Rajiv Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India from 1984 to 1989 and was known for his economic reforms, pro-democracy policies, and promotion of the Urdu language. He is often referred to as the “Lion of Punjab” because he took up the government after Indira Gandhi’s death in 1980 and remained in power until his own assassination by a suicide bomber in 1991.
About Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi was the second child of Indira and Feroze Gandhi. He studied at Doon School, Dehradun, Republic Day School, Delhi, and Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya in Gwalior. Rajiv was first sent to France to study at the Institut Le Rosey. He then went to the United Kingdom to study Business Administration at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. In 1968 he married Italian-born Sonia Gandhi; they had two children Rahul and Priyanka. Rajiv became a pilot for Indian Airlines in 1969 but resigned from his job within a few months to enter politics.
Life of Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi was born in Allahabad, India. He and his family moved to Delhi when he was two years old. His mother died when he was nine. He completed his primary education at St. Columba’s School and middle school at the La Martiniere, Delhi, and Senior Cambridge at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.
At Cambridge, Gandhi completed his B.A. degree in Economics and later enrolled in the MSc course in Economics with a specialization in Development Planning at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
His personal life
Gandhi married Sonia in 1968 and had one daughter Priyanka (born 1970) and one son Rahul (born 1971). She was well known to the youth of India, being particularly popular with the young women’s organization of the Sangh Parivar group.
Participation in active politics
Rajiv Gandhi began his political career with a failed attempt in the Indian general election, 1971 as an Independent candidate from the Amethi constituency. This was followed by his election to Parliament in the Indian general election, 1980 from the Rae Bareli constituency and then again from Amethi.
In 1980 Rajiv Gandhi took over as the leader of India’s Congress Party and continued to lead the party for ten years. In 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, he became India’s Prime Minister. He took office with a mandate to end widespread corruption and develop India through reform and modernization.
Gandhi attempted to introduce economic reforms as well as introduce reserved quotas in government jobs for women.
1984 anti-Sikh riots post Indira Gandhi’s death
Following his mother’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi took office with a mandate to end widespread corruption and introduce economic reforms that would end the Licence Raj system. Prime Ministers in India are elected by the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s legislature. The Congress Party was in a precarious state after Indira’s death. Gandhi’s decision to call for elections to the Lok Sabha in December 1984 was partly influenced by his need to bolster his legitimacy in the public sphere while at the same time restoring Congress’ fortunes by fielding party loyalists rather than unpopular former members of his mother’s cabinet.
Prime Minister of India
Gandhi’s administration was marked by a trial of strength with the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who had been ailing with cancer.
In contrast to his mother, Gandhi made Gandhi Parivar (family lineage) and communal harmony major areas of his political agenda. A national leader of North Indian Punjabi origin, he did not seek revenge for the assassination of his mother by Sikh militants in 1984; rather he tried to “settle scores” with Sikhs and iron out long-standing communal tensions between Hindus and Sikhs in India.
Gandhi’s government was popular at its onset. He had a strong reputation as a regional leader and brought stability to the fractious Congress Party, an accomplishment that his mother could not achieve.
In 1985, Gandhi traveled to the United Kingdom for an official visit in the company of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. During this visit, he was conferre with two honorary doctorates by London University and Edinburgh University.
In March 1985 Rajiv Gandhi promulgated the Prevention of Defection Act, which imposed a penalty of life imprisonment on MPs who defected from the party in parliament. Despite widespread unpopularity among politicians, Gandhi’s legislation was enact by Parliament. Under the act, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a member of Gandhi’s own party, was arrest in April 1992 under charges of attempting to defect to the Janata Dal.
In April 1986, Rajiv Gandhi announced that India would hold a “peaceful” nuclear test within days; the subsequent tests were conduct in May. The announcement cause international condemnation and severe economic sanctions were impose on India by more than 30 countries that had sign the earlier nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Shah Bano case
During Gandhi’s tenure, the Shah Bano case had a significant impact on the Indian Parliament and public opinion. In this case, the Muslim wife of a poor Muslim man sought alimony from her estranged husband. To support herself after being desert by him and not receiving any financial assistance from him.
On 15 May 1985, the Supreme Court upheld her case. Against the refusal of her husband to pay alimony to her. Thereby making it mandatory for husbands to support their wives. This ruling was base on Article 23 of the Constitution of India. Which mandates that all citizens have equal rights in law. The Shah Bano Judgment has since been declare unconstitutional by India’s Supreme Court in 2005.
Awards and Honor
Rajiv Gandhi inaugurated India’s first National AIDS Control Programme with an allocation of 10 million rupees in 1987. In the same year, he brought out a comprehensive scheme for the control of tuberculosis. Starting a national tuberculosis/illness surveillance system.
In 1989, Gandhi was award the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his work towards rural development; he was also award the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. He was conferr with India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 1991.