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Profiles of Indian Political Leaders
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi lived a humdrum existence in New Delhi as a pilot with the Indian Airlines until the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in an air crash propelled him into politics to help his mother Indira Gandhi, who was then the prime minister of India. With the benefit of hindsight, Rajiv's decision to enter the hurly-burly of politics was not a wise move.

Born on August 20, 1944 in Mumbai, Rajiv spent his early years with his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru in Teen Murti House, where his mother Indira Gandhi served as the Prime Minister's hostess. He had his schooling at Welham Prep and later at the elite Doon School, both in Dehradun.

Rajiv met his future wife Sonia Maino, an Italian who was studying English, while studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He then shifted to the Imperial College. Like his mother and younger brother Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv never graduated.

Sonia and Rajiv married in Delhi in 1968 and stayed with Rajiv's mother Indira Gandhi, who was the prime minister.

Rajiv entered politics in 1980 after the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in a plane crash on June 23, 1980.

After the assassination of of his mother by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, Rajiv became the youngest Prime Minister of Indira Gandhi at the age of 40.

However, with very little political experience under his belt, Rajiv was inequipped to lead a large and complex nation such as India with its myriad differences of religion, caste, community, geography and language ever seething just below the surface.

Rajiv's stint as Prime Minister was undistinguished.

Although he was initially seen as "a promising and clean" politician, Rajiv's reputation was subsequently tainted by the Bofors guns scandal involving the import of guns from Sweden for the Indian army.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Rajiv sent in the Indian Army to Sri Lanka to enforce a peace treaty, earning the enmity of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was to prove fatal to him a few years hence.

In the 1989 Parliamentary elections, Rajiv's Congress(I) was defeated. The Bofors scandal was one factor in the defeat.

In the midst of campaigning for the parliamentary elections, Rajiv was assassinated on May 21, 1991 by a suicide bomber belonging to the LTTE at Sriperumbudur in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

In addition to Western and Hindustani classical and modern music, Rajiv's Other interests included photography and amateur radio.

Besides his wife Sonia, Rajiv is survived by his son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi.
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