Rajiv Gandhi remains India’s youngest Prime Minister to date. He took charge in 1984 after his mother, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards. At that time, he was 40. August 20, 2021, marks Rajiv Gandhi’s 77th birth anniversary. Unlike his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, a pilot, is said to have never shown any interest in politics. His passion was flying.
Rajiv Gandhi studied at Welham Boys’ Preparatory School in Dehradun before moving to the residential Doon School. He was later joined by his brother, Sanjay Gandhi, there. After finishing school, Rajiv Gandhi went to Trinity College, Cambridge. Soon after, though, he shifted to the Imperial College (London), from where he did a course in mechanical engineering. Upon returning to India, Rajiv Gandhi obtained a commercial pilot’s licence from the Delhi Flying Club and became a pilot with Indian Airlines.
What was special about his name?
Not many know this but Rajiv Gandhi’s name pays homage to his maternal grandmother Kamala Nehru. The word Kamala means Goddess Laxmi. While the word Rajiv means Kamal (lotus), the flower used to worship the deity.
Before his brother Sanjay Gandhi’s death in 1980, he remained a commercial pilot with Indian Airlines for 10 years. Following Sanjay Gandhi’s death, Rajiv Gandhi contested and won his first election from Amethi, a seat his brother represented in Parliament. Rajiv Gandhi’s son and former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, too, successfully contested from the same constituency thrice before losing to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Smriti Irani in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Rise to power
Rajiv Gandhi became not just the Prime Minister but also the president of the Congress party following Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The same year, under Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership, Congress won a thumping majority of 414 seats in the Lok Sabha elections which remains a record for the highest number of seats ever won by a single party.
In May, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning for the general elections. During a rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, he was assassinated by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber.