Rajiv Gandhi (August 20,
1944 - May 21, 1991), son of Indira Gandhi, was Prime Minister of India from his mother's
death on October 31, 1984 until his resignation on December 2, 1989 following general
Initially preferring his career as an airline pilot, Rajiv was reluctant to enter politics
until six months after the death in an air crash of his younger brother Sanjay, who had
been seen as being groomed for the leadership of the governing Congress (I) Party.
Elected for Sanjay's Lok Sabha (parliamentary) constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh
state in February 1981, Rajiv was chosen as prime minister by the party leadership within
hours of his mother's assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Two months later he won
a landslide general election on the wave of popular sympathy surrounding Indira's death.
During his tenure as Prime Minister of India, he brought a certain dynamism to the
premiership, which had always been occupied by older people. He was instrumental in
greatly improving ties with the former USSR and is credited with promoting the
introduction of computers to India.
But his government became mired in the early stages of the protracted multi-million dollar
Bofors scandal which involved alleged payoffs by the Swedish Bofors arms company through
the Italian businessman and Gandhi family associate Ottavio Quattrocchi in return for
Indian contracts. The controversy contributed to the defeat of the Congress in the
November 1989 elections.
His government's military intervention (July 1987 to March 1990) in the civil war between
Sri Lanka's government and Tamil secessionists led to his death at the hands of Tamil
Tiger militants (using a bomb hidden in a garland of flowers) while he was campaigning for
re-election in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
His death brought the ailing Congress Party back into power in the 1991 general election
on a similar wave of feeling as had followed his mother's killing.
He is survived by his wife Sonia and two children, Rahul and Priyanka.
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