA, she played a vital responsibility in implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act into law. She addressed the United Nations on 2 October 2007 that is on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary which is observed as the International Day of Non-violence after a UN resolution passed on 15 July 2007.
Under her leadership as a UPA chairperson, India returned the Congress-led-UPA to a near majority in the 2009 general elections with Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. The Congress itself won 206 Lok Sabha seats. This was the vast majority wining since 1991.
Publications of Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi has published two books about her late husband, named, Rajiv and Rajiv's World, and edited two volumes of letters exchanged between Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi from 1922 to 1964, Freedom's Daughter and Two Alone, and the other being, Two Together.
Honours and Awards of Sonia Gandhi
In the year 2004 Sonia Gandhi was named the third most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine and was ranked 6th in 2007. In 2010, Forbes Magazine ranked her as the ninth most powerful person on the planet. She was also named among the Time 100 most influential people in the world for the years 2007 and 2008. In 2006 she also received the Order of King Leopold from the Government of Belgium and Honorary Doctorate from Brussels University. She received the Honorary Doctorate from University of Madras in 2008.
Personal Life of Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi got married to Rajiv Gandhi in the year 1968. After their marriage, they moved into the house of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who was her mother-in-law. Sonia had two children with Rajiv Gandhi, a son Rahul Gandhi, and a daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.