Sonia Maino was born on 9 December 1946 to Stefano and Paola Maino in Lusiana (in Maini street), a historically Climbrian-speaking village about 35 km from Vicenza in Veneto, Italy. Sonia spent her adolescence in orbassano, a town near Turin, and was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic Christian family.
After completing her primary education at local schools, she moved for language classes to Cambridge, England, where she met Rajiv Gandhi, and later married him in 1968. She then moved to India and started living with her mother-in-law, the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, at the latter’s New Delhi residence. Sonia Gandhi, however, kept away from the public sphere, even during the years of her husband’s premiership.
Following her husband’s assassination, Gandhi was invited by Congress leaders to lead the party, but she declined. She agreed to join politics in 1997 after much pleading from the party; the following year, she was nominated for party president, and elected over Jitendra Prasada.
Under her leadership, the Congress went on to form the government post the 2004 election in coalition with other center-left political parties. Gandhi has since been credited for being instrumental in formulating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was re-elected to power in 2009.
She drew criticism related to the Bofors scandal and the National Herald case. Her foreign birth has also been a subject of much debate and controversy.
Gandhi’s active participation in politics began to reduce during the latter half of the UPA government’s second term owing to health concerns. She stepped down as the Congress president in December 2017 but returned to lead the party in August 2019.
Although she never held any public office in the government of India, Gandhi has been widely described as one of the most powerful politicians in the country and is often listed among the most powerful women in the world.
Sonia Gandhi is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi. Her husband was assassinated on 21st May 1991. The couple has two children’s Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.