Sonia Gandhi Biography: Early Life, Education, Political Career, Net Worth, Recognitions and more
Sonia Gandhi (Edvige Antonia Albina Maino) is the Interim President of the Indian National Congress, the left-wing political party in India. Seven years after the assassination of the then Prime Minister and her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, she took the party leadership in the year 1998. Sonia acquired Indian Citizenship in 1983.
Sonia Gandhi: Childhood, Family and Education
Edvige Antonia Albina Maino was born on December 9, 1946, in a small village near Vicenza, Italy to Stefano and Paola Maino. She was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic Christian family. Sonia's father, Stefano was a building Manson and established a small business in Orbassano. He also fought against the Soviet military alongside Hitler's Wehrmacht on the eastern front in World War II. Stefano was a loyal supporter of Mussolini and Italy's National Fascist Party.
Sonia completed her schooling at the age of 13 and aspired to be a flight attendant. In the year 1964, she went to Bell Educational Trust's language school in Cambridge to learn English after receiving primary education in local catholic schools.
Sonia Gandhi: Personal Life
In 1964, she met Rajiv Gandhi at the Varsity rooftop bar in Cambridge while working as a bar attender there. At that time, Rajiv Gandhi was an engineering student at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. In 1968, Sonia and Rajiv married in a Hindu ceremony and moved to India. She started living with her mother-in-law and the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi.
The couple gave birth to two children-- Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra. Both Sonia and Rajiv stayed away from politics. Rajiv worked as an airline pilot and Sonia was a housewife then. After the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi on June 23, 1980, Rajiv Gandhi entered politics in 1982.
Sonia Gandhi: Political Career
In 1984, Sonia Gandhi stepped into politics where she campaigned for Rajiv Gandhi in Amethi against her sister-in-law Maneka Gandhi. After Rajiv Gandhi's five years in office, the Bofors Scandal broke out. The Italian businessman, Ottavio Quattrocchi was involved as per several reports and was believed to be a friend of Sonia Gandhi, who had the access to PM's official residence.
In 1991, after the assassination of the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi refused to become PM and P.V. Narasimha Rao was made the Prime Minister of India. In 1996, Congress lost the elections and several senior leaders left the Congress Party.
Sonia Gandhi joined the Congress Party in 1997 as member in the Calcutta Plenary Session. She became the leader of the party in 1998.
In May 1999, three senior Congress leaders-- Sharad Pawar, P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar-- challenged Sonia's right to become PM of India due to her foreign origins. As a result, Sonia offered to resign and the members were expelled and later on formed the Nationalist Congress Party.
In 1999, Sonia Gandhi contested elections from Bellary (Karnataka) and Amethi (U.P.) and won both the seats but chose to represent Amethi. In Bellary constituency, Sonia defeated veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.
In 1999, Sonia Gandhi was elected as the leader of the opposition for 13th Lok Sabha.
In 2004 General Elections in India, Sonia Gandhi launched a campaign "Who is India Shinning for?". This slogan was against the BJP-led NDA who had a slogan "India Shining" and in favour of the common people of India. She won the elections and was expected to be the next PM of India. On May 16, she was chosen to lead the coalition government (15-party) which was named the UPA ( United Progressive Alliance).
Amidst this, veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj threatened that if Sonia became the PM of India, she will shave her head and will sleep on the ground. NDA further claimed that Section 5 of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955 implies reciprocity.
A few days later, Sonia recommended Manmohan Singha as her choice as PM and the party leaders welcomed er decision. On March 23, 2006, she announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha and also as the chairman 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.
In May 2006, Sonia was re-elected from her constituency Rae Bareli by a margin of over 400,000 votes.
Sonia Gandhi played an important role in making the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act into law. UN passed a resolution on July 15, 2007, to observe October 2 as the International Day of Non-violence. On October 2, 2007, Sonia Gandhi addressed the United Nations.
Congress once again won in 2009 General Elections winning 206 Lok Sabha seats under Sonia Gandhi's leadership. Sonia was re-elected to a third term as an MP from Rae Bareli.
In the year 2013, Sonia Gandhi became the first person to serve as the Congress President for 15 years consecutively. In the same year, Gandhi condemned the Delhi High Court's judgement supporting Section 377 of the IPC and backed LGBT rights.
In 2014 General Elections Sonia won from Rae Bareli but the parties suffered in the elections. CPI (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury called Sonia the glue that binds the opposition during an interview in 2017 when Rahul Gandhi was expected to take over as Congress President. Rahul Gandhi became the 49th Congress President on December 16, 2017. Sonia Gandhi returned to active politics for INC campaign in 2018 Legislative Assembly election in Karnataka. She addressed a rally at Bijapur comprising five assembly seats and Congress won four out of five seats from Bijapur.
Under Rahul Gandhi's leadership, Congress lost second consecutive elections in 2019 and later on, resigned from the post of the President. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met on August and passed a resolution that Sonia Gandhi must take over as Interim President until a candidate could be picked.
On North East Delhi riots in February 2020, Sonia Gandhi demanded Home Minister Amit Shah to resign as he failed in curbing the violence.
Sonia Gandhi: Net Worth
In the year 2014, Sonia Gandhi declared her net 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.
Sonia Gandhi: Recognitions
1- In March 2013, The Guardian listed Sonia Gandhi as one of the fifty best dressed.
2- In 2013, Sonia Gandhi was ranked 21st among the world's most powerful and 9th most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine.
3- In 2012, Sonia Gandhi ranked 12 in the most powerful people list by Forbes Magazine.
4- In 2010, Sonia Gandhi ranked as the ninth most powerful person on the planet by Forbes. The same year New Stateman listed Sonia Gandhi at number 29 in their annual survey of the World's 50 Most Influential Figures.
5- In 2007, Sonia Gandhi was named as the third most powerful woman in the world by the Forbes Magazine and ranked 6th in the exclusive list of the Magazine.
6- In 2007 and 2008, Sonia Gandhi was listed in Time 100 most influential people in the world.
7- In 2008, Sonia Gandhi was awarded Honorary Doctorate (Literature) by University of Madras.
8- In 2006, Sonia Gandhi was awarded Order of King Leopold and Honorary Doctorate by Government of Belgium and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels University) respectively.
Sonia Gandhi: Books on the Interim President of Congress
1- Sonia Gandhi – An Extraordinary Life, An Indian Destiny (2011), a biography written by Rani Singh.
2- Sonia Gandhi: Tryst with India by Nurul Islam Sarkar.
3- The Red Sari: A Dramatized Biography of Sonia Gandhi (El Sari Rojo) by Javier Moro
4- Sonia: A Biography by Rasheed Kidwai
5- The Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjaya Baru, 2014
Gandhi was seen as the most powerful politician of India from 2004 - 2014, and various Magazines have listed her amongst the most powerful people and women listings. Sonia Gandhi played an important role in making the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act, Food security bill, and MNREGA into law.