Former President of the Indian National Congress
"Sonia Gandhi is an Indian politician of Italian descent. A member of the Nehru–Gandhi family, she is a former president of the Indian National Congress. Having taken over as the party leader in 1998, seven years after her husband's assassination, she remained in office for a record nineteen years, a period that was characterised by the party's renewed adherence to the centre-left position on the Indian political spectrum.
Born in a small village near Vicenza, Italy Gandhi was raised in a Roman Catholic Christian family. After completing her primary education at local schools, she moved to Cambridge for higher education and married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968. She later took up Indian citizenship and began living with her mother-in-law, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, at the latter's New Delhi residence. Sonia Gandhi, however, continued to stay away from the public sphere, even during the years of her husband's premiership.
Following her husband's assassination, Gandhi was invited by Congress leaders to take over the government, but she refused and stayed away from politics. She finally agreed to join politics in 1997 after constant prodding from the party; the following year, she was nominated for party president, and elected over Jitendra Prasada. Under her leadership, the Congress went on form the government post the 2004 elections in coalition with other centre-left political parties. Gandhi has since been credited for being instrumental in formulating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was re-elected to power in 2009. Gandhi declined the premiership following the 2004 victory; she instead led the ruling alliance and the National Advisory Council.
Gandhi's active participation in politics began to reduce in latter half of the second term of the UPA government. Although she is the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947. Gandhi presided over the advisory council credited for the formation and subsequent implementation of such rights-based development and welfare schemes as the Right to information, Food security bill, and MNREGA, while drawing criticism related to the Bofors scandal and the National Herald Case. Her foreign birth has also been a subject of much debate and controversy. Although she never held any public office in the government of India, Gandhi has been widely described as one of the most powerful politicians in the country, and is often listed among the most powerful women in the world.
Gandhi was seen as the most powerful politician of India from 2004 - 2014, and variously listed among the most powerful people and women listings by magazines.
In 2013, Sonia Gandhi was ranked 21st among world's most powerful and 9th most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine. In 2007, she had been named the third most powerful woman in the world by the same magazine and was ranked 6th in exclusive list in 2007.
In 2010, Gandhi ranked as the ninth most powerful person on the planet by Forbes magazine. She was ranked 12 in 2012 in forbes' powerful people list.
Sonia was also named among the Time 100 most influential people in the world for the years 2007 and 2008. New Statesman listed Sonia Gandhi at number 29 in their annual survey of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures" in the year 2010." (1)