Sonia's mother-in-law Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India at the time of Sonia's marriage to Rajiv.|
Indira Gandhi was a formidable woman and politician, who had even senior members of her party quaking in fear.
India's political institutions came under considerable pressure during Indira's rule. The nadir of her rule was the declaration of a state of emergency in 1975 that curtailed the rights of citizens. Disenhanted voters responded by inflicting a crushing defeat in the 1977 elections. However, serious infighting in the Janata party provided Indira an opportunity to return to power in 1980.
Initially, Sonia may have been terrified about meeting Indira.
According to an account by Jay Adams and Philip Whitehead, Rajiv had arranged a meeting between Sonia and Indira, who was on a visit to London. "Sonia was so terrified at the prospect of meeting the formidable Mrs Gandhi that she panicked on the drive to London and Rajiv had to cancel the engagement," write Adams and Whitehead in The Dynasty - The Nehru-Gandhi Story.
Indira and Sonia seem to have been attached to each other. In his biography of Indira, Inder Malhotra writes that Sonia and Indira "became extremely fond of each other....Indeed, Indira delegated to Sonia much of the responsibility for running the household."
It's possible that Indira's fondness for Sonia may have increased after Indira's other daughter-in-law Manekha Gandhi left the household in a fall-out with Indira after her husband Sanjay Gandhi's death.
In her introduction to Freedom's Daughter, Sonia writes, "[Indira] possessed great intellect, a rational perception and an acute understanding of peoples and problems."
Indira's life came to an abrupt end after she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 in retaliation for her policies in the North Indian state of Punjab, home to the Sikh community.
When Indira was shot by her security guards, it was a weeping Sonia who took her bleeding mother-in-law to the hospital.