Rajiv Gandhi was born on 20 August 1944 in Bombay (Mumbai),into the country's eminent political dynasty - the Nehru-Gandhi family. He was the first son of Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. His mother Indira Gandhi was the first and the only woman Prime Minister of India. Feroze, a key member of the Indian National Congress became the editor of The National Herald newspaper founded by Motilal Nehru in Allahabad.His grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru played a stellar role in India's freedom struggle and became independent India's first Prime Minister.
His parents lived separately and Rajiv Gandhi was raised at his grandfather's home where her mother lived. Rajiv Gandhi initially attended the Welham Boys' School and subsequently sent to the elite Doon school and then studied at the University of London and at Trinity College, Cambridge in Britain.At Cambridge, Rajiv Ghandi met and fell in love with an Italian student Sonia Maino (Sonia Gandhi) and they got married in 1969.After his return from the United Kingdom, Rajiv Gandhi exhibited least interest in the politics and focused onto becoming a professional pilot. He, later, worked for Indian Airlines, as a pilot.
Unlike Rajiv, his younger brother had developed an interest and knowledge in the subjects of public administration and political developments. Although he had not been elected, Sanjay began exercising his influence with police officers, high-level government officers and even the Cabinet Ministers. Many senior ministers, as a protest against Sanjay Gandhi, resigned from office. Sanjay gradually promoted as a close political advisor to Indira Gandhi. On June 23, 1980, Sanjay Gandhi died in an air crash in Delhi.
After the death of his brother Sanjay, the senior members of the Indian National Congress party approached Rajiv Gandhi, in order to persuade him joining politics. He won his first Lok Sabha election in 1981 from Amethi-the erstwhile constituency of his brother. Soon he became the General Secretary of the All-India Congress Committee and subsequently became the president of the Youth Congress.
After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in October 1984 he became the Prime Minister of India at the age of 40.He called for general elections in 1984 and riding on a massive sympathy wave led Congress to a thumping victory. Congress garnered 80 percent of the seats in the lower house and achieved its greatest victory since independence.In his initial days as Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi was immensely popular. During his tenure as Prime Minister of India, he brought a certain dynamism to the premiership, which had always been occupied by older people. He is credited with promoting the introduction of computers in India. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi began leading in a direction significantly different from Indira Gandhi's socialism. He improved bilateral relations with the United States and expanded economic and scientific cooperation. He increased government support for science and technology and associated industries, and reduced import quotas, taxes and tariffs on technology-based industries, especially computers, airlines, defence and telecommunications. He worked towards reducing the red tape in the governance and freeing administration from bureaucratic tangles. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi announced a national education policy to modernize and expand higher education programs across India.
While commenting on the anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of India Gandhi in Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi said, "' When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes". The statement was widely criticized both within and outside the Congress Party. Many viewed the statement as "provocative" and demanded an apology from him. Beside, Rajiv Gandhi's name had also surfaced in the major controversies like Bofors and the formation of Indian Peace Keeping Force.
In 1988, Rajiv reversed the coup in Maldives antagonizing the militant Tamil outfits such as PLOTE. He was also responsible for first intervening and then sending Indian troops (Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF) for peace efforts in Sri Lanka in 1987, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group. In mid-1987, the Bofors scandal broke his honest, corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 elections.
On 21 May, 1991, on his way towards the dais, Rajiv Gandhi was garlanded by many Congress supporters and well-wishers. At around 10 pm, the assassin greeted him and bent down to touch his feet. She then exploded an RDX explosive laden belt attached to her waist-belt. The act of violence was reportedly carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, expressing their resentment over the formation Indian Peace-keeping Force. Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the Highest National Award of India, Bharat Ratna, joining a list of 40 luminaries, including Indira Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi was an active amateur radio operator, and used the callsign VU2RG.