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Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (Listeni/ˈrɑːdʒiːv ˈɡɑːndiː/; 20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the sixth Prime Minister of India, serving from 1984 to 1989. He took office after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, his mother, to become the youngest Indian premier.
A scion of the politically powerful Nehru–Gandhi family associated with the Indian National Congress party, for much of Rajiv's childhood his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. For his college education, he went to Britain where he met and began dating Antonia Maino, an Italian waitress. Rajiv returned to India in 1966 and became a professional pilot for the state-owned Indian Airlines. In 1968, he married Maino—who changed her name to Sonia Gandhi—and the couple settled down in Delhi to a domestic life with their children Rahul and Priyanka. Although for much of the 1970s his mother was prime minister, and his brother Sanjay wielded significant unofficial power, Rajiv remained apolitical. After Sanjay's death in a plane crash in 1980, Rajiv reluctantly entered politics at the behest of Indira. The following year he won his brother's Amethi seat and became a member of the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament). As part of his political grooming, Rajiv was made a general secretary of the Congress and given significant responsibility in organising the 1982 Asian Games.
On the morning of 31 October 1984, his mother was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards to avenge Operation Blue Star; later that day, Rajiv Gandhi was appointed Prime Minister. His leadership was put to the test over the next few days as organised mobs rioted against the Sikh community, resulting in the death of 1,000s in Delhi alone. Nevertheless, that December, a nationwide sympathy vote for Rajiv's Congress party helped it win the greatest Lok Sabha majority (411 seats out of 542) in history.
Rajiv Gandhi was also mired in many controversies: the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Bhopal disaster and Shah Bano case. In 1988, Gandhi reversed the coup in Maldives antagonising militant Tamil groups such as PLOTE. He was also responsible for first intervening and then sending Indian Peace Keeping Force troops for peace efforts in Sri Lanka in 1987, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In mid-1987, the Bofors scandal damaged his honest, corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 elections.
Rajiv Gandhi remained Congress President until the elections in 1991. While campaigning for the elections, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. His widow Sonia became the president of Congress party in 1998, and led the party to victory in the 2004 and 2009 parliament elections. His son Rahul is a Member of Parliament and Vice President of the Congress. Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the highest civilian award by the government of India, Bharat Ratna in 1991.