Rajiv Gandhi was an Indian politician and the former Prime Minister of India. He was Indira Gandhi’s son and Sonia Gandhi’s husband. He was assassinated like his mother, while he was the Prime Minister.
Rajiv Gandhi was born on 20 August 1944 (age 46 years; at the time of death) in Bombay, Bombay Presidency. His zodiac sign was Leo. He did his schooling from the Shiv Niketan School in New Delhi, the Welham Boys’ School in Dehradun and the Doon School, Dehradun. He pursued his engineering from the Trinity College, Cambridge in 1965, but did not obtain a degree. He took admission in Imperial College, London in 1966 to study Mechanical Engineering, but did not complete that either. Rajiv Gandhi was not very studious; a fact which he admitted himself.
In 1966, Rajiv returned to India. He went to Delhi and joined the Delhi Flying Club and trained as a pilot. He trained for 4 years and in 1970, he was recruited as a pilot by Air India. He had no interest in joining politics and hence chose a career in aviation.
While he was in college in Cambridge, he met Sonia Gandhi. They had an affair for 3 years and got married in 1968. Sonia’s real name is Edvige Antonia Albina Màino; which she changed to Sonia after getting married to Rajiv and coming to India.
Height: 5′ 10″
Weight: 70 kg (approx.)
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family, Wife & Caste
Rajiv Gandhi belongs to a Brahmin Family. His father was Feroze Gandhi, who was an Indian politician. His mother was Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. He had a brother, Sanjay Gandhi, who was a politician too.
Rajiv Gandhi married Sonia Gandhi on 25 February 1968. They got married following a Hindu ceremony; even though Sonia was Italian. They had two children together, a son, Rahul Gandhi, and a daughter, Priyanka Gandhi. Rahul is a bachelor while Priyanka is married to Robert Vadra.
Rajiv Gandhi had no interest in joining politics but after his brother, Sanjay Gandhi died unexpectedly in a plane crash, Rajiv stepped into politics on 16 February 1981. His mother, Indira Gandhi persuaded him to come into politics. He contested his first election from the Amethi Lok Sabha Constituency of Uttar Pradesh and won. On 17 August 1981, he took his oath as a Member of Parliament.
In December 1981, he was appointed as the President of the Indian Youth Congress. After his mother Indira Gandhi died on 31 October 1984, he was asked to be the Prime Minister. Rajiv assumed the office of the Prime Minister in November 1984 and asked the President to dissolve the Parliament and hold fresh elections; as the Lok Sabha had completed its five-year term. He was then elected as the National President of the Congress. The Congress won with a landslide victory and Rajiv took oath as the Prime Minister on 31 December 1984; making him the youngest PM at the age of 40. He was the Prime Minister until 2 December 1989 when V.P. Singh government came to power.
- In November 1984, after her mother’s assassination, Anti-Sikh riots took place in Delhi. When asked about the whole issue, Rajiv commented- “When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes“. The statement was seen as a justification for the anti-Sikh riots, which were orchestrated by Congress leaders. He was widely criticized for his statement.
- After he was sworn in, he appointed a fourteen-member cabinet. He stated that he would monitor everyone and remove anyone who did not perform well. During his term as the PM, Rajiv reshuffled his cabinet several times; this led to criticism and confusion that whether Rajiv was able to handle the post of the PM or not. Media houses termed this as a Wheel of Confusion. Many political leaders stated-
The Cabinet change reflects the instability of the Congress Government at the Centre”
- In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano and stated that her husband had to pay alimony. Several Indian Muslims protested under the Muslim Personal Law against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Rajiv Gandhi accepted their demands. Rajiv passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986; which revered the decision of the Supreme Court. The new Act stated that alimony should be paid only for 90 days after the divorce; which was under the provision of the Islamic Law. This enraged many people in India. Newspapers & magazines called this Act as a Minority Appeasement by Gandhi. Former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani stated it as
Retrogressive Obscurantism for short-term minority populism“
- In April 1987, V.P. Singh revealed details about corruption in the government and of Congress leaders. He uncovered that millions of US Dollars were involved in payoffs by Swedish arms company Bofors. These payments were received by Italian businessmen and the Gandhi family associate, Ottavio Quattrocchi in exchange for Indian military and arms contracts. An enquiry was set up regarding the Bofors Scam. Rajiv Gandhi lost the General Elections of 1989 as his image as an honest politician was tarnished.
- In November 1991, a Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte claimed that Rahiv held 2.5 billion Swiss Francs in secret accounts in Switzerland. The opposition raised this issue and demanded an inquiry in the matter. Many leaders called it shameful and embarrassing that a former PM was being accused of such issues by a Swiss magazine.
On 21 May 1991, Rajiv addressed his last public meeting in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. He was there to campaign for the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha candidate. While Rajiv was meeting and greeting people in the crowd, a woman named Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, approached Rajiv and greeted him. On the pretence of bending down to touch Rajiv’s feet, she detonated a belt loaded with 700 gm of RDX under her dress. The explosion killed Rajiv Gandhi and 25 other people instantly.
Rajiv Gandhi’s mutilated body was airlifted and taken to New Delhi. His body was taken to All Indian Institue of Medical Sciences, New Delhi for post-mortem, reconstruction, and embalming. A state funeral was held for Rajiv Gandhi on 24 May 1991. It was telecasted live and was attended by dignitaries of more than 60 countries. Rajiv Gandhi was cremated at Veer Bhumi; on the banks of Yamuna river and near the shrines of his mother, Indira Gandhi, his brother Sanjay Gandhi, and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru.
- Rajiv Gandhi was a very shy child and had been interested in painting and drawing.
- In 1987, he was visiting Sri Lanka to sign the Indo-Sri Lanka accord. While he was heading towards a meeting, an honour guard tried to hit him on his head with his rifle to kill him. Rajiv noticed the guard swinging his rifle and quickly ducked; which caused the rifle to hit his shoulders.
- Rajiv Gandhi pushed the formation of BSNL and MTNL yo help people communicate better. He started the concept of Public Calling Offices (PCO’s); which gave access to communication in rural areas where everyone could not afford the services of BSNL.
- In May 1988, he launched Operation Black Thunder. The objective of the operation was to clear the extremists couped up inside the Golden Temple. Two teams were sent in to eliminate the terrorists. The operation went on for 10 days after which the operation was successful. The terrorists were eliminated and arms and ammunition were recovered.
- In 1991, he was honoured with the Bharat Ratna posthumously.
- Since Rajiv Gandhi’s death, 21 May has been declared as the Anti-Terrorism Day in India.
- The Central Government built the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu at the spot where he was assassinated. It was opened in 2003, by Rajiv Gandhi’s wife Sonia Gandhi and former President APJ Abdul Kalam. The blast site in the memorial is surrounded by seven pillars.