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PRATHIBA PATIL WITH SONIA GANDHI IN NEW DELHI
Congress party President and Chairman of India's ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi (R) welcomes Indian president nominee Pratibha Patil, 72, at her residence in New Delhi on June 16, 2007. India's governing coalition chose a woman as its presidential candidate Thursday, setting the stage for her to become the country's first female president. The post is largely ceremonial, though the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces and has the power to declare a state of emergency in times of political crisis. (UPI Photo/Kamal Kishore)
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Sonia Gandhi (born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino on 9 December 1946) is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. After his assassination in 1991, she was invited by the Indian National Congress to take over the Congress but Gandhi refused and publicly stayed away from politics amidst constant prodding by the Congress. She finally agreed to join politics in 1997 and in 1998, she was elected as the leader of the Congress.

Since then, Gandhi has been the President of the Indian National Congress Party. She has served as the Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha since 2004. In September 2010, on being re-elected for the fourth time, she became the longest serving president in the 125-year history of the Congress party. Her foreign birth has been a subject of much debate and controversy. Although Sonia is actually the fifth foreign-born person to be leader of the Congress Party, she is the first since independence in 1947.

She was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in Contrada Màini ("Maini quarter (or district)"), Lusiana, a little village 30 km from Vicenza in Veneto, Italy, where families with family name "Màino" have been living for many generations. She spent her adolescence in Orbassano, a town near Turin, being raised in a traditional Roman Catholic family and attending a Catholic school. Her father, a building mason, died in 1983. Her mother and two sisters still live around Orbassano.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sonia Gandhi."
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