Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi
MP
Rahul Gandhi 1.jpg
Vice-President of the Indian National Congress
Incumbent
Assumed office
19 January 2013
President Sonia Gandhi
Preceded by Office established
Chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 September 2007
Preceded by Office established
Chairperson of the National Students Union
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 September 2007
Preceded by Office established
General Secretary of the Indian National Congress
In office
25 September 2007 – 19 January 2013
President Sonia Gandhi
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Office abolished
Member of Parliament
for Amethi
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 May 2004
Preceded by Sonia Gandhi
Personal details
Born (1970-06-19) 19 June 1970 (age 44)
New Delhi, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Indian National Congress
Alma mater University of Delhi
Harvard University
Rollins College
Trinity College, Cambridge
Signature
Website Official Site

Rahul Gandhi About this sound pronunciation  [ˈraːɦʊl ˈɡaːnd̪ʱiː]; (born 19 June 1970) is the Vice-President of the Indian National Congress party and the Chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. Gandhi served as a general secretary in the All India Congress Committee and represents Amethi as its Member of Parliament (MP). He is the second-ranked member of the Congress Working Committee.[1]

Gandhi comes from the politically influential Nehru–Gandhi family. His late father, Rajiv Gandhi, had served as the Prime Minister of India and had been President of the Congress Party. His mother Sonia Gandhi is currently serving as the President of the Congress Party. He grew up in New Delhi, where his grandmother Indira Gandhi, was serving as Prime Minister until her assassination in 1984. His father was likewise assassinated in 1991. Due to security concerns, Gandhi constantly had to shift schools in his youth. He studied abroad under a pseudonym, his identity being known only to a select few including university officials and security agencies.[2]

After obtaining degrees in international relations and development studies at the universities of Rollins and Cambridge, Gandhi worked at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm in London, before establishing the Mumbai-based technology outsourcing firm, Backops Services Private Ltd. In 2004, Gandhi re-entered public life; he ran for and won his father's old seat of Amethi in India's national legislature. A few years later, in 2007, Gandhi was elected as the General Secretary of the Congress party, a previously executive post held by his father, and by his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru. Once described as a youth icon, Gandhi is the leader of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India.[3] Amidst calls from Congress party veterans for his greater involvement in party politics and national government, Gandhi was elected Congress Vice-President in 2013.[1]

Early life and career

Rahul Gandhi was born in Delhi on 19 June 1970,[4] as the first of the two children of Rajiv Gandhi, who later became the Prime Minister of India, and Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, who later became President of Indian National Congress, and as the grandson of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He is also the great-grandson of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Priyanka Vadra is his younger sister[5] and Robert Vadra is his brother-in-law.

Rahul Gandhi attended St. Columba's School, Delhi[6] before entering The Doon School in Dehradun (Uttarakhand) from 1981 to 1983. Meanwhile, his father had joined politics and became the Prime Minister on 31 October 1984 when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Due to the security threats faced by Indira Gandhi's family from Sikh extremists, Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka were home-schooled thereafter.[7] Rahul Gandhi joined St. Stephen's College, Delhi in 1989 for his undergraduate education but moved to Harvard University after he completed the first year examinations.[2] In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE)[8] during an election rally, he shifted to Rollins College due to security concerns and completed his B.A. in 1994.[9] During this period, he assumed the pseudonym Raul Vinci and his identity was known only to the university officials and security agencies.[2][10] He further went on to obtain an M.Phil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1995.[11] After graduation, Rahul Gandhi worked at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm, in London.[12] In 2002 he was one of the directors of Mumbai-based technology outsourcing firm Backops Services Private Ltd.[13]

Political career

In March 2004, Rahul Gandhi announced his entry into politics by announcing that he would contest the May 2004 elections, standing for his father's former constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of Parliament.[14] The seat had been held by his mother until she transferred to the neighbouring seat of Rae Bareilly. The Congress had been doing poorly in Uttar Pradesh, holding only 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state at the time.[15] At the time, this move generated surprise among political commentators, who had regarded his sister Priyanka as being the more charismatic and likely to succeed. It generated speculation that the presence of a young member of India's most famous political family would reinvigorate the Congress party's political fortunes among India's youthful population[16] In his first interview with foreign media, Gandhi portrayed himself as a uniter of the country and condemned "divisive" politics in India, saying that he would try to reduce caste and religious tensions.[14]

Gandhi won, retaining the family stronghold with a margin of over 100,000.[17] Until 2006 he held no other office.[18]

Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka managed their mother's campaign for re-election to Rae Bareilly in 2006, which was won easily with a margin greater than 400,000 votes.[19] He was a prominent figure in the Congress campaign for the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections; Congress, however, won only 22 seats of the 403 seats with 8.53% of votes.[20]

Gandhi was appointed General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee on 24 September 2007 in a reshuffle of the party secretariat.[21] In the same reshuffle, he was also given charge of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India.[22] In 2008, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily mentioned "Rahul-as-PM" idea when the PM of India Manmohan Singh was still abroad.[23]

In July 2012, Union Law Minister, Salman Khurshid stated that Gandhi should provide a "new ideology" to meet the present day challenges, the Congress party was facing.[24]

On 19 January 2013, in a party conclave of the AICC, Gandhi formally took charge as Congress Vice-President. He was elevated to the post of Vice-President at the party's Jaipur conclave.[25] As vice-president, he is second only to party President and his mother Sonia Gandhi.[26]

On 27 September 2013, Gandhi surprised everyone by openly criticising the Prime Minister of India and his government for coming out with an ordinance to undo the effect of the order passed by the Supreme Court of India by which convicted criminals could not contest elections.[27]

His rise to the top of the Congress Party has not been without controversy. As a member of the Nehru–Gandhi family, many, such as his political opponents in the BJP and AAP see him as a symbol of dynastic politics in the Congress Party.[28]

His recent efforts as a lawmaker have centred around anti-corruption legislation and those that provide definitive rights to specific segments of society. Gandhi has been pushing six pieces of legislation currently in draft form, namely the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill; the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill; the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill; the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill; the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill and the Public Procurement Bill.[29]

Gandhi has pushed for the empowerment of women.[30][31] He has backed the Women's Reservation Bill which would allow 33% reservation of all Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly seats for women. This bill passed the Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 but has not yet been voted on by the Lok Sabha as of February 2014.[32][33][34] Gandhi has also backed the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.[35]

Youth politics

In September 2007 when he was appointed general secretary in charge of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), Gandhi promised to reform youth politics.[36] In his attempt to prove himself thus, in November 2008 Gandhi held interviews at his 12 Tughlak Lane residence in New Delhi to handpick at least 40 people who will make up the think-tank of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), an organisation that he has been keen to transform since he was appointed general secretary in September 2007.[37]

Under Gandhi, the IYC and NSUI have seen a dramatic increase in members from two lakhs to twenty five lakhs.[38] The Indian Express wrote in 2011, "Three years later, as another organisational reshuffle is in the offing, Gandhi's dream remains unrealised with party veterans manipulating internal elections in the Youth Congress and a host of people with questionable background gaining entry into it."[39]

2009 elections

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi retained his Amethi seat by defeating his nearest rival by a margin of over 370,000 votes. Gandhi was credited with the Congress revival in Uttar Pradesh where they won 21 out of the total 80 Lok Sabha seats.[40][41] He spoke at 125 rallies across the country in six weeks.[42] The nationwide elections defied the predictions made by pre-poll predictions and exit polls and gave a clear mandate to the incumbent Congress-led UPA government.[43]

Land acquisition protests arrest

On 11 May 2011, Gandhi was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police at Bhatta Parsaul village after he turned out in support of agitating farmers demanding more compensation for their land being acquired for a highway project.Rahul stood with the farmers for over 15 hours as they were demanding their rights. Gandhi was taken away from the protest site in Bhatta Parsaul to the Kasna police station. Later, in around three hours, he was given bail and dropped off at the Delhi-UP border.[44]

2012 Assembly elections

Gandhi campaigned during the 2012 Assembly elections in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh election for almost two months, holding 200 rallies. However Congress emerged as the fourth party in the state, winning 28 seats, an increase of six seats from the previous 2007 elections. Out of the 15 seats in the Amethi parliamentary constituency, Congress won 2 of the 15 seats.[45][46]

Congress activists defended the result in Uttar Pradesh, saying "there's a big difference between state elections and national polls and in the end there is only the first family, a hope and a prayer",[47] and pointing out the turn around attributed to Gandhi in the 2009 Lok Sabha national elections in the state. However, Rahul Gandhi publicly accepted responsibility for the result in an interview after the result was declared.[48]

In the Gujarat assembly elections held later in the year, Gandhi was not made the head of the election campaign. This was seen and regarded by opponents as an admission of defeat and was termed as a tactic to avoid blame of defeat.[49][50][51] Congress won 57 seats in the assembly of 182, which was 2 less than the previous elections in 2007. Later in bypolls, Congress lost 4 more seats to BJP.

After Parliament cleared the Lokpal Bill and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, Rahul Gandhi has been actively participated in promoting six other anti-corruption bills in the parliament.[52] He talks about them in his public rallies.[53] These bills are the Public Procurement Bill, the Prevention of Corruption Act (Amendment) Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, Electronic Delivery of Services Bill, The Right of Citizens for Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill and the Whistleblowers Protection Bill has been.[54]

2014 Lok Sabha elections

Gandhi contested the Indian general election, 2014 from his constituency, Amethi.[55] and led the election campaign of the Indian National Congress.[56] Gandhi held the Amethi seat by defeating his nearest rival, BJP's Smriti Irani, by a reduced margin of 107,000 votes.[41][57] Under his leadership, the Indian National Congress suffered its worst ever performance in elections and won only 44 seats compared to 206 seats won previously in the 2009 general election.[58][59] The Congress-led electoral alliance, the UPA also had its worst ever performance in elections and won only 59 seats compared to 262 seats won previously in the 2009 general election.[59][60][61]

Political and social views

National security

Rahul Gandhi with former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.

In December 2010 during the United States diplomatic cables leak, WikiLeaks leaked a cable dated 3 August 2009, where the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh had hosted a lunch on 20 July 2009 for Rahul Gandhi, then the General Secretary of the AICC. One of the guests who was invited for the lunch was the then United States Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer. In a "candid conversation" with Roemer, he said that he believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants. Rahul Gandhi referred specifically to more-polarising figures in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Also responding to the ambassador's query about the activities in the region by the Islamist militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Rahul Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim population.[62][63] In a response to this, the BJP heavily criticised Rahul Gandhi for his statements. BJP spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed Rahul Gandhi saying that his language was a bigger threat to India, dividing the people of the country on communal grounds. Speaking to reporters, Prasad said, "In one stroke Mr. Rahul Gandhi has sought to give a big leverage to the propaganda to all the extremist and terrorist groups in Pakistan, and also some segments of Pakistani establishment. It would also seriously compromise India's fight against terror as also our strategic security." Adding that terrorism has no religion, he said that Rahul Gandhi had shown his lack of understanding India.[64]

Rahul Gandhi has also been critical of groups like the RSS and has compared them to terrorist organisations like SIMI.[65][66]

After the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, at a Madhya Pradesh election rally in Indore, Rahul Gandhi claimed that a police officer has told him that Pakistan's ISI was trying to recruit disgruntled riot-affected youngsters.[67][68] However, the district administration, the UP state government, the Union Home Ministry, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) denied any such development.[69][70] This remark drew heavy criticism from various political outifts such as BJP, SP, CPI and JD(U).[71] Congress's Jairam Ramesh said Gandhi needed to apologise to the Muslim community for this remark.[72] In reply to the ECI's show-cause notice to explain why action should not be initiated against him for violating the Model Code of Conduct, Gandhi said that he didn't intend to exploit communal sentiments but was referring to divisive politics.[73] The BJP also asked the government to explain why Gandhi, who holds no post in the government, is being briefed by intelligence officers on important security issues.[74] On 13 November 2013, Election Commission of India finding Gandhi's explanation to be insufficient conveyed its displeasure and advised him to be more circumspect in his public utterances during election campaigns.[75]

Lokpal

Rahul Gandhi opines that the Lokpal should be made a constitutional body and it should be made accountable to the Parliament, just like the Election Commission of India. He also feels that Lokpal alone cannot root out corruption. This statement came out on 25 August 2011, on the 10th day of Anna Hazare's fast. This statement was considered as a delaying tactic by the opposition and Team Anna's members. It was consequently slammed by prominent opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.[76] The Parliamentary Standing Committee led by Abhishek Manu Singhvi tabled the Jan Lokpal Bill report in the Rajya Sabha on 9 December 2011. The report recommended the Lokpal to be made into a constitutional body. In response, Hazare attacked Rahul Gandhi, claiming he had made the bill "weak and ineffective".[77]

Poverty

According to Gandhi, poor people should dream the biggest dreams as it is important for progress of the country.[78][79]

During a function in Allahabad, Gandhi termed poverty as a "state of mind" for which he drew sharp criticism from various sections.[80][81]

Personal life

In 2004, Rahul Gandhi told the press that he had a Spanish girlfriend, Veronique Cartelli, a Venezuelan architect whom he had met while studying in England.[82][83]

References

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