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Sonia steps down from Lok Sabha in midst of election summer

By Super

New Delhi, Mar 23: It seemed like deja vu. Under fire from the Opposition for holding an office of profit, Congress President Sonia Gandhi relinquished her Lok Sabha seat and the office of the Chair of the National Advisory Council today ( Mar 23, 2006).

Nearly two years ago, she had turned down the post of Prime Minister after leading the Congress back to power from political wilderness.

Ms Gandhi, 59, spent most of her life largely as a private citizen, but came into the limelight from 1984 onwards when her husband Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister of India. After his assasination in 1991, she turned down the offer of Congress presidentship and announced she would devote her time to running the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which would strive to implement activities close to the former Prime Minister's heart.

However, in response to widespread demands from the Congress, she entered public life before the 1998 Lok Sabha election, when she campaigned vigorously on behalf of the Party. She was elected as Party President in April 1998.

In 1999, she was elected to the 13th Lok Sabha where she became the Leader of the Opposition.

She has been elected to the 14th Lok Sabha from the Rae Bareily Constituency of Uttar Pradesh.

Mrs Gandhi nee Maino, was born in Orbassano, Italy on December 9, 1946. After her early education, she attended an interpreter's school where she studied English, French and Russian. This was followed by a two-year certificate course in English language at Cambridge, UK.

She married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968 and has lived in India ever since. She has a son, Rahul, and a daughter, Priyanka.

After the death of her husband in May 1991, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and its associated think-tank, the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, was set up. As its Chairperson, she supervises the work of these institutions which commemorate her husband's memory.

She is also holding the following posts: Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust Chairperson, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund Chairperson, Indian Council for Child Welfare Chairperson, Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital Society President, Nehru Trust for Cambridge University Patron, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Society Member She is a patron of the Round Square (International Group of Schools, based on the educational principles of the late Dr Kurt Hahn), UK.

She was a member of the International Advisory Group which was set up to mark the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.

She has authored two books, Rajiv and Rajiv's World, and has edited two volumes of letters exchanged between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi from 1922 to 1964, entitled Freedom's Daughter; and, Two Alone - Two Together.

Her interests include Indian hand-looms and handicrafts, as well as Indian contemporary, classical and tribal art. She has a diploma in conservation of oil paintings from the National Museum in New Delhi.


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