Sonia Gandhi (born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino on 9 December 1946) is the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. Born in Italy, she is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. After his assassination in 1991, she was invited by the Indian Congress Party to take over the Congress but Gandhi refused and publicly stayed away from politics amidst constant prodding by the Congress. She finally agreed to join politics in 1997 and in 1998, she was elected as the leader of the Congress.
Since then, Gandhi has been the President of the Indian National Congress Party. She has served as the Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha since 2004. In September 2010, on being re-elected for the fourth time, she became the longest serving president in the 125-year history of the Congress party. Her foreign birth has been a subject of much debate and controversy. Although Sonia is actually the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947.
Sonia Gandhi's involvement with Indian public life began after the assassination of her mother-in-law and her husband's election as Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister's wife she acted as his official hostess and also accompanied him on a number of state visits. In 1984, she actively campaigned against her husband's sister-in-law Maneka Gandhi who was running against Rajiv in Amethi. At the end of Rajiv Gandhi's five years in office, the Bofors Scandal broke out. Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian business man believed to be involved, was said to be a friend of Sonia Gandhi, having access to the Prime Minister's official residence. In 1980, her name appeared in the voter's list for New Delhi prior to her becoming an Indian Citizen, when she was still holding Italian Citizenship. It was a violation of Indian Laws. When she did acquire Indian Citizenship in April 1983, the issue cropped up again, as her name appeared on the 1983 voter's list when the deadline for registering had been in January 1983.
Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said that she surrendered her Italian passport to the Italian Embassy on 27 April 1983. Italian nationality law did not permit dual nationality until 1992. So, by acquiring Indian citizenship in 1983, she would automatically have lost Italian citizenship.