Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest Prime Minister of India. He became Prime Minister at the age of 40. Rajiv Gandhi came from a family that had great political lineage. He was the eldest son of Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. Her mother Indira Gandhi and grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru were Prime Ministers of India. As a Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made valuable contributions in modernizing India. He had the vision and foresight to see that information technology will play a key role in the 21 century and worked actively to develop India's capacity in this realm. As he repeatedly said, one of his main objectives, besides preserving India's unity, was to propel it into the twenty-first century.
Rajiv Gandhi was born on 20 August 1944. His mother Indira Gandhi was the first woman Prime Minister of India. His father was Feroze Gandhi, a key member of the Indian National Congress and was the editor of The National Herald newspaper founded by Motilal Nehru in Allahabad.
Rajiv Gandhi initially attended the Welham Boys' School and subsequently sent to the elite Doon School in Dehradun. Later, he went to the United Kingdom to study at the Cambridge University. It was here in Cambridge University, young Rajiv met Sonia Gandhi. 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.
Entry into politics
After the death of his brother Sanjay Gandhi, the senior members of the Indian National Congress party approached Rajiv Gandhi, in order to persuade him joining politics. Rajiv Gandhi was reluctant. But after constant request from his mother Indira Gandhi, he changed his stand. Within a few months of his election as a Member of Parliament, Rajiv Gandhi acquired significant party influence and became an important political advisor to his mother. He was also elected as the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee and subsequently became the President of the Youth Congress. Following the assassination of his mother, on 31 October 1984, the Congress leaders and followers favored Rajiv Gandhi as the next Prime Minister.
Rajiv Gandhi belonged to that rare breed of men who live their lives according to certain guiding principles gathered from their experience, education, upbringing and environment. The word 'principles' is bandied about too readily, nowadays. Therefore, it needs defining: 'A fundamental truth or proposition serving as the foundation for belief or action'. A principle is a rule or belief governing one's personal behavior especially morally correct behavior. Rajiv Gandhi was not merely a visionary, a statesman but also a level headed person with an impeccable, morally correct 'character'.
Rajiv upheld the values of the Nehru--Gandhi legacy, viz. nonalignment and non-violence. He wished to be rewarded as: 'having brought India into the twenty-first century, parallel with the more advanced countries in the world, out of the branding of India as a developing country to the status of a developed country.'
Rajiv Gandhi envisioned a prosperous India, and for that he knew India would always have to work towards establishing a peaceful world order. He well recognized that peace had to be established both within the country and between nations. Rajiv Gandhi was well aware of the fact that an efficient judicial system that quickly dispenses justice to all is a pre-requisite of a successful democratic system.
One of the most important principles cherished by Rajiv Gandhi, that of non-violence, was not a new concept in India, it existed from the times of Buddha, and was given a fresh impetus in the twentieth century, by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi described it well when he said that nonviolence was just 'not fighting' but 'not even thinking of retaliating,
As Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi endeavored to eliminate the corrupt and criminal faces in the Country as well as within the political system. To deal with the anti-Sikh agitation, that followed the death of his mother, Rajiv Gandhi signed an accord with Akali Dal president Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, on 24 July, 1985. Sworn in as prime minister the day his mother was assassinated he led the Congress to a landslide victory in elections that year. His administration took vigorous measures to reform the government bureaucracy and liberalize the country's economy
He is credited with promoting the introduction of computers in India. The economic policies adopted by Rajiv Gandhi were different from his precursors. Rajiv Gandhi played a vital role to improve the bilateral relationships with the United States of America and subsequently expanded the economic and scientific cooperation with it. A revived foreign policy, emphasizing on the economic liberalization and information and technology helped India to find a mark in the global map.
His introductory measures to reduce the "Red Tapism" and allow business house to set up their establishments was remarkable. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi announced a "national education policy" to modernize and expand higher education programs across India. Rajiv Gandhi brought a revolution in the field of information technology and telecom. The idea helped in originating the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, popularly known as MTNL. Rajiv Gandhi was the man to transcend telecom services to the rural India or "India in true sense".
Rajiv Gandhi introduced India to modern science and technology, which he considered as the very essence of development. He said, 'Freedom and racism cannot co-exist. Science and poverty cannot co-exist.' He wanted Indian industry to develop to its fullest capacity. He laid great emphasis on the green revolution which he looked upon as being extremely important for agricultural development. He spoke ardently about social justice. For him, equality among people was extremely important, because a society ridden with class and caste distinction was a hindrance to development.
Rajiv Gandhi was a protagonist of world peace. To quote him, 'We may have made mistakes, but we have never faltered in our basic commitment to the vision of peaceful co-existence of nations guided by different philosophies of social action. What we have worked for, is to extend the concepts of democracy to the field of relationship between nations. We have been made to suffer for our stubborn independence, but we have not permitted that to bitterness or hatred.' He particularly emphasized on fostering peaceful relations with countries. He championed the cause of NAM, which he saw as a very important pedestal to facilitating peaceful relations between nations. He realized the futility of spending millions on arms and ammunition, and the wild pursuit of arms race, when a huge section of the population was starving.
In 1987, the Indian Peace Keeping Force was formed to end the Sri Lankan Civil War between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military. The acts of the military contingent were opposed by many people as well as LTTE.
Rajiv Gandhi's last public meeting was at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991, in a village approximately 30 miles from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where he was assassinated while campaigning for the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha Congress candidate. 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 (1991).