Rajiv Gandhi remains the youngest Prime Minister in India’s history. When his mother, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984, he took over. He was 40 years old at the time. His 77th birthday falls on August 20, 2021. Rajiv Gandhi, had a passion for flying and was a pilot who stayed far from politics and like his younger brother, Sanjay Gandhi.
Rajiv Gandhi attended Welham Boys’ Preparatory School in Dehradun before moving to the residential Doon School. His brother, Sanjay Gandhi, joined him there later. After finishing school, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge and then switched to Imperial College, London but was not able to finish the course. After returning to India, he obtained a commercial pilot license from the Delhi Flying Club and joined Indian Airlines as a pilot.
His name has a story
Rajiv Gandhi was named after his maternal grandmother Kamala Nehru, wife of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. ‘Kamala’ refers to Goddess Laxmi. While the word Rajiv means Kamal (lotus), the flower used to worship the god.
Rajiv Gandhi served with Indian Airlines for ten years before his brother’s death in 1980 forced him into politics. He won his first election after his brother Sanjay Gandhi’s death in Amethi, where his brother had previously served in Parliament. Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi and former Congress president, contested the same constituency three times before losing to Smriti Irani, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Rise to power
As a result of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi became both the Prime Minister and the president of the Congress party. The same year, under his leadership, Congress won a thumping majority of 414 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, which remains the highest number of seats ever won by one party.
Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning for the general elections in May 1991, when he was killed by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.