Rahul Gandhi (born 19 June 1970) is the Vice President of the Indian National Congress and the Chairperson of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. Gandhi has served as an General Secretary in the All India Congress Committee and represents Amethi as its Member of Parliament (MP). He is the second-ranked member of the Congress Working Committee.
Gandhi comes from a politically influential family. His parents, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, have served as the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Congress respectively. He grew up in New Delhi, where his grandmother Indira Gandhi, was serving as Prime Minister until her assassination in 1984. His father was likewise assassinated in 1991. Due to security concerns, Gandhi constantly had to shift schools in his youth. He studied abroad under a pseudonym, his identity being known only to a select few including university officials and security agencies.
After obtaining degrees in international relations and philosophy at the universities of Rollins and Cambridge, Gandhi worked at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm in London, before establishing the Mumbai–based technology outsourcing firm, Backops Services Private Ltd. In 2004, Gandhi re-entered public life; he ran for and won his father’s old seat of Amethi in India’s national legislature. A few years later, in 2007, Gandhi was elected as an general secretary of the Congress party, a previously executive post held by his father, and by his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru. Described as a youth icon, Gandhi is the leader of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. Amidst calls from Congress party veterans for his greater involvement in party politics and national government, Gandhi was elected Congress Vice President in 2013.
Early life and career:
Rahul Gandhi was born in Delhi on 19 June 1970, as the first of the two children of Rajiv Gandhi, who later became the Prime Minister of India, and Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, who later became President of Indian National Congress, and as the grandson of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He is also the great-grandson of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Priyanka Vadra is his younger sister and Robert Vadra is his brother-in-law.
Rahul Gandhi attended St. Columba’s School, Delhi before entering The Doon School in Dehradun (Uttarakhand) from 1981–83. Meanwhile, his father had joined politics and became the Prime Minister on 31 October 1984 when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Due to the security threats faced by Indira Gandhi’s family from Sikh extremists, Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka were home-schooled thereafter. Rahul Gandhi joined St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1989 for his undergraduate education but moved to Harvard University after he completed the first year examinations. In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE during an election rally, he shifted to Rollins College due to security concerns and completed his B.A. in 1994. During this period, he assumed the pseudonym Raul Vinci and his identity was known only to the university officials and security agencies. He further went on to obtain a M.Phil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1995. After graduation, Rahul Gandhi worked at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm, in London. In 2002 he was one of the directors of Mumbai-based technology outsourcing firm Backops Services Private Ltd.
In March 2004, Rahul Gandhi announced his entry into politics by announcing that he would contest the May 2004 elections, standing for his father’s former constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament. The seat had been held by his mother until she transferred to the neighbouring seat of Rae Bareilly. The Congress had been doing poorly in Uttar Pradesh, holding only 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state at the time. At the time, this move generated surprise among political commentators, who had regarded his sister Priyanka as being the more charismatic and likely to succeed. It generated speculation that the presence of a young member of India’s most famous political family would reinvigorate the Congress party’s political fortunes among India’s youthful population In his first interview with foreign media, Rahul Gandhi portrayed himself as a uniter of the country and condemned “divisive” politics in India, saying that he would try to reduce caste and religious tensions.
Rahul Gandhi won with a landslide majority, retaining the family stronghold with a margin of over 100,000 as the Congress unexpectedly defeated the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Until 2006 he held no other office.
Rahul Gandhi and his sister, who is married to Robert Vadra, managed their mother’s campaign for re-election to Rae Bareilly in 2006, which was won easily with a margin greater than 400,000 votes. He was a prominent figure in the Congress campaign for the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections; Congress, however, won only 22 seats with 8.53% of votes.
Rahul Gandhi was appointed a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee on 24 September 2007 in a reshuffle of the party secretariat. In the same reshuffle, he was also given charge of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. In 2008, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily mentioned “Rahul-as-PM” idea when the PM of India Manmohan Singh was still abroad.
In July 2012, Union Law Minister, Salman Khurshid stated that Rahul Gandhi should provide a “new ideology” to meet the present day challenges, the Congress party was facing.
On 19 January 2013, in a party conclave of AICC, Rahul Gandhi formally took charge of Congress Vice President. He was elevated to the post of Vice President at the party’s Jaipur conclave. As vice-president, he is second only to party President and his mother Sonia Gandhi.
In September 2007 when he was appointed general secretary in charge of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), Rahul Gandhi promised to reform youth politics. In his attempt to prove himself thus, in November 2008 Rahul Gandhi held interviews at his 12, Tughlak Lane residence in New Delhi to handpick at least 40 people who will make up the think-tank of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), an organisation that he has been keen to transform since he was appointed general secretary in September 2007.
Under Rahul Gandhi, IYC and NSUI has seen a dramatic increase in members from a two lakhs to twenty five lakhs. The Indian Express wrote in 2011, “Three years later, as another organisational reshuffle is in the offing, Rahul’s dream remains unrealised with party veterans manipulating internal elections in the Youth Congress and a host of people with questionable background gaining entry into it.”
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi retained his Amethi seat by defeating his nearest rival by a margin of over 333,000 votes. Rahul Gandhi was credited with the Congress revival in Uttar Pradesh where they won 21 out of the total 80 Lok Sabha seats. He spoke at 125 rallies across the country in six weeks. The nationawide elections defied the predictions made by pre-poll predictions and exit polls and gave a clear mandate to the incumbent Congress government.
Land acquisition protests arrest:
On 11 May 2011, Rahul Gandhi was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police at Bhatta Parsaul village after he turned out in support of agitating farmers demanding more compensation for their land being acquired for a highway project.
2012 Assembly elections:
Rahul Gandhi campaigned extensively in the 2012 Assembly elections, especially in the highly politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh in the hope that his popularity would help revive the Congress in the state. However, the regionalist Samajwadi Party unexpectedly swept the elections. The Congress won 28 seats, an increase of only six seats from the 2007 elections.
Congress activists defended the result in Uttar Pradesh, claiming “there’s a big difference between state elections and national polls”, and pointing out the turn around attributed to Rahul Gandhi in the 2009 Lok Sabha national elections in the state. However, Rahul Gandhi publicly accepted responsibility for the result in an interview after the result was declared.
Political and social views:
In December 2010 during the United States diplomatic cables leak, WikiLeaks leaked a cable dated 3 August 2009, where the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh had hosted a lunch on 20 July 2009 for the then General Secretary of the AICC, Rahul Gandhi. One of the guests who was invited for the lunch was the then United States Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer. In a “candid conversation” with Roemer, he said that he believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants. Rahul Gandhi referred specifically to more-polarising figures in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Also responding to the ambassador’s query about the activities in the region by the Islamist militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Rahul Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim population.
Rahul Gandhi has been critical of groups like the RSS and has compared them to terrorist organisations like SIMI.
A day after the 2011 Mumbai bombings, Rahul Gandhi declared: “It is very difficult to stop every single terrorist attack. The idea is that we have to fight terrorism at the local level. We have improved in leaps and bounds. But terrorism is something that it is impossible to stop all the time.
Rahul Gandhi opines that the Lokpal should be made a constitutional body and it should be made accountable to the Parliament, just like the Election Commission. He also feels that Lokpal alone cannot root out corruption. This statement came out on 25 August 2011, on the 10th day of Anna Hazare’s fast. This statement was considered as a delaying tactic by the opposition and Team Anna’s members. It was consequently slammed by prominent opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. The Parliamentary Standing Committee led by Abhishek Manu Singhvi tabled the Lok Bill report in the Rajya Sabha on 9 December 2011. The report recommended the Lokpal to be made into a constitutional body. In response, Hazare attacked Rahul Gandhi, claiming he had made the bill “weak and ineffective”.