Rajiv Gandhi (August 20, 1944 - May 21, 1991), son of Indira Gandhi, was Prime Minister of India from his mother's death on October 31, 1984 until his resignation on December 2, 1989 following general election defeat.
Initially preferring his career as an airline pilot, Rajiv was reluctant to enter politics until six months after the death in an air crash of his younger brother Sanjay, who had been seen as being groomed for the leadership of the governing Indian National Congress Party.
Elected for Sanjay's Lok Sabha (parliamentary) constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh state in February 1981, Rajiv was chosen as prime minister by the party leadership within hours of his mother's assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Some accused him of instigating the anti-Sikh riots which, over a period of a few days, ended in the death of around 10,000 Sikhs. Commenting on the genocide, he said, "'When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes". Two months later he won a landslide general election on the wave of popular sympathy surrounding Indira's death.
During his tenure as Prime Minister of India, he brought a certain dynamism to the premiership, which had always been occupied by older people. He was instrumental in greatly improving ties with the former USSR and is credited with promoting the introduction of computers to India.
But his government became mired in the early stages of the protracted multi-million dollar Bofors scandal which involved alleged payoffs by the Swedish Bofors arms company through the Italian businessman and Gandhi family associate Ottavio Quattrocchi in return for Indian contracts. The controversy contributed to the defeat of the Congress in the November 1989 elections.
Gandhi was killed while campaigning in Tamil Nadu for upcoming parliamentary elections by the suicide bomber Thenmuli Rajaratnam A.K.A Dhanu. In 1998 an Indian court convicted 26 people in the conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi. The conspirators, who consisted of Tamil militants from Sri Lanka and their Indian allies, had sought to stop Gandhi from getting elected in the then upcoming elections to stop him from sending Indian troops into Sri Lanka like the Indian troops he had sent to Sri Lanka in 1987 to help enforce a peace accord. The troops had ended up fighting the Tamil separatist guerrillas and harassing many Tamils.
His death brought the ailing Congress Party back into power in the 1991 general election on a similar wave of feeling as had followed his mother's killing.
He is survived by his wife Sonia and two children, Rahul and Priyanka. In 1998 Sonia Gandhi became the leader of the Congress Party, which won in the 2004 elections.