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Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi.jpg
Official portrait, 2013
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
Assumed office
23 May 2019
Preceded byM. I. Shanavas
ConstituencyWayanad, Kerala
In office
17 May 2004 – 23 May 2019
Preceded bySonia Gandhi
Succeeded bySmriti Irani
ConstituencyAmethi, Uttar Pradesh
President of the Indian National Congress
In office
16 December 2017 – 10 August 2019
Preceded bySonia Gandhi
Succeeded bySonia Gandhi
Vice-President of the Indian National Congress
In office
19 January 2013 – 16 December 2017
PresidentSonia Gandhi
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
General Secretary of Indian National Congress
In office
25 September 2007 – 19 January 2013
PresidentSonia Gandhi
Chair of Indian Youth Congress
Assumed office
25 September 2007
Preceded byPosition established
Chair of National Students’ Union of India
Assumed office
25 September 2007
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Born (1970-06-19) 19 June 1970 (age 51)
New Delhi, India
Political partyIndian National Congress
ParentsRajiv Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi
RelativesNehru–Gandhi family
EducationUniversity of Delhi
Harvard University
Rollins College (BA)
Trinity College, Cambridge (MPhil)
Signature
WebsiteOfficial website

Rahul Gandhi (About this soundpronunciation  [ˈraːɦʊl ˈɡaːn̪d̪ʱi]) (born 19 June 1970) is an Indian politician and a member of the Indian Parliament, representing the constituency of Wayanad, Kerala in the 17th Lok Sabha. A member of the Indian National Congress, he served as the President of the Indian National Congress from 16 December 2017 to 3 July 2019. Gandhi is the chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress, the National Students Union of India also a trustee of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust.

Born in New Delhi, Gandhi spent his early childhood between Delhi and Dehradun and stayed away from the public sphere for much of his childhood and early youth. He attained primary education in New Delhi and Dehradun but was later homeschooled because of security concerns. Gandhi began his undergraduate career at St. Stephen's College before moving to Harvard University. Gandhi transferred to Rollins College in Florida due to security threats following his father's, the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's, assassination. He graduated in 1994, the year after Gandhi obtained M.Phil. from Cambridge. Post graduation, he began his professional career with the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm in London. He soon returned to India and established the Mumbai-based technology outsourcing firm, Backops Services Private Ltd.

In 2004, Gandhi announced to enter in active politics and successfully contested the general elections held that year from Amethi, a seat that was earlier held by his father; he won again from the constituency in 2009 and 2014. Amidst calls from Congress party veterans for his greater involvement in party politics and national government, Gandhi was elected Congress Vice-President in 2013, having served as the General Secretary previously. Gandhi led the Congress's campaign in the 2014 Indian general elections; the party suffered its worst electoral result in its history, winning only 44 seats compared to 206 seats won previously in the 2009 general election.

In 2017, Gandhi succeeded his mother as Congress party leader and led the Congress into the 2019 Indian general election. The Indian National Congress won 52 seats, failing to get 10% of the seats needed to claim the post of Leader of Opposition. After this poor performance in the election, Gandhi resigned as party leader and was succeeded by his mother, Sonia Gandhi.

Early life and background

Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi with President of India Patil and Vice President Ansari at the memorial for his grandmother Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. 2009

Gandhi was born in Delhi on 19 June 1970,[1] as the first of the two children of Rajiv Gandhi, who later became the prime minister of India, and Italian-born Sonia Gandhi (née Maino), who later became the president of Indian National Congress, and as the grandson of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His paternal grandfather Feroze Gandhi was a Parsi from Gujarat.[2] He is also the great-grandson of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Priyanka Vadra is his younger sister[3] and Robert Vadra is his brother-in-law. Gandhi identifies himself as a Hindu Brahmin.[4]

Gandhi attended St. Columba's School, Delhi[5] 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, Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka were home-schooled thereafter.[6]

Gandhi joined St. Stephen's College, Delhi (an affiliated college of the University of Delhi) in 1989 for his undergraduate education but moved to Harvard University after he completed the first year examinations.[7] In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE)[8] during an election rally, he shifted to Rollins College in Florida, USA, due to security concerns and obtained his B.A. in 1994.[9] During his time at Rollins, he assumed the pseudonym Raul Vinci and his identity was known only to the university officials and security agencies.[7][10] He further went on to obtain an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1995.[11]

Gandhi was adamant on creating a professional career before joining politics. Post graduation, worked at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm, in London for three years.[12] In 2002, Gandhi returned to India and set up his own technology consultancy viz. Backops Services Private Ltd in Mumbai, where he was one of the directors of firm.[13] Gandhi has been a strong proponent of harnessing the scale and dexterity that technology can lend while amplifying the power of citizens.[citation needed]

Political career

Formative years

Rfer caption
Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi meet Hillary Clinton, along with Dr. Karan Singh in New Delhi. 2009

In March 2004, 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] His mother had held the seat until she transferred to the neighbouring seat of Raebareli. 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 Gandhi 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 victory margin of over 100,000.[17] Until 2006, he held no other office.[18] Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi managed their mother's campaign for re-election to Raebareilly in 2006, which was won with a victory margin of over 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] He was elevated to the position of the vice-president of the party in January 2013.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

Under Gandhi, the IYC and NSUI have seen a dramatic increase in members from 200,000 to 2.5 million.[27] 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."[28]

General election (2009)

Rahul Gandhi with Senior Congress leaders
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sits next to Gandhi who leads a delegation of leaders from Bundelkhand region in New Delhi. 2009

In the 2009 Indian general election, 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.[29][30] He spoke at 125 rallies across the country in six weeks.[31] 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.[32]

In 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. Gandhi was taken away from the protest site and later given bail and dropped off at the Delhi-UP border.[33]

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 ranked 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 two.[34][35]

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",[36] and pointing out the turn around attributed to Gandhi in the 2009 Lok Sabha national elections in the state. However, Gandhi publicly accepted responsibility for the result in an interview after the result was declared.[37]

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.[38][39][40] 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.[41]

General election (2014)

Gandhi contested the 2014 Indian general election from his constituency, Amethi.[42] and led the election campaign of the Indian National Congress.[43] Gandhi held the Amethi seat by defeating his nearest rival, BJP's Smriti Irani, by a reduced margin of 107,000 votes.[30][44] 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.[45][46] 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.[46][47][48] After the defeat, Gandhi offered to resign his posts, only to be rejected by the party's working committee.[49]

Post-general election

National Herald corruption case

In the National Herald corruption case, the Delhi High Court dismissed the appeals of Sonia Gandhi, and five others which included Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Satyan Pitroda in December 2015,[50] and ordered them to appear in person before the trial court on 9 December.[51] In 2016, the Supreme Court of India granted an exemption to Gandhi accused in the case. The Congress party, raised objections to the complaint filed by Subramanian Swamy, labelling it as “politically motivated”.[52]

Indian general election, 2019

Rahul Gandhi in an election rally in Karnataka, India
Gandhi speaking to a rally in Karnataka

Gandhi used the slogan "Chowkidar Chor Hai" as a jibe against Narendra Modi, BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2019 Indian general election.[53][54] The slogan was aimed at Modi in relation to the alleged irregularities and favouritism in awarding the contracts for the Rafale fighter jet deal.[55][56] The said case was considered by the Supreme Court of India and after carefully going through all the evidence, the high court dismissed the case and exonerated the current government of India.[57]

Gandhi led the election campaign of the Indian National Congress party. Under his leadership the party improved its seat count from 44 out of 543 in 2014 to 52 out of 542 in 2019. It also boosted its vote from 19.3% to 19.5% in 2019. The Indian National Congress won 52 seats, failing to get 10% of the seats needed to claim the post of Leader of Opposition. After this poor performance in the election, Gandhi resigned as party leader and was succeeded by his mother, Sonia Gandhi. Gandhi contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from two constituencies, Amethi, Uttar Pradesh[58] and Wayanad, Kerala.[59] Gandhi won the Wayanad seat in the 2019 general elections with over 60 percent vote share.[60] However, he lost his existing seat of Amethi to BJP's Smriti Irani by a margin of 55,120 votes.[61]

Electoral performances

Year Election Party Constituency Name Result Votes gained Vote share%
2004 14th Lok Sabha Indian National Congress  Amethi Won 390,179 66.18%
2009 15th Lok Sabha Amethi Won 464,195 71.78%
2014 16th Lok Sabha Amethi Won 408,651 46.71%
2019 17th Lok Sabha Amethi Lost 413,394 43.86%
Wayanad Won 706,367 64.67%

Positions held

Gandhi have held following positions;[62]

Year Description
2004 Elected to 14th Lok Sabha
2009 Elected to 15th Lok Sabha (2nd term)
2014 Elected to 16th Lok Sabha (3rd term)
2019 Elected to 17th Lok Sabha (4th term)

Within party

Year Position Preceded by Succeeded by
2007 - 2013 General secretary of INC
2007 - Incumbent (as of 2020) Chairperson of Indian Youth Congress Position established Incumbent (as of 2020)
2007 - Incumbent (as of 2020) Chairperson of NSUI Position established Incumbent (as of 2020)
2013 - 2016 Vice president of INC Position established Position abolished
2017 - 2019 President of INC Sonia Gandhi Sonia Gandhi (interim)

Political and social views

National security

68th United States Secretary of State John Kerry with Gandhi at the Roosevelt House in 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, Manmohan Singh had hosted a lunch on 20 July 2009 for Gandhi, then the General Secretary of the AICC. One of the guests who was invited for the lunch was the 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. 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), Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim population.[63][64] In a response to this, the BJP heavily criticised Rahul Gandhi for his statements. BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed 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.[65] Gandhi has also been critical of groups like the RSS and has compared them to terrorist organisations like SIMI.[66][67]

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

After the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, at a Madhya Pradesh election rally in Indore, Gandhi claimed that a police officer told him that Pakistan's ISI was trying to recruit disgruntled riot-affected youngsters.[68][69] 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.[70][71] This remark drew heavy criticism from various political outfits such as BJP, SP, CPI and JD(U).[72] Congress's Jairam Ramesh said Gandhi needed to apologise to the Muslim community for this remark.[73] 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.[74]

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.[75] 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.[76]

Lokpal

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 opined that Lokpal alone cannot root out corruption, rather a strong political will is needed to remove corruption. This statement came out on 25 August 2011, on the 10th day of Anna Hazare's fast. Gandhi's statement was considered as a delaying tactic by the opposition and Team Anna's members. It was consequently slammed by opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.[77] 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.

Farmers' and Land Agitation

On 19 April 2015 Gandhi addressed the farmer and worker's rally, named as Kisan Khet Mazdoor Rally in Ramlila Maidan. Here he made "references to his agitations in Niyamgiri in Orissa and Bhatta-Parsaul in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh".[78] The rally was attended by 1 lakh people. In the speech he gave, he criticised the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi about his comment in Toronto where he said that he was "cleaning the mess created by previous governments".[79] He also said "Do you know how Modi won the election?.. He borrowed thousands of crores from industrialists for his several campaigns and advertisements. How will he pay them back? He will pay them back with your land. He will give your land to his industrialist friends."[78]

He mocked the government as "suit-boot government", a reference to Modi's monogrammed suit which he wore in the Republic Day meeting with Barack Obama. Moreover, he used the "acche din government" jibe (which was Modi's election campaign slogan meaning "good days government") and mentioned that it had "failed the country".[80]

A land bill was introduced by the BJP government in the parliament in May which was criticised by the opposition parties.[81] Accusing the government of "murdering" UPA's land bill,[82] Gandhi promised to prevent the bill from being passed, if not in the parliament then would "stop you [ BJP government] on streets". He further accused the government of diluting the bill and called it as "anti-farmer".[81] Gandhi also drew parallel between "daylight robbery" and the bill.[83] On 26 May, the day of the Modi government's first anniversary, Gandhi commented at a rally in Kozhikode "Unfortunately, birthday celebrations is only for a few powerful friends of the government. Kisan, farmers and mazdoor have nothing to celebrate." [84]

Women's and LGBT rights

Gandhi has pushed for the empowerment of women.[85][86] He 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.[87][88][89] A strong advocate of women's rights and empowerment,[90] Gandhi has called for 33% reservation of all parliamentary Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly seats for women, as well as government jobs.[91]Gandhi had backed the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.[92]

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Further reading

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
President
Indian National Congress

2017–2019
Succeeded by
Lok Sabha
Preceded by
Member of Parliament
for Amethi

2004–2019
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of Parliament
for Wayanad

2019–present
Incumbent