Sonia Gandhi was the President of the Indian National Congress (INC) from March 1998 to December 2017, before she handed over the reins of the party to Rahul Gandhi. She was also the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in its first and second terms in government.
She was born Sonia Maino in Italy. While studying in the United Kingdom, she met Rajiv Gandhi and later married him. Rajiv went on to become the Prime Minister in 1981 after his mother Indira Gandhi was assassinated. While campaigning for elections in 1991, Rajiv was assassinated by a suicide bomber. Sonia kept her distance from politics until 1998, when she became the president of the Congress party. She led the party to victory in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
She was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Congress bastion of Rae Bareli in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
There was a furore over her Italian origins when the Congress was set to form the government after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, as it seemed she would become Prime Minister as the head of the largest party in the coalition.
She stepped down as the Congress president in December 2017. Although she never held any public office in the government of India, she has been widely described as one of the most powerful politicians in the country and often listed among the most powerful women in the world by magazines like Time.
Sonia Gandhi has been the fulcrum of the Congress for the past two decades. Though she is suffering from ill health, the Gandhi matriarch is expected to be consigliore to Rahul Gandhi in all important political matters. In Lok Sabha elections 2019, she will seek re-election from the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency for a fifth consecutive time.