Thursday, September 4, 2014
Indira Nehru Gandhi -Part VIII
Indira Nehru Gandhi
When I read about her lonely childhood, nomadic education due to her family’s involvement in Nationalist movements, I felt sorry for her. When I read about her boldness, her decision to marry an outstanding personality from a common place family, her first public meeting in India in UP on a chilly early morning, her left without a house soon after her reversal from power, I was all for her. But I could in no way tolerate her declaring emergency, playing communal cards in politics, puppetting to the tunes of Sanjay Gandhi and other numerous sycophants and the like. Now, setting aside my likes and dislikes which are totally irrelevant, let me quote the relevant points of the book.
-Indira’s childhood was coloured by her never-ending visits to prison to see her father and grandfather, then her mother and she had finally spent some time inside herself.
Indira had a nomadic existence due to her circumstances, about which her father was really concerned. It’s his guilty feeling which turned out to be the fantastic 200 letters to his daughter on World history.
-Indira’s attitude to her own education was somewhat cavalier. The constant moves from one place to another had, with the exception of Geneva and Santhiniketan, made her feel that it was a waste of time. She genuinely believed that she had learned more about the real world from her father’s letters than at t Somerville College Oxford.
Her first public appearance was made at London under the insistence of V.K.Krishna Menon, who was a Labour party activist there. She too was a member of Labour Party for a time. She was too terrified to speak out; And a drunk from the audience remarked “She does not speak, she squeaks.” The audience were in fits of laughter”, as she remembered it in a BBC interview.
-“I just felt hungry and asked for a piece of toast. As I was eating, Rajiv came out!I was so sorry I couldn’t finish my toast!“ said Indira to her colleague about her first delivery.
Motilal and Jawaharlal were very short tempered, but Indira was much controlled but. According to the author,she harboured grudges for longer than the men.
Indira was a very bold lady as everybody knows. But here is an incident as remembered by her son Rajiv. Indira and the two children happened to make a train journey from Mussoorie to Delhi by train during the communal riots of 1947.
-At a Delhi suburb, Shahdra, communal mobs were preparing to lynch a Muslim on the platform. Indira was outraged. Her Nehru temper became uncontrollable. Leaving her petrified sons in the train, she jumped out of the compartment and silenced the crowd by an effective display of oratory. The victim was saved and the train moved on.
Indira’s grooming into a political leader must have taken shape with her triple fold duties while at Teen Murthi Bhavan, viz playing the mistress, accompanying PM during his foreign travels, protecting Nehru from the constant demand for interviews.
-In 1946, Pandit Govind Vallabh Pant, a senior Congress leader, recognizing her political capacities, suggested that she should stand for Paliament, but she turned the offer down... Later, she told everyone that the she saw her main political task as ensuring an easy life for her father at home. Nonetheless, she was asked to stand in for Jawaharlal at some meetings and she did.
Such experiences gave her confidence and she accepted pleas of Congress president U.N.Dhebar and Lal Bahadur Sasthri to contest and thus got elected to Congress Working Committee. But she refused to be typecast as from the Women’s department.
-All India’s leading political parties had special sections for women, but these were in reality designed to hive women off and keep them busy elsewhere, while men ran the ‘real thing‘. This situation remains unaltered to this day.” 30 years have passed after T.Ali’s observation and it is still the same, I feel!
Indira was instrumental in bringing communal forces in Kerala into political fray to overthrow the elected Communist Govt in Kerala. Ie Just as like Muhammadali Jinnah, she too played the Muslim card and thus the congress made alliances with Muslim league to defeat Communists. Thus Communists failed and Communalism won. The model was followed in other States too making unholy alliances with communal parties and the practise follows tiil day.
-This was a classic case of pragmatism before principles. Once it is accepted that power is to be held at all costs, then it becomes impossible to defend any basic principle. Secularism remains a paper pledge and communalism walks in through a backdoor deliberately left unlocked.
Yes, it so happened that the daughter herself overthrew her father’s secular approach.
-Indira was forty seven when she became a minister in LB Sastri’s cabinet. At her age Nehru was in prison.
Subsequent to Sastri’s death, she became the PM of India. It, of course, had not been an easy walk over. She had to face umpteen manipulations, criticisms and opposition from the groups which were waiting to stab her in the back, even after becoming the PM. She was well aware of the situation and reacted to Times of India on Christmas day 1966 thus-
“There is a question of whom the party wants and whom the people want.“
Congress of 1972-In a number of towns, politics became a business, business became politics and Gangsterism overwhelmed both big business and big politics. Political, business and criminal mafias began to amalgamate.
-Soon after her reversal, Indira Gandhi had to vacate 1, Safdarjung Road. Anand Bhavan in Allahabad had been donated to the nation, and she found herself without a house for the first time in her life. An old family friend, Mohammed Yunus, a veteran Pathan Congressman from the frontier province, now in Pakistan, immediately vacated his house in Willingdon Crescent in New Delhi. Yunus was one of the few Muslims(If not the only one) who had actually forsaken his home and moved to India in protest against the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
-“No, those for whom something was done, are nowhere to be seen.”Indira to an American couple during her Willingdon Crescent exile
-The constant fear of Indira Gandhi had become a hallmark of Janata years.It was the threat of Mrs.Gandhi’s return that had kept the motley collection together.
-“They(The Janata Party) had their chance and what did they do?They made a big mess.The people voted us back into power with big majority.” Indira to the author. But the fact is that people were left with no choice.
If Nehru was not in favour of dynastical rule, Indira very much wanted to make Sanjay her “crown prince." This is precisely the reason why she insisted Rajiv to take the place of Sanjay. And why did Sanjay become important to her? Rajiv was away as a pilot. There was no one in her team other than Narasimha Rao, whom she could trust.
-Rajiv was needed for strictly dynastic purposes. She felt that she needed a Nehru-Gandhi by her side.
There are still many interesting anecdotes and other unknown facts in the book left unsaid in this scribbling of mine; I have developed a keen interest in Sikhism from what I read in the book; Just like Nehru, we will also be taken aback when we come to know that Mao Tsedung, who burnt all old books for 'ideological unity' had an obsession with the old emperors of China! I also joined Delhi school children in their affectionate recital of "A,B,C,D,E,F,G, Ismein nikhalay Panditji (Out of this came Panditji) on Nehru's obsession to English language!
I assure that whoever decides to read the book, she/he will not have to close it halfway!