Sonia Gandhi, the wife of assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, has taken the first step in placing a name that ruled the country for decades back into the political limelight. The Italian-born Sonia has joined her husband's Congress (I) Party six years after he was shot dead. The Pioneer newspaper said that she had finally succumbed to the urgings of followers of her late husband and become an active member of the party. This would allow her to be elected to its highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee. Congress, India's oldest political party, was told by the country's autonomous Election Commission to elect its regional and national leaders by June 15. Many supporters of the Nehru-Gandhi family are not sure about how serious Sonia is about joining politics. In the past she has distanced herself from making a leap into the fray, although she wields enormous influence within the former ruling party. 'In 1991 we offered her the president's post but that time she did not join,' said one supporter. 'What has happened now that she has become interested in politics all over again?' The Gandhi family has given three prime ministers to India - Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first premier, Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv, who married Sonia in 1968. Recently, Sonia has been aggressively touring the country. Both in terms of style and content, she has been sounding more political than ever. Congress, which some believe to have been mired in self-doubt since Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, desperately needs a charismatic leader to rescue it from a political mess. Last year it suffered a general election debacle and its leadership has been dogged by corruption allegations. The Congress now gives parliamentary support to a 13-party coalition government in a bid to stop right-wing Hindus in the opposition taking power. Sonia appears to be what the party needs - charismatic and bearing the name that kept the party in power for so long. Last August she made her maiden political speech in Amethi, Rajiv Gandhi's constituency, where she lashed out at then-premier P. V. Narasimha Rao's regime for its slow progress in investigating her husband's murder. Although Sonia is counted among the most powerful Indians even without an official post, Congress sources say she may be preparing a political future for her son Rahul, who holds a management degree from Harvard. Her daughter Priyanka has drifted away from the party, marrying a businessman this year. Rama Krishna Gaud, a Congress member, has been sentenced to five years in jail for fabricating documents to show he was married to Priyanka.