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In Pictures: Sonia Gandhi’s Tryst With Destiny as She Turns 74

On her birthday, a photo feature on Sonia Gandhi, the woman who changed the face of Indian politics.

Updated
India
3 min read
Happy Birthday, Sonia Gandhi! 
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(On her 74th birthday, The Quint is reposting this piece on Sonia Gandhi from our archives, originally published on 9 December 2015.)

Among the women who changed the face of Indian politics is Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Wife of the controversial Rajiv Gandhi and daughter-in-law of the tour de force that was Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi rose to the challenge of leading one of India’s biggest national parties.

Not one to be content living in the shadow of her influential mother-in-law, she asserted an identity independent of either husband or mother-in-law and went on to become the matriarch of one of India’s first families.

Gandhi turns 70 today. On the occasion of her birthday, we trace the history of the woman who began as Sonia Maino, and went on to become a global political force to contend with.

1946: Sonia Gandhi is Born to Stephan and Paolo Maino

Sonia Maino was born in Louisiana, Veneto in Italy (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Sonia Maino was born in Louisiana, Veneto in Italy (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

She was born on 9 December 1946 to Italian parents, Stefano and Paolo Maino, in a village in Veneto.

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1965: A College Romance

Love at first sight: Rajiv Gandhi (left) and Sonia Maino (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ <a href="https://twitter.com/sikhprideaware">@sikhprideaware</a>)
Love at first sight: Rajiv Gandhi (left) and Sonia Maino (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @sikhprideaware)

In 1965, a year after arriving in England, Sonia met a young Indian student named Rajiv Gandhi, who was studying mechanical engineering at Cambridge University. According to Sonia, it was love at first sight.

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1970: India's First Family Welcomes Rahul Gandhi

A young Rahul Gandhi on a bicycle, surrounded by his family. (Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/PatodiaMukesh">@PatodiaMukesh</a>)
A young Rahul Gandhi on a bicycle, surrounded by his family. (Courtesy: Twitter/@PatodiaMukesh)

On 19 June, 1970 Rahul Gandhi was born to Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi.

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1972: Priyanka Gandhi is Born

Sonia Gandhi (centre) with Indira Gandhi (left), Rahul Gandhi and a baby Priyanka Gandhi. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.indiragandhiuniversity.in/indiragandhi.html">Indira Gandhi Technical University</a>)
Sonia Gandhi (centre) with Indira Gandhi (left), Rahul Gandhi and a baby Priyanka Gandhi. (Photo Courtesy: Indira Gandhi Technical University)

On 12 January, 1972 the couple welcomed their second child, Priyanka Gandhi.

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1991: Rajiv Gandhi Assassinated

Sonia Gandhi with Rajiv Gandhi (right), a day prior to his assassination. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ <a href="https://twitter.com/arunmsk">@arunmsk</a>)
Sonia Gandhi with Rajiv Gandhi (right), a day prior to his assassination. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @arunmsk)

Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, was assassinated on 21 May 1991 in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. At least 14 others were also killed. The attack was blamed on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). India had just ended its involvement, through the Indian Peace Keeping Force, in the Sri Lankan Civil War.

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1992: Sonia Gandhi Acquires Dual Citizenship

File photo of Sonia Gandhi. (Photo: Reuters)
File photo of Sonia Gandhi. (Photo: Reuters)

Sonia Gandhi surrendered her Italian passport to the Italian Embassy on 27 April 1983. The Italian nationality law did not permit dual nationality until 1992, which is when she acquired dual citizenship.

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1999: Sonia Makes her First Speech as Leader of the Opposition.

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

In an effort to revive the party’s sagging fortunes, Sonia joined the Congress party as a primary member in 1997 and became party leader in 1998.

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2004: Sonia Takes on the BJP, and Wins

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

In 2004, the Congress party won the general elections, and Sonia Gandhi was the unanimous choice for Prime Minister. The defeated NDA protested her foreign origin, following which Manmohan Singh was selected to lead the coalition government.

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2013: Forbes Lists Sonia as Third Most Powerful Woman in the World

A file photo of Sonia Gandhi being garlanded in Bangalore. (Photo: Reuters)
A file photo of Sonia Gandhi being garlanded in Bangalore. (Photo: Reuters)

In 2013, Forbes ranked Sonia Gandhi as the third most powerful woman in the world, and the 21st most powerful person overall.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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