Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi

Infobox Prime Minister
name = Rajiv Gandhi

imagesize = 200px
birth_date = 20 August 1944
birth_place = Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
death_date = death date and age|df=yes|1991|05|21|1944|08|20
death_place = Sriperumbudur, TN, India
nationality = Indian
office = 9th Prime Minister of India
term_start = 31 October 1984
term_end = 2 December 1989
president = Giani Zail Singh
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
predecessor = Indira Gandhi
successor = V. P. Singh
profession = Airline pilot
spouse = Sonia Gandhi
party = Indian National Congress
religion = Adi Dharm

Rajiv Gandhi राजीव गांधी (IPA2|raːdʒiːv gaːnd̪ʰiː), born in Bombay, (20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991), the elder son of Indira and Feroze Gandhi, was the 9th Prime Minister of India (and the third from the Nehru-Gandhi family) from his mother's death on 31 October 1984 until his resignation on 2 December 1989 following a general election defeat. He was the youngest Prime Minister of India (at the age of 40).

Rajiv Gandhi was a professional Pilot for Indian Airlines (now Air India) before entering politics. While at Cambridge, he met Italian-born Sonia Maino whom he later married. He remained aloof from politics despite his mother being the Indian Prime Minister, and it was only following the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in 1980 that Rajiv entered politics. After the assassination of his mother in 1984 after Operation Blue Star, Indian National Congress party leaders elected him Prime Minister.

Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress to a major election victory in 1984 soon after, amassing the largest majority ever in Indian Parliament. The Congress party won 411 seats out of 542. He began dismantling the "License Raj" - government quotas, tariffs and permit regulations on economic activity - modernized the telecommunications industry, the education system, expanded science and technology initiatives and improved relations with the United States.

In 1988, Rajiv reversed the coup in Maldives antagonising the militant Tamil outfits such as PLO. He also was responsible for sending Indian troops (Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF) for peace efforts in Sri Lanka, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group. 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 a female LTTE suicide bomber Thenmuli Rajaratnam. 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.

Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the Highest National Award of India, Bharat Ratna, joining a list of 40 luminaries, including Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

As a religious leader, he (like his mother and other family elders) "served as Acharya" of his family Gurudev's (Rabindranath Tagore) Adi Dharm Ashram (and Brahmo Mandir) in Viswa-Bharati at Shantiniketan (West Bengal) for about 5 years. [statement of Prof (Dr.) Sumanta Niyogi, former of Head of the Dept. of History Patna University, Patna. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/brahmoconference/message/545]

Early life

Rajiv Gandhi was born into India's most famous political family. His grandfather was the Indian independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who would later become India's first Prime Minister after independence.

Rajiv is not related to Mahatma Gandhi although they share the same surname. His father was Feroze khan and mother had "Gandhy" surname before her marriage.After marrying Indira Nehru Feroze khan was adopted by Mahtma Gandhi and got the surname Gandhi.Feroze was one of the younger members of the Indian National Congress party, and had befriended the young Indira, and also her mother Kamala Nehru, while working on party affairs at Allahabad. Subsequently, Indira and Feroze grew closer to each other while in England, and they married, despite initial objections from Jawaharlal due to his religion. ["Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi" by Katherine Frank] [http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20011217&s=khilnani121701] , in March 1942.

Rajiv was born in 1944, during a time when both his parents were in and out of British prisons. In August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru became the prime minister of independent India, and the family settled in Allahabad, and then at Lucknow, where Feroze became the editor of The National Herald newspaper (founded by Motilal Nehru). However, a coolness had developed in the marriage and in 1949, Indira and the two sons moved to Delhi to live with Jawaharlal, ostensibly so that Indira could assist her father in his duties, acting as official hostess, and helping run the huge residence. Meanwhile, Feroze continued alone in Lucknow. Nonetheless, in 1952, Indira helped Feroze manage his campaign for elections to the first Parliament of India from Rae Bareli.

After becoming an MP, Feroze Gandhi also moved to Delhi, but "Indira continued to stay with her father, thus putting the final seal on the separation.". [cite book
author = Tariq Ali
title = The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian dynasty
publisher = Pan Books, London 1985, Revised edn 1991
p. 134
] Relations were strained further when Feroze challenged corruption within the Congress leadership over the Haridas Mundhra scandal. Jawaharlal suggested that the matter be resolved in private, but Feroze insisted on taking the case directly to parliament: :"Parliament must exercise vigilance and control over the biggest and most powerful financial institution it has created, the Life Insurance Corporation of India, whose misapplication of public funds we shall scrutinise today." Feroze Gandhi, Speech in Parliament, 1957-12-16. [cite book
title = Feroze Gandhi: A political Biography
author = Shashi Bhushan, M.P.
publisher = Progressive People's Sector Publications, New Delhi,
year = 1977
] . The scandal, and its transparent and efficient investigation by justice M C Chagla, would lead to the resignation of one of Nehru's key allies, finance minister T.T. Krishnamachari, further alienating Feroze from Jawaharlal.

After Feroze Gandhi had a heart attack in 1958, the family was reconciled briefly when they vacationed in Kashmir. However, Feroze would soon die from a second heart attack in 1960.


By then Rajiv was away at a private boarding school for boys: initially at the Welham Boys' School and later The Doon School. Subsequently he went to university in the United Kingdom, at the Imperial College London and Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he met and fell in love with an Italian student, Sonia Maino, who was there to learn English. Maino's family opposed the match, but Maino came to India with Rajiv and they were married in 1968.

Rajiv began working for Indian Airlines as a professional pilot while his mother became Prime Minister in 1966. He exhibited no interest in politics and did not live regularly with his mother in Delhi at the Prime Minister's residence. In 1970, his wife, Sonia gave birth to Rahul, their first child, and in 1972, to Priyanka, their second. Even as Gandhi remained aloof in politics, his younger brother Sanjay became a close advisor to their mother.

Entry into politics

It was following his younger brother's death in 1980 that Rajiv was pressured by Indian National Congress party politicians and his mother to enter politics. Rajiv and his wife were both opposed to the idea, and Rajiv even publicly stated that he would not contest for his brother's seat, but he finally accepted his mother's urging and announced his candidacy for Parliament Fact|date=May 2007. His entry was criticized by many in the press, public and opposition political parties, who saw the role of Nehru's dynasty intensifying in Indian politics Fact|date=May 2007.

Elected for Sanjay's Lok Sabha (parliamentary) constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh state in February 1981, Rajiv became an important political advisor to his mother. It was widely perceived that Indira Gandhi was grooming Rajiv for the prime minister's job, and Rajiv soon became the president of the Youth Congress - the Congress party's youth wing.

Prime Minister

Rajiv was in West Bengal when Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984. Top Congress leaders, as well as President Zail Singh pressed Rajiv to become India's Prime Minister, within hours of his mother's assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Commenting on the anti-Sikh riots in the national capital Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi said, "' When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes" [http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1504/15040190.htm] ; a statement for which he was widely criticised. Many Congress politicians were accused of orchestrating the violence [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4130962.stm BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Leaders 'incited' anti-Sikh riots ] ] . Soon after assuming office, Rajiv asked President Zail Singh to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections, as the Lok Sabha completed its five year term. Rajiv Gandhi also officially became the President of the Congress party.

Owing largely to the feelings of sympathy in wake of Indira's murder, the Congress party won a landslide victory - with largest majority in history of Indian Parliament [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/29/newsidUS953314000/3314987.stm"" BBC ON THIS DAY | 29 | 1984: Rajiv Gandhi wins landslide election victory ] ] , giving Rajiv absolute control of government. Rajiv Gandhi also benefited from his youth and a general perception of being "Mr. Clean", or free of a background in corrupt politics . Rajiv thus revived hopes and enthusiasm amongst the Indian public for the Congress.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi began leading in a direction significantly different from Indira Gandhi's socialism. He improved bilateral relations with the United States - long strained owing to Indira's socialism and close friendship with the USSR - and expanded economic and scientific cooperation Fact|date=May 2007. He increased government support for science and technology and associated industries, and reduced import quotas, taxes and tariffs on technology-based industries, especially computers, airlines, defence and telecommunications. He introduced measures significantly reducing the "License Raj" - allowing businesses and individuals to purchase capital, consumer goods and import without red-tape and bureaucratic restrictions. In 1986, Rajiv announced a national education policy to modernize and expand higher education programs across India. Rajiv Gandhi was the founder of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya System in the year 1986. Rajiv Gandhi can be called the father of telecom revolution. His efforts created MTNL in 1986 and the public call offices, better known as PCOs, helped spread telephones in the rural areas. The work that he did then laid the foundation for a telecom boom in 1990s.

Rajiv authorized an extensive police and Army campaign to contain terrorism in Punjab. A state of martial law existed in the Punjab state, and civil liberties, commerce and tourism were greatly disrupted Fact|date=May 2007. There are many accusations of human rights violations by police officials as well as by the militants during this period. It is alleged that even as the situation in Punjab came under control, the Indian government was offering arms and training to the LTTE rebels fighting the Government of Sri Lanka. The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed by Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lankan President J.R.Jayewardene, in Colombo on 29 July 1987. The very next day, on 30 July 1987, Rajiv Gandhi was assaulted by a Sinhalese naval cadet named Vijayamunige Rohana de Silva, while receiving honour guard. Though the embarrassed Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene initially attempted to pass off the bizarre assault as "Rajiv tripped a little and slightly lost his balance", Rajiv Gandhi while enroute to New Delhi asserted to J.N. Dixit who was in charge of arranging that disastrous visit, "What is all this nonsensical speculation. Of course, I was hit." Rajiv's government suffered a major setback when its efforts to arbitrate between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE rebels backfired Fact|date=May 2007.

Currency crisis

During the late 1980s, Rajiv's administration failed to arrest the 30 per cent fall in the value of the Indian Rupee from 12 to 17 to the US Dollar.

Bofors scandal

Rajiv's finance minister, Vishwanath Pratap Singh uncovered compromising details about government and political corruption, to the consternation of Congress leaders. Transferred to the Defence ministry, Singh uncovered what became known as the Bofors scandal, involving tens of millions of dollars - concerned alleged payoffs by the Swedish Bofors arms company through an Italian businessman and Gandhi family associate, Ottavio Quattrocchi, in return for Indian contracts. Upon the uncovering of the scandal, Singh was conspicuously dismissed from office, and later from Congress membership. Rajiv Gandhi himself was later personally implicated in the scandal, when the investigation was continued by Narasimhan Ram and Chitra Subramaniam of "The Hindu" newspaper, shattering his image as an honest politician, however, he was cleared over this allegation in 2004 [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3458319.stm Rajiv Gandhi cleared over bribery] ]

V. P. Singh's image as an exposer of government corruption made him very popular with the public Fact|date=May 2007, and opposition parties united under his name to form the Janata Dal coalition. In the 1989 elections, the Congress suffered a major setback. With the support of Indian communists and the Bharatiya Janata Party, V. P. Singh and his Janata Dal formed a government. Rajiv Gandhi became the Leader of the Opposition, while remaining Congress president. While some believe that Rajiv and Congress leaders influenced the collapse of V. P. Singh's government in October 1990 by promising support to Chandra Shekhar, a high-ranking leader in the Janata Dal, sufficient internal contradictions existed, within the ruling coalition, especially over the controversial reservation issue, to cause a fall of government. Rajiv's Congress offered outside support briefly to Chandra Sekhar, who became Prime Minister. But this support was withdrawn in 1991 and fresh elections were announced.

ri Lanka policy

The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord signed was opposed by the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa and was forced to accept it due to pressure from then President Junius Richard Jayewardene. In January 1989 Premadasa was elected President and on a platform that promised that the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) leave within three months. [ [http://www.srilankatruth.com/PeaceTalks/LTTE-SLGTalks.php Sri Lanka Truth ] ] In the 1989 elections both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and United National Party wanted the IPKF to withdraw and they got 95% of the vote.

The police action was unpopular in India as well, especially in Tamil Nadu as India was fighting the LTTE Tamil separatists.

Rajiv Gandhi refused to withdraw the IPKF, believing that the only way he could succeed in ending the civil war was to politically force Premadasa and militarily force the LTTE to accept the accord. Meanwhile in December 1989 Indian elections V.P.Singh became the Prime Minister and completed the pullout. The IPKF operation cost over 1100 Indian soldiers lives and cost over 2000 crores.

hah Bano case

In 1985, Supreme Court of India gave a judgement in favour of a Muslim divorcee Shah Bano that her husband should give alimony to her. Muslim fundamentalists in India treated it as an encroachment in Muslim Personal Law and protested against it. Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, agreed to their demands and cited the gesture as an example of "secularism"Fact|date=June 2008.In 1986, the Congress (I) party, which had an absolute majority in Parliament at the time, passed an act that nullified the Supreme Court's judgement in the Shah Bano case.


Rajiv Gandhi's last public meeting was at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991, in a village approximately 30-miles from Madras, Tamil Nadu, where he was assassinated while campaigning for the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha Congress candidate. [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/jan/11soni1.htm Rediff On The NeT: Sonia checks her emotions, but her interpreter goes full throttle ] ] The assassination was carried out by the LTTE suicide bomber Thenmuli Rajaratnam also known as Gayatri and Dhanu.

At 10:10 p.m., the assassin Dhanu approached him in a public meeting and greeted the former Prime Minister. She then bent down to touch his feet (an expression of respect among Hindus) and detonated a belt laden with 700 grams of RDX explosive tucked below her dress. [ [http://www.india-today.com/itoday/01021999/rdx.html The Nation: Terrorism: The RDX Files ] ] The former Prime Minister along with many others were killed in the explosion that followed. The assassination was caught on film through the lens of a local photographer, whose camera and film were found at the site. The cameraman himself also died in the blast but the camera remained intact.

The Rajiv Gandhi Memorial was built at the site recently and is one of the major tourist attractions to the small industrial town.

The Supreme Court judgement, by Judge Thomas, confirmed that the killing was carried out due to personal animosity of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Prabhakaran towards Mr Rajiv Gandhi arising out of his sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the alleged IPKF atrocities against Srilankan Tamils. However, it should be noted that the Rajiv Gandhi administration had already antagonised other Tamil militant organisations like PLO for reversing the military coup in Maldives back in 1988.

The judgement further cites the death of Thileepan in a hunger strike and the suicide by 12 LTTE cadres in a vessel in Oct 1987.

In the Jain Commission report, various people and agencies are named as suspected of having been involved in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. Among them, the cleric Chandraswami was suspected of involvement, including financing the assassination. [ [http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_print.asp?id=266715 outlookindia.com ] ] [ [http://www.expressindia.com/ie/daily/19980711/19250694.html Probe Chandraswami's role in Rajiv case - Jain report ] ] [http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/dec112004/i2.asp.] The interim report of the Jain Commission created a storm when it accused Karunanidhi of a role in the assassination, leading to Congress withdrawing its support for the I. K. Gujral government and fresh elections in 1998.LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham told the Indian television channel NDTV that the killing was a "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy which we deeply regret." [ [http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=70062 We deeply regret Rajiv's death: LTTE ] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5122032.stm BBC NEWS | South Asia | Tamil Tiger 'regret' over Gandhi ] ] A memorial christened "Veer Bhumi" was constructed at his cremation spot.


External links

* http://www.pressbrief.in
* [http://www.cbi.gov.in/judgements/thomas.pdf Supreme Court Judgement by Judge Thomas]
* [http://www.cbi.gov.in/judgements/quadari.pdf Supreme Court Judgement by Judge Quadari]
* [http://www.cbi.gov.in/judgements/wadwa.pdf Supreme Court Judgement by Judge Wadhwa]
* [http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/actandordinances/TADA.HTM TERRORIST AND DISRUPTIVE ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) ACT, 1987]
* [http://www.derechos.org/saran/lanka/3298.html Denial of fair trial leads to Death Sentences]

Further reading

* Sachi Sri Kantha; "Pirabhakaran Phenomenon", Lively Comet Imprint,2005;641 pp (chapters 24 to 35, pp.207-352, cover in detail the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi)
* "Working with Rajiv Gandhi" by R.D. Pradhan
* Mani Shankar Aiyar "Remembering Rajiv", Rupa, New Delhi, 1992

s-ttl|title=Prime Minister of India

NAME=Gandhi, Rajiv Ratna
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Prime Minister of India
DATE OF BIRTH=20 August 1944
PLACE OF BIRTH=Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
DATE OF DEATH=21 May 1991
PLACE OF DEATH=Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, India

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