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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Life in pictures: Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi and her mother-in-law, Indira, in 1977
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Italian-born Sonia Maino joined India's political dynasty when she married in 1968 and moved into the house of her mother-in-law, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi in 1985
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She became a citizen of India in 1983 and its first lady in 1984, when her husband Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his assassinated mother as prime minister.
Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi with China's Li Peng in 1988
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For seven years she was at the forefront of India's domestic and international political life.
Sonia Gandhi after her husband's assassination
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Tragedy struck the Gandhi family again in 1991, when Rajiv was killed by a suicide bomber
Rajiv Gandhi's widow and children scatter his ashes in the Ganges
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Sonia Gandhi remains a Roman Catholic, but follows Hindu and Indian traditions with her children, here scattering Rajiv's ashes in the River Ganges.
Sonia Gandhi at the memorial to Jawaharlal Nehru
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She has also embraced her role in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, here paying respects at the memorial of India's first prime minister and Rajiv's grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Sonia Gandhi with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004
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After Rajiv's death Sonia shied away from the spotlight but when she agreed to start her own career in 1998, a Gandhi again became an important political leader.
Rahul Gandhi submits candidacy papers with his mother Sonia, left, and sister Priyanka, right
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Sonia's son Rahul and daughter Priyanka have also become politically active.
Supporters shower petals over Sonia Gandhi during the 2004 campaign
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As a new bride Sonia was criticised for her poor Hindi and fashion sense, but in recent elections she showed she could win over India's poorer voters
Sonia Gandhi after Congress' 2004 election win in India
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And set herself up to become the country's first foreign-born prime minister.
Sonia Gandhi announcing that she will not be prime minister
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But in a dramatic development, Sonia Gandhi said that she had decided not to become prime minister - basing her decision on her 'inner voice'.




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