A once reluctant politician who’s now firmly in the driver’s seat of the party, Congress president Rahul Gandhi turns 48 on Tuesday.
On the occasion here’s a lookback at the Congress leader’s life with images from various points of his life.
Rahul was born on June 19, 1970, and is the firstborn of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s two children. He did his schooling from some of India’s most prestigious schools – St. Columbus School in Delhi, and Doon School in Dehradun.
After completing his schooling, he joined St. Stephens College in Delhi in 1989. But after his first year at St. Stephens, he moved to Harvard University for further studies.
A year after he went to Harvard, his father Rajiv was assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber in Sriperambadur, Tamil Nadu.
According to a Telegraph report, Rahul studied under the name of Raul or Rahul Vinci for security reasons and received his M.Phil from Cambridge University’s Trinity College in 1995. His identity was known only to the university officials and security agencies.
Like his father, politics wasn’t Rahul’s first calling. Rahul worked in a management consulting firm for three years, after which he started his own consultancy in India.
Picks a good time to enter politics
Rahul hesitantly entered politics in 2004, and contested the general elections that year from his father’s former constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. He retained the family stronghold.
The 2004 elections marked the return of Congress at the Centre. Rahul was elected the General-Secretary of Indian Youth Congress in 2007 and also took charge of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI). Subsequently, he was appointed the Vice-President of the Congress in 2013.
Before the 2009 general elections, Rahul undertook a countrywide political tour, addressing rallies and also taking part in a ‘padayatra’ to connect with people better. The Congress had been doing poorly in Uttar Pradesh, holding just 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state at that time. In the 2009 polls, the party won 22 seats in Uttar Pradesh, its best show in decades.
However, the fortunes of the party steadily declined over the years.
In 2014 the Congress suffered a crushing defeat in the general elections and won just 44 seats, a significant fall from the 206 seats it won in the 2009 general elections. However, Rahul won from Amethi constituency, defeating Aam Aadmi Party’s Kumar Vishwas and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Smriti Irani.
Rahul’s political career has been mired in controversy. In May 2011, Rahul was arrested at the Bhatta Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh after he turned up in support of agitating farmers, demanding more compensation for their land being acquired for a highway project. He blamed the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, for not allowing him to protest and to address the farmers’ needs.
During a rally in Allahabad in 2013, he said, “Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty.” It drew sharp criticism from the opposition and leaders accused him of ‘mocking the poor’.
He also went on a 56-day sabbatical following the party’s whitewash in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, which came after a string of electoral losses. His sabbatical became a major talking point for critics and the Congress leader was seen to be running from responsibility.
However, he has since become a more active campaigner for the party in multiple state elections and bypolls.
Elected as Congress president
Rahul Gandhi was elected as the 16th President of the Congress party on December 16, 2017 and took over from his mother who was at the helm of party affairs for nearly two decades.
The 48-year-old leader now faces the daunting task of trying to restore the party to its lost glory.