Born- 1946, Italy, IPA: leader of the Congress Party of India, born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino on December 9, 1946. She is an Italian born Indian politician, the President of the Indian National Congress (INC) and the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi.
Role in Indian politics and related controversies
She officially took charge of the Congress party as its president in 1998 and elected to parliament in the elections held in 1999. She elected the Leader of the Opposition in the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999.
During her campaign, her opponents (mainly the Bharatiya Janata Party – BJP) played up her foreign birth. Her failure to take Indian citizenship for 15 years after her wedding. And her lack of fluency in Hindi or any Indian language despite her claim that she had “become an Indian in her heart the day she became Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law”.
In May 1999, Sonia Gandhi offered to resign from the Congress Party leadership after three senior leaders (Sharad Pawar, Purno A. Sangma, and Tang Anwar) challenged her right to try to become India’s Prime Minister, given that she was not born of Indian blood or soil.
In the 2004 general elections, Sonia launched a nationwide Campaign, crisscrossing the country on the Aam Aadmi (Ordinary people) slogan in contrast to the ‘India Shining’ slogan of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance. After her party’s unexpected victory, she tipped to be the next Prime Minister of India. On May 16, she was unanimously chosen to lead a 15-party coalition government with the support of the left, which was subsequently named the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
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Amidst a storm of controversy raised by the NDA over her ‘foreign origin’ in which leaders like Sushma Swaraj threatened to shave their hair, as a protest, among others, Gandhi declined the leadership of the Congress Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha. That position would have indicated that she was the party’s nominee for Prime Minister. Her action hailed as an act of renunciation, while her opponents attacked it as a political movement in. Which the ultimate aim to gain an absolute majority for the Congress Party in Parliament, subsequent to which she would become Prime Minister.
At the time, several members of the National Democratic Alliance – notably Subramaniam Swamy and Sushma Swaraj – claimed that. There were legal reasons that barred her from the Prime Minister’s post, and, indeed, from Parliament. They pointed, in particular, to Section 5 of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955, which they claimed implied ‘reciprocity’. This contested by others and eventually, the suits were dismissed by the Supreme Court of India.
On May 18, a day before her scheduled inauguration, she recommended noted economist Dr. Manmohan Singh for the Prime Minister’s post. Sonia retained the post of the Leader of the Majority and the Chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party. This arrangement enabled her to keep political control of the party and to deal with the political firefights in the giant coalition government. While leaving the management of the country in the hands of Manmohan Singh.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi on March 23, 2006, announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha. And also as chairperson of the National Advisory Council.
She re-elected from her constituency Rae Bareilly in May 2006. As chairperson of the National Advisory Committee. She played an important role in making the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme into law.
As chairperson of the National Advisory Committee and the UPA chairperson,
- She played an important role in making the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. And the Right to Information Act into law.
- She addressed the United Nations on 2 October 2007, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Which observed as the international day of non-violence after a UN resolution passed on 15 July 2007.
- Under her leadership, India returned the Congress–led–UPA to a near majority in the 2009 general elections with Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. The Congress itself won 206 Lok Sabha seats, which was the highest total by any Party since 1991.
- She played important role in the introduction and subsequent clearance of the ambitious Food Security Bill in the Parliament in 2013.
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