Sonia Gandhi pronunciation (née Maino; born 9 December 1946) is an Indian politician. She is a former president of the Indian National Congress, the secular and left-of-centre political party, which governed India for most of its post-independence history. She took over as the party leader in 1998, seven years after the assassination of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, a former prime minister of India, and remained in office for nineteen years.Born in a small village near Vicenza, Italy, Gandhi was raised in a Roman Catholic family. After completing her primary education at local schools, she moved for her higher education to Cambridge, England, where she met Rajiv Gandhi, and later married him in 1968. She took up Indian citizenship and began living with her mother-in-law, the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, at the latters New Delhi residence. Sonia Gandhi, however, kept away from the public sphere, even during the years of her husbands premiership.
Following her husbands assassination, Gandhi was invited by Congress leaders to lead the party, but she declined. She agreed to join politics in 1997 after much pleading from the party; the following year, she was nominated for party president, and elected over Jitendra Prasada. Under her leadership, the Congress went on to form the government post the 2004 elections in coalition with other centre-left political parties. Gandhi has since been credited for being instrumental in formulating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was re-elected to power in 2009. Gandhi declined the premiership following the 2004 victory; she instead led the ruling alliance and the National Advisory Council.Over the course of her career, Gandhi presided over the advisory councils credited for the formation and subsequent implementation of such rights-based development and welfare schemes as the Right to information, Food security bill, and MNREGA, as she drew criticism related to the Bofors scandal and the National Herald Case. Her foreign birth has also been a subject of much debate and controversy. Gandhis active participation in politics began to reduce during the latter half of the UPA governments second term owing to health concerns. She stepped down as the Congress president in December 2017, but continues to lead the partys Parliamentary committee. Although she never held any public office in the government of India, Gandhi has been widely described as one of the most powerful politicians in the country, and is often listed among the most powerful women in the world.