June 19 (IndiaToday) – Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi turned 51 on Saturday. Like any other year since 1970, birthday wishes poured in for him in plenty this year too.
Rahul Gandhi is often referred to as a fifth-generation dynast of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Motilal Nehru, an eminent lawyer of his time, was the first notable politician from the family. His son Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister after India attained freedom from the British in 1947.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister later. The leadership of the Congress party has remained with the Gandhi family — more directly than indirectly — since Indira Gandhi split the Indian National Congress in 1969.
Born on June 19, 1970, Rahul Gandhi came on the horizon as the heir of the political dynasty. But his plunge into politics followed several turbulent incidents in his family and personal life during his growing years.
Rahul Gandhi began his schooling in Delhi at the St Columba School. He was later shifted to The Doon School in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun. His father, Rajiv Gandhi was also a student at The Doon School.
The assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 put a brake on Rahul Gandhi’s regular schooling. Security threats to the family forced him to undergo homeschooling in Delhi until 1989.
In 1989, Rahul Gandhi secured an admission to Delhi’s St Stephen’s College in a History (Honours) class through the sports quota. A year later, Rahul Gandhi moved to the Harvard University in the US to study economics.
The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 brought fresh turmoil in Rahul Gandhi’s life and family. He was shifted to another college in the US due to security reasons. He graduated from the college in 1994.
His next stop was the Trinity College at Cambridge in England to obtain an MPhil in Development Studies in 1995. It was here that Rahul Gandhi is said to have taken a different name, Rahul/Raul Vinci as the family remained under a security threat. Incidentally, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi had attended their undergraduate classes at the Trinity College.
Between 1995 and 2004, when Rahul Gandhi contested his first election, he worked at a management consultancy firm called the Monitor Group in London for three years. He then joined a technology outsourcing firm, the Backops Services Private Ltd in Mumbai, in 2002 as one of the directors.
Rahul Gandhi’s inevitable plunge into the political pool happened in 2004. But the preparation for it began in 2003. At the Shimla convention of the Congress, party president Sonia Gandhi was preparing grounds for Rahul Gandhi’s apprenticeship in politics.
A team of young leaders in the Congress were identified who were to be Team Rahul in years to come. Those names included Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Manish Tewari, Ajay Maken and Kunwar RPN Singh. It’s another story that a couple of them have now joined the rival party, the BJP, and some others are believed to be sulking in the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi’s foray into politics was marked with certain events that make him seem a more ideological than pragmatic politician. When the Congress-led UPA won 2004 Lok Sabha election, some say Rahul Gandhi was not inclined to be the prime minister after his mother Sonia Gandhi’s candidature came under public and political scrutiny over her foreign origin.
THE CONGRESS BOSS
The post went to Manmohan Singh. Another opportunity came to Rahul Gandhi to become prime minister in 2012 when a group of senior Congress leaders and UPA partners canvassed for a change of leadership before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, Sonia Gandhi is said to have declined the suggestion saying it was not “the right time” to make that change.
Sonia Gandhi was proven right as the Congress lost badly in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls winning only 44 seats. Five years later, Rahul Gandhi emerged as the top challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election campaign. However, the Lok Sabha election results were not much better for Rahul Gandhi, who even lost his traditional Amethi seat in Uttar Pradesh but won from Wayanad in Kerala.
One of the most defining moments of Rahul Gandhi’s political career came in 2013, when he famously tore to pieces an Ordinance brought by the Congress-led government to protect convicted lawmakers. Rahul Gandhi called it “complete nonsense” at a show at the Press Club of India in New Delhi.
It was also a declaration that Rahul Gandhi had emerged as the ultimate Congress boss. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was abroad at that time. Rahul Gandhi has remained the Congress boss since then as president or the de-facto chief.