Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (i/ˈrɑːdʒiːv ˈɡɑːndiː/; 20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the sixth Prime Minister of India (1984–1989). He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.
Rajiv Gandhi was the eldest son of Indira and Feroze Gandhi. He went to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later at Imperial College London, but did not complete a degree at either. At Cambridge he met the Italian-born Antonia Albina Maino, then a waitress in a restaurant, whom he later married. After dropping out of university, he became a professional pilot for Indian Airlines. He remained aloof from politics, despite his family's political prominence. Following the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in 1980 Rajiv entered politics. Following the assassination of his mother in 1984 after Operation Blue Star, the Indian National Congress party leaders nominated him to be Prime Minister.
Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress to a major election victory in 1984 soon after, amassing the largest majority ever seen in the Indian Parliament, the Congress party winning 411 seats out of 542. He began dismantling the License Raj – government quotas, tariffs and permit regulations on economic activity – modernised the telecommunications industry, the education system, expanded science and technology initiatives and improved relations with the United States.
In 1988, Gandhi reversed the coup in Maldives antagonising the militant Tamil outfits such as PLOTE. He was also responsible for first intervening and then sending Indian troops (Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF) for peace efforts in Sri Lanka in 1987, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In mid-1987, the Bofors scandal broke his honest, corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 elections.
Rajiv Gandhi remained Congress President until the elections in 1991. While campaigning, he was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. His widow Sonia Gandhi became the leader of the Congress party in 1998, and led the party to victory in the 2004 elections. His son Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament and the General Secretary of All India Congress Committee.
Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the Highest National Award of India, Bharat Ratna (1991), joining a list of 40 luminaries, including Indira Gandhi.
Rajiv Gandhi was an active amateur radio operator, and used the callsign VU2RG. He also founded INTACH in 1984 that seeks to preserve India's art and cultural heritage.
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“Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.”
—Mohandas K. Gandhi (18691948)