Sonia Gandhi born 9 December 1946) 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.
Sonia Maino was born on December 9, 1946 to Stefano and Paola Maino in Lusiana, a historically Cimbrian-speaking village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto, Italy. Sonia spent her adolescence in Orbassano, a town near Turin, and was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic Christian family. She attained primary education attending the local Catholic schools; Sister Maria, one of her early teachers described her as "a diligent little girl, [who] studied as much as was necessary".
Stefano, who was a building mason established a small construction business in Orbassano. He had fought against the Soviet military alongside Hitler's Wehrmacht on the eastern front in World War II, was a loyal supporter of Benito Mussolini and Italy's National Fascist Party. The family house had leather bound books on writings and speeches of Mussolini. Stefano had named Sonia and her elder sister Nadia in the memory of the Italian participation in the Eastern Front. He died in 1983. Gandhi has two sisters who still reside in Orbassano along with their mother.