Inspiring Indians - Rajiv Gandhi

Personality born in August

Rajiv Gandhi was India's 9th Prime Minister. As his birthday falls in the month of August, we profile one of India's well-known leaders.

Rajiv Gandhi was India's youngest Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989. He was born on 20 August 1944, in Mumbai, and was the first son of Priyadarshini Indira Gandhi and Firoz Gandhi. 

His Early years

He attended The Doon School and Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, England he married Sonia Gandhi, an Italian by birth. He then trained to be an airline pilot and worked as a pilot for the Indian Airlines. He was persuaded by his mother to enter politics after the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi.

After the 1981 elections, he became a political adviser to his mother Indira Gandhi. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated (killed) in 1984, Rajiv succeeded her as head of the Congress party. At the age of forty he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India.

In the role of Prime Minister

His government encouraged foreign investment, and industry boomed with the loosening of business controls. He removed many restrictions on imports and encouraged foreign investment. In 1987, he sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka in an attempt to help the Sri Lankan Government get rid of militants agitating for a separate Tamil homeland. Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest Prime Minister of the World's largest Democracy. He strengthened India's political, economic and cultural bonds with other countries. During his tenure as Prime Minister of India, he brought a certain dynamism to the leadership, which had always been occupied by older people. Rajiv, was keen on preparing India for the twenty-first century, He increased Indian investments in modern technology. He is credited with promoting the introduction of computers to India. 

He brought into politics energy, enthusiasm, and vision. Moreover, his looks, personal charm, were assets that Rajiv Gandhi also had. With a clear mandate he ruled the country with an overwhelming majority in Parliament. 

Later on he and his government were accused of receiving "kick-backs" from a Swedish company manufacturing Bofors machine-guns. As a result he lost the election of November 1989 partly on account of the public perception. His successor, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, could not hold office for very long, and Rajiv Gandhi started campaigning in earnest in 1991.

Assassination 

It was while he was on this campaign in South India that a bomb explosion took his life that even his body could not be pieced together. He met a tragic end on 21 May 1991 at Sriperumbudur, in Tamilnadu when an LTTE (Liberal Tigers of Tamil Eelam) suicide bomber named Dhanu, took his life.

Awards and honours 

The Government of India conferred the highest honour of the land, the Bharat Ratna on Rajiv Gandhi. Many foundations have been established to cherish his memory for the welfare of society in the fields of Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, and Health and Medicine. 

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