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Elder son of Indira Gandhi and grandson of Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi was born into the Kashmiri Brahmin family that had governed India for all but four years since 1947.
He initially displayed little interest in politics and became a pilot with Indian Airlines. But after the death in a plane crash of his brother Sanjay (1946 – 1980), he was elected to his brother’s Amethi parliamentary seat in 1981.
In the December 1984 parliamentary elections, he won a record majority. His reputation was tarnished by a scandal concerning alleged kickbacks to senior officials from an arms deal with the Swedish munitions firm Bofors and, following his party’s defeat in the general election of November 1989, Gandhi was forced to resign as premier.
He was killed by a bomb on 21 May in the middle of the 1991 election campaign at a rally near Madras (now Chennai), while attempting to regain office.
In May 1999 India’s Supreme Court confirmed death sentences on four people involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.