The tale of the original brat No. 1

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Coalmine, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. Coalmine

    Coalmine Regular Member

    Jan 14, 2013
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    The tale of the original brat No. 1

    The tale of the original brat No. 1 | Business Standard

    You just can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Agreed. Sanjay Gandhi promoted slum clearance, family planning programmes and many other things, but in an arbitrary and authoritarian manner. The social means adopted by a prime minister’s pampered child failed to justify the end, eventually. The harrowing Emergency days still linger in the nation’s critical memory.

    Acclaimed editor Vinod Mehta’s book The Sanjay Story, first published over 30 years ago, was reissued by HarperCollins late last year with a new introduction by the author. It is no coincidence that its reissue coincides with the rise of yet another Nehru-Gandhi scion in the corridors of power.

    Mehta presents an X-ray of the Sanjay Gandhi phenomenon and its impact on the national scene. His biography of Indira Gandhi's boisterous younger son begins with the story at Anand Bhavan, the Nehru mansion in Allahabad, and Feroze Gandhi’s relationship with the Nehrus -- particularly Kamala and Indira. This creates a contextual background to understand Sanjay’s life and his chaotic times.

    Having dropped out of the Doon School, and then dropped out of an apprentice scheme in the Rolls-Royce factory in the United Kingdom, he used his mother’s connections to start a car factory. Maruti is a classic example of a company that owes its genesis to “crony capitalism”.

    Sanjay was one of the several applicants to seek a license to manufacture a small and cheap car in India. In 1970, he was the lone applicant to be granted the licence. Indira was charged with nepotism. The Bansi Lal government in Haryana handed over 300 acres of land for Sanjay's small car factory. Farmers eking out a living from them were evicted. He promised to deliver 50,000 small cars within a year. Five years later, he hadn’t delivered even one. Instead, public sector banks were raided for loans and bank bosses who refused were simply replaced with pliant sycophants. Maruti became the pet project of Indira Gandhi, after the death of Sanjay in an air crash in 1980. Sanjay comprehended before his loyalists that no cars made by him would ever be fit to run on Indian roads. So he turned his interest to politics instead; and India witnessed the worst form of dynasty politics of the Congress.

    On 25 June 1975, the Indira government throttled democracy and declared a state of internal Emergency. Power supply to newspapers that were critical of the government was cut off and police were dispatched to arrest her detractors. For the next 19 months, Sanjay terrorised India. The man had initiated the notorious forced sterilisation programme whereby police and government officials were asked to forcibly perform vasectomies on men and also sterilise some women. He triggered mischief by asking the chief ministers of north India to show progress in the family planning programme. These CMs assumed he would be the future prime minister and they ended up putting up their own targets and their own achievements on paper, cooking up statistics. Mehta records a 70-year-old Dalit – formerly “untouchable” – man as saying, “I have no teeth, I am going blind, my child producing days are over, yet they made me go through the painful operation.” One state reported 600,000 operations in two weeks. In another village, a widower was picked up from a bus and forcibly sterilised; he died of an infection soon after. Sanjay became an unelected political centre of absolute power, next only to Indira in the country. The Youth Congress was identified with muscle power and high-handedness.

    During the Emergency, Sanjay was allowed to do more or less what he wanted in the Union Territory of Delhi. He wanted to beautify Delhi and his idea of beautification rubbed the aam aadmi the wrong way. Sanjay did not like the sight of slums and freely gave orders to demolish them. The bloodiest instance of displacement occurred in Turkman Gate, a shanty whose inhabitants were largely Muslims. In April 1976, bulldozers began appearing outside the slum. Anticipating trouble, the residents formed a small committee and began drafting appeals to everyone who mattered.

    One evening, they found Sanjay and his friends conferring with two women in a hotel room near the slum. They made their way into Sanjay’s suite and begged him to halt the demolition drive. Sanjay remained silent, but his friend Jagmohan, shouted: “I give you exactly five seconds to get out of this room”. A massacre unfolded the following day as the police opened fire on a group of protesters in Turkman Gate. The slum eventually was cleared. Mehta writes: “Initially people were rounded up in trucks, taken across the Jamuna and dropped into desolation – in land that was as bald as a tennis ball… At night [they] slept under the stars in the comforting knowledge that at least the bulldozers were far away.”

    Mehta’s book ends on a positive note. “Even if he escapes going to jail,” Mehta writes, “Sanjay Gandhi’s career appears permanently concluded.” Not only did Sanjay escape going to jail but also made a successful comeback. Indira returned to power in 1980. Sanjay was elected as a Member of Parliament in that cycle. What cut short Sanjay’s political career was his death in a freak plane crash later that year.

    As a veteran journalist, Mehta filters out the facts from the rumours and gets to the core of Sanjay’s dramatic rise after the declaration of the Emergency. His capturing of the Youth Congress and the excesses of the sterilisation campaign are brought out in a minute detail. Till date, The Sanjay Story remains one of the most precise biographies of one of India’s most controversial political figures.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
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