India's Modern Dynasty
Aug. 20, 1944: Rajiv Gandhi is born three years before India gains independence and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, becomes prime minister. 1966: Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister, two years after the death of Nehru, her father.
1960-81: After attending private school in India, Rajiv studies mechanical engineering at Cambridge University. Marries Italian-born Sonia Maino. Spends several years as a pilot with India's domestic airline, while his younger brother Sanjay is groomed for a prominent political career.
1980: Sanjay is killed in airplane accident. Indira and younger Congress (I) Party members appeal to Rajiv to enter politics.
1981: Rajiv runs for election and wins parliament seat formerly held by his brother.
June 5-6, 1984: Mrs. Gandhi orders Army attack on Golden Temple, Sikhs' holiest site, to root out armed Sikh extremists fighting for a separatist state in the Punjab. Hundreds killed.
Oct. 31, 1984: After his mother is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, Rajiv assumes the leadership of the Congress (I) Party. This position is confirmed in landslide election victories on Dec. 24 and 27, in what is seen as a sympathy vote.
Dec. 1984: Chemical accident at Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, kills thousands and tests Rajiv's leadership.
1985-87: Young and inexperienced in politics, Gandhi rides wave of popular support. Because of good monsoons and abundant harvests during his first years in office, India achieves food self-sufficiency. An economic boom results from Gandhi's efforts to loosen bureaucratic restrictions, open up to foreign investment. In mid-1985, Gandhi signs peace accord with Sikhs. Optimism is shattered when Sikh leader is assassinated by Sikh radicals, within a month of signing. Gandhi improves relations with the Unit e
d States, balancing India's tilt toward the Soviet Union, with whom it has a "friendship treaty."
1987-89: Gandhi's "Mr. Clean" image fades in the wake of Bofors defense contract scandal, which taints him and party colleagues with charges of corruption. In 1987, Gandhi brokers peace deal between Sri Lanka's government and Tamil rebels. Indian Army is sent in to supervise Tamils' compliance, but gets bogged down in three-year guerrilla war.
Nov. 29, 1989: Gandhi resigns prime ministership after his party loses its majority in parliamentary elections.
March-May 1991: Election campaign for prime minister. Opinion polls indicate Rajiv's party would emerge the strongest of the three key groups, but fall short of a majority.