Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the sixth Prime Minister of India, served India from 1984 to 1989. He assumed office after the assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31st October, 1984, the very same day to become the youngest Prime minister of India.
Life of Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi was from a politically influential Nehru–Gandhi family. In 1961 he went to Cambridge to pursue his higher Education and came back to India to join the Indian Airlines as a professional pilot while his mother became Prime Minister in 1966. He showed no interest in politics. He married an Italian, Albina Maino (Sonia Gandhi).
Though Rajiv was dead set against politics he had to enter that field due to the sudden demise of his politician brother Sanjay Gandhi in 1980. Eventually Rajiv Gandhi fought his first Lok Sabha election from Amethi to fill his brother’s seat in the Parliament. On 31 October 1984 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, politically very young Rajiv Gandhi became India’s Prime Minister within hours of his mother’s death. In spite of the confusions and anti-sikh riots in Delhi, Rajiv steered Congress party to win the greatest Lok Sabha majority (411 seats out of 542) in history.
During his tenure Gandhi gave a great boost to Science and Technology and associated Industries. MTNL introduced in 1986 was his brain child. He facilitated the setting of numerous PCO’s throughout India taking telephones even to remote and rural areas. He also set up the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya System in 1986 a central government institution that focuses on the upliftment of rural children providing them free residential education from 6th till 12th grade.
Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi’s Foreign Policy was much different from his mothers. He significantly improved bilateral relations with U.S. which were long strained due to India’s strong friendship with USSR. He employed extensive police and military forces to combat terrorism rampant in Punjab. Rajiv Gandhi made a crucial pact – The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord with Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene, in Colombo on 29 July 1987.
Rajiv Gandhi became the Leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha after the congress party lost the 1989 General Elections. As the coalition Government under V.P. Singh collapsed Gandhi was busy campaigning for the elections at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991 when he was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). The killing was carried out due to the enmity the LTTE chief Prabhakaran harbored towards Gandhi for sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the alleged IPKF atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils. Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the highest civilian award by the government of India, Bharat Ratna in 1991.
Every year on the 21st of May, the nation pays homage to its former Prime Minister. His statues all over the country are garlanded. The Indian President, Vice President, Prime Minister, late Prime Minister’s widow Sonia Gandhi, his son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka Gandhi, son–in-law Robert Vadra and several prominent political dignitaries offer floral tribute to the late leader at his memorial Vir Bhumi in New Delhi. ‘Shanti Mantra’ is recited on this occasion as youth holding the Tricolour walk around the memorial and Bhajans are sung. Several schemes for the upliftment of the needy and betterment of people are launched throughout the Nation on this day. Congress leaders all over the country pay homage to their great leader and serve the poor and needy on this occasion. India remembers its youngest and vibrant former Prime Minister Rajiv Ratna Gandhi with great esteem and affection.