India remembers Indira Gandhi

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by S.A.T.A, Nov 1, 2009.

  1. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 28, 2009
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    India remembers Indira Gandhi

    'This is the place where she fell after being shot by the assassins,' Rakesh Kumar Bagga of the Central Industrial Security Force told Satish.

    Satish, an employee of the Indian Railways in Chennai, is on a tour to Delhi. Before he and his friends could have a closer look at the crystal-covered pathway linking 1 Safdarjung Road and 1 Akbar Road, they heard Bagga again: “Keep moving. Do not make a crowd here. Move ahead,” said the paramilitary guard, in a hushed but firm tone.

    ‘Keep moving’ and ‘move ahead’ are perhaps the words that are the most heard at the Indira Gandhi Memorial in New Delhi. Bagga is not alone; all other officials controlling the crowd keep on repeating them between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm everyday. And, on Saturday, they all did so a few hundred times more than other days.

    For, it was the 25th death anniversary of the former prime minister. “Yes, it seems there are more visitors today than the other days,” said Bagga, who stood guard near the green security-post where Satwant Singh and Beant Singh had on October 31, 1984, fired from to avenge the Operation Blue Star at Golden Temple.

    In the morning, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi joined about a hundred political notables to pay floral tributes to the ‘Iron Lady’ at the assassination site. Also present were Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi.
    To ensure tight security during the VVIPs’ visit, the memorial was closed for almost an hour in the morning.

    “We came in the morning, but could not enter the premises as it was closed between 10:30 am and 11:30 am,” said Devesh Pande, who runs a pharmacy at ***a in Bihar.
    Devesh and his wife Geeta are on a honeymoon tour and it was the last day of their stay in Delhi. “Before we left home for Delhi, my father told me not to miss the memorial of Indira Gandhi. So we waited till the gate opened,” he said.

    It has been 25 years since she was killed by her own bodyguards, but India’s first — and the only, till now — woman prime minister still receives nearly 8,000-10,000 people every day at what was once her official residence.

    Hari Das, an official, said the memorial received more visitors during weekends. “We often see elderly people getting emotional while visiting the memorial. Some of them even break into tears,” said Das.

    College teacher Satish Rai came with his wife and children from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. “There is no doubt she has been the greatest PM we ever had. She had led the nation at a very difficult time,” said Rai, as his wife Renu was busy showing the bullet mark in the saree that Gandhi had worn on the day of her assassination.
  3. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 28, 2009
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    Indira Gandhi: Fearlessness in the national interest

    Indira Gandhi: Fearlessness in the national interest

    R Rajamani, a retired bureaucrat, worked in the Prime Minister's Office between 1978 and 1983.

    During his tenure he worked for three prime ministers: Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Indira Gandhi. Later in his stint as additional secretary at the Cabinet Secretariat and as secretary (electronics), he was associated with then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

    Having worked for Indira Gandhi for three years between 1980 and 1983 he had the occasion to observe many of her qualities.

    He remembers Indira Gandhi on her 25th death anniversary.

    My respected senior colleague in the PMO H Y Sharada Prasad was once asked why he did not write about the prime ministers he worked with. He laughed and said: "Who am I, a child trying to inscribe my name on the giant oak trees of the forest?"

    This did influence me in desisting from writing or talking too much about the four prime ministers I worked for, especially Indira Gandhi for whom I worked for three years as joint secretary. There were other reasons too.

    Again Sharadaji used to say that when one wrote years later about events which had occurred earlier in which one played some part, there is a temptation to put in words what one thought in retrospect one should have said then, but never really said them!

    However, the main reason for avoiding these reminiscences was that I remember only the good things about people whereas most readers seem to want to read about the seamy side of great personalities.

    If I do communicate my thoughts now it's not because of the temptation to break into the limelight but in the expectation that people will know that the good that men do lives after them while the evils are interred with them.

    There is devilishness and godliness or goodness in all of us in varying degrees (saints excepted) and it is pleasant to talk about the good traits and deeds of great people.

    What qualities in Indira Gandhi should I talk about? Before I answer this question I should emphasise that all the four prime ministers I worked for had most of these qualities in varying degrees and it was indeed a privilege and a great learning experience with them.

    I have chosen Indira Gandhi because I had the longest term with her. The qualities of fearlessness, courtesy, humour, wide interests and wisdom, deep commitment to Indian science and technology, passion for the environment, objectivity and the ability to see many things through not only a national but also an international prism -- these were some aspects of her life and personality which come out in the episodic narrative I have chosen to adopt.


    I single this out as the strongest trait -- fearlessness to do what she thought was in the national interest and fearlessness in the personal sense; physical and mental courage in adverse circumstances. This was translated into courage which infected others.

    I am reminded of the golden age of the Independence struggle when leaders led from the front as in the case of T Prakasam or G B Pant, who always stood in the first row to face bullets or lathis.

    It was the hallmark of Indira Gandhi's father Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru [ Images ], who one remembers in the Avadi Congress session jumping into an enclosure to calm down some misguided sections which was trying to disturb the proceedings unmindful of the appeals of even Kamaraj Nadar!

    One example in her life was when the door opened in the aircraft where she was sitting alone in the front cabin soon after take-off. The advice from the cockpit asking her to go to the back section was not heeded and when we tried to persuade her to come back she gave only a disarming smile which radiated her fearlessness. She did not leave the seat until we landed.

    Of course, one has read about the fearless way she handled the Bangladesh war and other similar situations, putting the national interest above those of personal safety.


    As for courtesy, she had this in abundant measure and was the picture of friendliness with whomsoever, she interacted, whether it was a poor lady in a village in Medak district (of which was an MP) or a visiting dignitary from abroad.

    The manner in which she reciprocated Cuban President Fidel Castro's bear hug at the Non Aligned Summit is etched in memory. She responded shyly, but without fuss, thus cementing a friendship.

    The only occasion when I found her losing her cool was when we were in the Andaman islands, visiting the Onge tribe there. As the helicopter hovered above the settlement built for the Onges, she asked me to find out what the tin roofed structures were.

    When we landed I found out these were hutments made for the Onges who normally lived in small huts on treetops and moved from place to place as their defecation mounds grew under the trees. This was ecologically sustainable as the land was nourished and they had a cooler micro-climate atop the trees.

    When I reported this to her, I realised she was upset. To compound this, the Onges who were clad in multi-coloured T-shirts were brought for dancing around her. When she asked the anthropologist present whether this was their usual mode of dress, he whispered they were not in the habit of wearing anything except a brief loin cloth and both men and women were bare-bodied.

    On hearing this, she was in a rage and asked all the officers present if they realised what they had done this to these innocent people by locating them in hot tin sheds, away from their natural habitat and worse, making them wear ill-fitting and colourful clothes which they were not used to.

    She thundered if they thought the prime minister of India would hesitate to talk to her people whether in their clothes or lack of it and how they had destroyed most of their values forever.


    Indira Gandhi was not given to flippant humour, but showed flashes of mature humour on occasions.

    Thus when the Indian Board for Wildlife was meeting and there were two consecutive items on the agenda, one relating to Save the Crocodile Project and the other to the scrapping of the Andhra Pradesh Preservation of the Elephants Act, I scribbled a note to her to say this was like the 'Gajendra Moksha' in reverse. She laughed heartily and read this out loudly to the members of the Board.

    This got me into some difficulty with the Andhra Pradesh forest minister when we left the meeting and he said I have created a situation to seem as if the AP government was being insensitive to the cause of conservation, even though the ground reality was that there were no elephants in the state and there was no point in continuing an archaic enactment as a successor to the old Madras state.

    I told him politely this was said in good humour and there was no reason why Andhra Pradesh should not have wild elephants now. Soon after this episode one was happy to know that wild elephants have indeed come into Andhra Pradesh in Chittoor district and now have a sanctuary for themselves!

    The other bit of humour was displayed by the prime minister when she came up to me sitting in the officers's box in Parliament. When I tried to stand up deferentially, she smiled and said, "Don't tower over me like that. Sit down" and let my tall frame go back into the chair and shaking in mirth!


    Her wide interests and wisdom were manifested often in the midst of all the routine and pressure of work. Whenever she found time, especially on domestic air travel, she would read a book.

    Her interests were in a wide spectrum and covered not only the economic and political issues which were the daily bread and butter in her office but also discussions on India's future in wrestling with problems of education, health and employment.

    After a visit to Medak where she saw the good effects on welfare, hygiene, nutrition and health of women and children as a result of a pilot Integrated Child Development Services Project a few years after it was wound up, she included this in her Twenty Point Programme.

    Her interests extended to our culture, heritage and the arts; testimony to which is the present day INTACH (the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) and IGNCA (the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts), for which the ground work was done in her time.

    She could visualise India's future lay in new initiatives in electronics, renewable sources of energy, ocean development, bio technology and entrepreneurship development in young technocrats to turn job seekers into job givers.

    She helped create suitable administrative and technical structures. I must add that I have named only a sample of the initiatives which were the result of her wisdom and farsightedness.

    The firm belief that science and technology were the anchors of the economy governed Mrs Gandhi's efforts in this field. She created scientific departments and encouraged both research efforts and the technological spinoffs.

    Examples abound but mention can be made of the beginning of the Indian scientific expeditions to Antarctica and her belief in twinning new science and technology with traditional practices having a scientific content.

    Thus when the scientists of the Indian Council of Medical Research were extolling the virtues of the plant ocimum sanctum in stress relief, she asked them what the Indian name was. When told it was Tulsi, she smiled and said "My grandmother knew this about Tulsi and used to give us Tulsi tea whenever we were too naughty!"

    On another occasion, as we came out of an inspection bungalow we were camping at, she pointed out to me a small plant with pink and white flowers and asked if I knew what it was. Not hiding my ignorance I said I do not know the name but in my part of the country it was known as the smashan flower, being found only in crematoria and burial grounds.

    She smiled and educated me that it was the plant vinca rosea (since renamed catharanthus rosea) which bore the common name of Periwinkle. She added for good measure that the chemical extract of the flower was being used for treatment of a type of cancer.

    No piece like this on her would be complete without mentioning the passion for conserving India's natural resources, whether it was the forest, or the flora and fauna, or the rivers, water bodies, coral reefs and so on.

    Her special interest was in ecosystems like the mountains, islands, coastal, coral reefs and riverine tracts. She was the only head of government from outside Sweden to attend the first UN Conference on the Human Environment and drawing the linkages between under-development poverty and the conservation of natural resources.

    She was alarmed at the degradation of Indian forests and coastal ecosystems and their mindless conversion in the name of development without exploring alternatives.

    She got enacted the Forest Conservation Act and made us introduce environmental impact analysis in public sector projects. The coastal zones were protected under her directive, which stood the test until a law was enacted later.

    The only two projects she stopped in the interests of conserving biodiversity and the fragile Himalayan ecosystem were the Silent Valley Project and the Tehri Hydro Electric Project. It is noteworthy that in both cases there were alternatives to produce the same power with micro and mini hydel sets causing no damage to the environment. Unfortunately, the Tehri project was reopened later underlining the mindset that 'Big is Beautiful'.

    In the present day context with spotlight on conservation of electricity to moderate climate change one cannot but remember her frugality in eating and her keenness to switch off all lights when she left a room.

    The measures she took to promote solar and wind energy and increase afforestation through social forestry were noteworthy and gave a clear impression that she was a champion of a clean and green environment for all generations of Indians.

    Her objectivity and ability to understand different sensibilities and perspectives were outstanding and this was tempered by her being able to be nationalistic and yet breathe a universality of spirit.

    Once her personal secretary had collected a sheaf of petitions and sorted them out and was giving one set to me as she was boarding the plane.

    She was quick to spot this out of the corner of her eye and said no, that is not for him as it is political and only the other set should be given to him. Thus, she recognised the need for objectivity in recognising the role plays among people who worked for her.

    When there was a discussion on India signing an International Labour Organisation vonvention on child labour and the official view was hesitant, she looked at it from both national and international prisms and ruled that we cannot do wrong just because other countries got away with doing things wrong about their children and getting away with it.

    Before I finish I should relate what happened when I had returned to Andhra Pradesh to work in the state government. In August 1984, Mrs Gandhi visited Hyderabad en route to Medak to inaugurate an ordinance factory. As her principal secretary Dr P C Alexander was coming with his wife and wanted me to go to the airport to take Mrs Alexander to my house while he went on the visit. In the afternoon when he came home he asked me why I did not try to see my old boss Indira Gandhi.

    I told him, how, as a mere bureaucrat, it was not possible for me to muscle into the largely political crowd surrounding her. He told me sternly that I should make an attempt in the evening when they were leaving.

    At the airport I made an effort, but again the crowd was such that she reached the ladder of the aircraft and so I was turning back disappointed.

    Mrs Gandhi, on reaching the landing, seems to have spotted my back and called out "Rajamani, what are you doing here?"

    I went up to the aircraft and she lent over and asked me how my daughter, son and wife were and whether I was OK. I mumbled something in the affirmative, being overcome by her affection in remembering me even after one-and-a-half years of leaving office and conscious of all eyes of all the visitors including the chief minister being on me!

    She sweetly said "All the best to you and the family" and left. Sadly, that was the last I saw of her.

    In all the short references and cameos I have tried to capture some of the fine qualities of Indira Gandhi but by no means is it a biographer's job or an incisive presentation which would satisfy the purist. Perhaps it ends up as a feeble attempt at inscribing one's signature on a giant oak tree in the forest after all!

    As told to Radhika Rajamani.
  4. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    India after Indira, 25 years on

    Indira Gandhi was not responsible for the massacre of some 4,000 Sikhs in Delhi, Kanpur, Bokaro and other Indian cities which began on this day 25 years ago. But the fact that the influential culprits were able to get away with mass murder — and to get away with it in style, despite several changes of government at the Centre since then — is an indivisible part of the complex legacy she left behind.

    A legacy of a strong nation unbroken by ‘fissiparous’ tendencies despite the dire predictions of foreign observers; a nation armed with nuclear weapons and missiles; a nation with the ability to assert an independent foreign policy and independent path of capitalist development, in the main, fully capable of holding its head high in the international community and world economic stage. But her bequest is also a nation with a democratic culture built on the proliferating quicksand of personalised, dynastic politics and money power, of weak and ineffective institutions easily subverted by the individuals carefully chosen to lead them. A nation where the rule of law is a plastic, contingent concept which rarely makes demands on those in authority.

    Earlier this year, it took an act of individual caprice — the hurling, in desperate anger, of a shoe at the Home Minister — to effect a small but symbolic dent in the edifice of impunity that all Indians now take for granted. The Congress (Indira) finally decided not to allow Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler to contest the elections on a party ticket.

    But even this concession came infected with a pathology caused by decades of valueless machine politics: one of the two tainted politicians was able to dictate that his brother replaces him as candidate.

    What is it that allowed a local-level leader to wield such embarrassing influence on a national party? The Congress was not always like this. In a remarkably perceptive assessment of Indira Gandhi’s career as Prime Minister penned barely two years after death, Sudipta Kaviraj traced the decline of ideology and of a robust party apparatus within the Congress to the populistic transformation of party politics. That, in turn, was the product of Indira’s need to overwhelm established party interests, especially at the State level, with top-down campaigns centred around her own personality and the loyalty of a new breed of politicians who could use “resources” rather than “arguments” to deliver votes. “People who were pressed into political service were more in the nature of political contractors who were willing to go to any length to dragoon votes, systematically replacing discursive techniques with money and subtle forms of coercion. Thus, out of the logic of the technique Indira Gandhi brought in, Congress started becoming gradually depoliticised. Even earlier, people had regretted that arguments were being replaced by resources as the primary political asset; now the only arguments used were resources.” (‘Indira Gandhi and Indian Politics’, Economic and Political Weekly, September 20-27, 1986).

    Political contractors

    Kaviraj does not say so but when Indira Gandhi died, it was these ‘political contractors’ who got mobilised to deliver a headcount of a different kind. And they went about their task with great efficiency.

    Their success, however, depended on another factor, which Indira’s India was particularly well-equipped to deliver: the willingness of the police and administration to turn a blind eye to the arson and murder which was taking place. The last essential ingredient in the production of the 1984 massacres was the ability to manage the aftermath by ensuring impunity for the guilty. A sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Ranganath Mishra, was handpicked to head a commission of inquiry which, predictably, found no systemic lapses and assigned no culpability to the ruling establishment. In the best tradition of suborned institutions, Mishra went on to become the first head of the National Human Rights Commission when it was set up and, later, a member of the Rajya Sabha. Proof of the commitment with which he went about his initial brief is provided by the fact that another commission established 15 years later managed to unearth far more details about the violence than he had.

    Market economies need institutions in order to function in a stable, predictable and rational manner. Robust institutions function well regardless of the individuals in them; in India, everything hinges on the choice of the individual. Mishra delivered a vapid report but he did so with speed. Others labour for years to produce a similar outcome. When a rare individual like Justice Srikrishna produces a report which indicts the system, as he did in the case of the 1993 Bombay riots, the same system has a hundred ways of consigning his recommendations to the dustbin.

    The reality

    It is tempting to link this very Indian disregard for the norms of ‘bourgeois’ democracy to the residual pull of feudal impulses in our political and social life. But the reality is that the consolidation of capitalism and the growing power of industrial, trading and mining elites have not led to any emphasis on institution building. If anything, the situation might actually be getting worse.

    Indeed, over time, the style of politics the Congress adopted during Indira Gandhi’s time has become the norm for virtually all parties, right down to the induction of sons, daughters, wives and brothers at every level of political power. With the growing salience of ‘resources’ in elections, it was only a matter of time before the alliance between party leaders, kinsmen and affluent regional elites got transformed into the rise of the Seriously Wealthy Politician — leaders like the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and his son, Jaganmohan, Sharad Pawar and the BJP’s ‘Bellary Brothers’ in Karnataka.

    ‘Fissiparousness’, in the final analysis, even in the Punjab, was ended not by the security forces but by letting a hundred sons bloom.

    And yet, it would be unfair to lay the blame for the current decline of politics and institutions and the rule of law entirely at the door of Indira Gandhi, even if the trend began with her. But the responsibility for fixing things lies with the present. Just as one sin, if unrepented, begets the next, 1984 led ineluctably to the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. And there will be future killings too, unless the system is overhauled and impunity ended. Indira Gandhi made her mistakes — the Emergency, the opportunistic fomenting of religious extremism for electoral gains in Punjab — and some would argue she paid with her life for them. Had she lived, she might have chosen to chart a different course, though we owe the formal rise of dynasticism and the top-down politics of ‘nomination’ by supreme leaders and high commands to the last phase of her political career. Ironic, then, that the only politician today who seems to have grasped the corrosive nature of this aspect of her legacy is her grandson, Rahul Gandhi, with his emphasis on grass-root level elections in the Youth Congress — an organisation that, in the darkest days of the Emergency, was a metaphor for the worst possible values in politics.

    The Hindu : News / National : India after Indira, 25 years on
  5. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Indira Gandhi, the 'autoritarian patriot'

    Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

    Violence against Sikhs in the Indian capital Delhi was triggered
    by the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard on 31 October
    1984. Photographer Ashok Vahie captured the org of burning, looting and killing
    over three days.

    Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her bodyguards on this day 25 years ago. Ramachandra Guha looks at the legacy of India's most controversial and best-known politician.

    In the summer of 1965, Indira Gandhi was thinking of shifting base from Delhi to London.

    She was then serving as a junior minister in the cabinet of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had succeeded her father Jawaharlal Nehru as prime minister of India.

    With her political prospects fairly bleak, she was attracted to England for personal reasons. Her sons Rajiv and Sanjay were both studying in the United Kingdom; besides, living in London would allow her to further her interest in culture and the arts.

    In the end, Mrs Gandhi chose to remain in her homeland and would reap a wholly unexpected reward.

    When Mr Shastri died of a heart attack in January 1966, she was asked to replace him as prime minister. The choice was made by the "Syndicate", the group of crafty old men who ran the ruling Congress party.

    Hesitant start

    They calculated that the elevation of Nehru's daughter would reassure a nation reeling from the deaths in quick succession of two prime ministers; besides, as a novice in politics she could be easily manipulated.

    After a hesitant start in office, Mrs Gandhi grew in confidence.

    Mrs Gandhi refused to remove Sikh guards from her security detail (Photo: Ashok Vahie)

    In 1969 she cut herself loose from the "Syndicate" by portraying them as a bunch of reactionaries while she represented the progressive forces of history.

    She nationalised banks, mines, and oil companies; abolished the titles and privileges of the former maharajas; and comprehensively won the general elections of 1971 on the stirring slogan of "Garibi Hatao" (Remove Poverty).

    The elections were held in January; in the last month of the same year, Mrs Gandhi played a key role in India's military victory over Pakistan, which led to the dismemberment of that country and the formation of an independent Bangladesh.

    Among a certain section of the middle class, Mrs Gandhi remains very popular.

    In polls conducted by English-language magazines she is usually chosen as "India's best-ever prime minister". This endorsement is principally based on her performance during the 1971 war, invariably contrasted with her father's disastrous leadership during India's border war with China in 1962.


    Others admire her for her identification with the whole of India (although a northerner by birth and background she had a special affection for the south). Socialists sympathise with her pro-poor rhetoric.

    Mrs Gandhi's assassination was a traumatic moment in Indian history (Photo: Ashok Vahie)

    On the other hand, there remain many Indians who are lukewarm about Mrs Gandhi's legacy.

    They point to her authoritarian tendencies, which came to the fore after her annus mirabilis: 1971.

    At this point she asked for a "committed bureaucracy" and "committed judiciary", seeking to make these previously autonomous institutions subject to the whims and fancies of politicians in power.

    In 1974, the respected Gandhian politician Jayaprakash Narayan launched a countrywide movement against corruption in government. In June 1975 the Allahabad High Court found the prime minister guilty of electoral malpractices.

    Mrs Gandhi's response to this twin challenge, political and judicial, was to declare a state of emergency, censor the press, and put hundreds of opposition politicians in jail.

    The emergency lasted until January 1977. In elections held in March, the Congress were routed by the Janata Party, a coalition of four previously distinct entities.

    However, the new government lasted less than three years, collapsing under the weight of its contradictions. In 1980 Mrs Gandhi and the Congress were voted back to power on the plank of "stability".

    Stoking trouble

    The first two years of her fourth term were uneventful, but then, almost at once, Mrs Gandhi was confronted with discontent in the state of Andhra Pradesh, secessionist stirrings in the north-east, and a fully-fledged insurgency in the Punjab.


    It was claimed at the time that the prime minister deliberately stoked the troubles in the Punjab, so that when elections were held in 1985 she could put herself forward as the one person standing between India and anarchy.

    In June 1984 she ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple, where a band of Sikh extremists were holed up. The "terrorists" were killed, but the action also led to the destruction of the second holiest building in the complex.

    Five months later, two Sikh security guards gunned down Mrs Gandhi in an apparent act of revenge.

    "I see that marble conceals a multitude of sins," remarked Aldous Huxley on seeing the Taj Mahal.

    In the same manner, the fact that she died a martyr's death - and after contemptuously rejecting advice to purge her staff of Sikhs - has led to a posthumous evaluation of Indira Gandhi that exculpates or ignores her very many mistakes.

    That she was a thoroughgoing patriot we may not doubt; nor, indeed, that she led India nobly and well during the refugee crisis of 1971 (when nine million East Pakistanis fled into India) and the war that followed.

    At the same time, the historian is obliged to record her failings.

    Foremost among these was the perversion of public institutions.

    In Nehru's time, the bureaucracy and judiciary were insulated from political interference; recruitment, postings, and promotions were decided on the basis of diligence and competence.

    Damaging tradition

    Mrs Gandhi inaugurated an altogether different (and deeply damaging) tradition, whereby ministers, chief ministers and prime ministers decided the assignments of civil servants on the basis of kinship or loyalty.

    Mrs Gandhi's decision to send the army
    into the Golden Temple alienated Sikhs

    Among the institutions damaged in this fashion was the Indian National Congress.

    In Nehru's time, the Congress was a genuinely decentralised and democratic party, with district and state committees chosen on the basis of inner-party elections.

    A chief minister was elected by the legislators of the state. Mrs Gandhi, on the other hand, worked unceasingly to make the Congress an extension of herself. Inner-party elections were abolished. Chief ministers were chosen by her alone.

    That was not all.

    Since Mrs Gandhi knew she was not immortal, and since she could not bring herself to wholly trust anyone who was not related to her, she brought her sons into politics.

    Family politics

    From 1976 Sanjay Gandhi worked closely with her, on the understanding that he would succeed her when she retired or passed on.

    When it was Sanjay who unexpectedly died in June 1980, his elder brother Rajiv was drafted into politics, on the same understanding.

    (The conversion of the Congress into a family firm has been emulated by other parties. Had Mrs Gandhi not showed the way, it is impossible to conceive of the Akali Dal or the Dravidra Munnetra Kazhagam [both state-based parties in India], for example, becoming, as they have now, captives of the interests of a single family.)

    These criticisms are not merely retrospective.

    Sanjay Gandhi was a very controversial politician

    They were made at the time, as indeed were criticisms of her economic policies.

    By the late 1960s, India had built industrial capacity and a technological base through promoting self-sufficient economic growth.

    Leading economists such as Jagdish Bhagwati now urged a dismantling of the industrial licensing system and an encouragement of foreign trade. However, instead of freeing the economy from government control, Mrs Gandhi instead further increased the stranglehold of the state, which caused (as might have been expected) gross inefficiency and corruption.

    Although the economy was finally liberalised in 1991, two decades had been lost to ideological dogma and personal expediency.

    Great patriot, but deeply flawed democrat - that is how history should remember Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1984.

    Ramachandra Guha is the author of India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. He lives in Bangalore. He can be contacted at [email protected].

    BBC NEWS | South Asia | Indira Gandhi: The authoritarian patriot
  6. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

    May 4, 2009
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    New Delhi
    The True Legacy of Indira Gandhi

    This OP-ed in Indian Express sums up the legacy left behind by the Iron Lady and especially the disastrous policies followed by her.

    It is good to remeber the good things of our departed leaders but it also important to recall the policies which acted as a stumbling block for the country.

    fifth COLUMN - A legacy best forgotten

    Sonia Gandhi is the most powerful politician in India so what she says is taken seriously.Not just by the sycophants and flatterers in the Congress Party but by ordinary Indians as well.
    Especially those millions of young voters who have no idea how bad the times were when Indira Gandhi ruled. No idea at all of what a shabby, secondrate country India was then or that it got that way largely because of Mrs Gandhi's policies.So when Soniaji invokes her mother-in-law's name, as she did on her death anniversary last week, to hold her up as a role model for young Indians, she needs to be careful.

    Let me give you some extracts from the article Soniaji wrote in praise of mama-inlaw in her party magazine, Sandesh, last week. "Let us reflect on and recall the simple and austere manner of her living and conducting herself.
    Let us continue to be guided by her... Her contributions are numerous and continue to resonate. It was her bold political leadership that made India self-reliant in the production of wheat and rice that brought prosperity to lakhs and lakhs of farmers, transforming rural India."

    The dutiful daughter-in-law went on to praise Mrs. Gandhi for her "compassionate" leadership and for bank nationalisation. Soniaji believes bank nationalisation is the reason why India was not hit so badly by last year's credit crunch.

    When I hear this kind of drivel from India's most powerful politician, I consider it my duty, as a responsible political columnist and as someone who lived in Mrs Gandhi's time, to set the record the straight. Indira Gandhi was a charismatic politician with an amazing ability to convince ordinary Indians that she was their one and only benefactress. Not a quality to be sneered at and I am not sneering. But, when I try to remember anything good she did for India from an economic or political point of view I come up with a very short list.

    Certainly, I would not credit her with improving the lives of Indian farmers. They lived in desperate poverty then. And, the reason was that under Mrs Gandhi rural India was given charity instead of development.
    Anti-poverty schemes instead of roads, schools, hospitals and jobs. Anti-poverty schemes so leaky that her son admitted when he became Prime Minister that no more than 15 paise in a rupee reached beneficiaries.
    And, with all her talk of `garibi hatao', India remained as poor when she was killed as when she first became Prime Minister.

    Politically, she made serious mistakes that created the secessionist movements in Punjab and Kashmir and that exacerbated them in the Northeastern states. Her creed was secularism but in her time there was at least one major HinduMuslim riot every year. Her foreign policy was paranoid and so viscerally anti-American that we supported the Soviet Union even when it invaded Afghanistan. It's lucky for her that she did not live to see the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall coming down because she may not have known what to do next.

    By 1984 when she had ruled India for nearly 20 years, she succeeded in turning India into a country in which everything was in short supply and everything second-rate. It was not just she who was `austere' in her lifestyle, we all were.
    There was no choice. Every Indian did without regular supplies of electricity and clean water and without luxuries of any kind. Even Indian industrialists lived in genteel poverty. And, they hid their entrepreneurial skills for fear of being fined by Mrs Gandhi's government in case they exceeded their quotas. The licence raj was at its zenith when she was Prime Minister and unsurprisingly, the Indian economy grew so slowly in her time that there was very little wealth to distribute to the poor. Bank nationalisation put Indian banking back by at least 20 years.
    So for Soniaji to continue praising this policy decision exhibits her own ignorance of economics.

    In the end may I humbly submit that it has taken India 25 years to recover from Indira Gandhi's legacy and we have still not fully recovered. To go back to it now would be insanity.
  7. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

    May 29, 2009
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    Burying the Indira doctrine
    By C. Raja Mohan

    The Hindu : Burying the Indira doctrine

    AS IT draws closer to the United States, India must prepare to deal with the inevitable political consequences in the Subcontinent of its romance with America. India's smaller neighbours are likely to grow increasingly uneasy that the new Indo-U.S. bonhomie might just overwhelm them. For decades now, the deep distrust between New Delhi and Washington had seemed to be an immutable feature of strategic life in the Subcontinent. The political wariness between New Delhi and Washington was quite welcome among India's neighbours. The U.S. was perceived in most other capitals in the Subcontinent as a useful counterweight to the perceived temptations in New Delhi to exercise hegemony over the region.

    India, of course, had proclaimed that U.S. meddling in its backyard was unacceptable. Although it could not really stop Washington from doing so, New Delhi did its level best to limit American influence in the Subcontinent. It was called the Indira doctrine after Indira Gandhi, who as Prime Minister aligned India with the Soviet Union and sought to keep U.S. and China out of the region.

    The smaller nations of the Subcontinent were quite happy to have, shall we say, the local hegemon squabbling with the global hegemon. From their perspective nothing could be better for a power balance in the region. But now they cannot but be apprehensive about the incipient rapprochement between New Delhi and Washington. They fear that the warming Indo-U.S. ties may severely constrain the political space for the smaller countries in South Asia.

    Instead of ignoring these fears as irrational, the Indian security establishment must find ways to allay them. In any case, India's neighbours, and Pakistan certainly, will urge Washington not to get too close to India and undermine what they see as the traditional regional balance. And the argument may find an echo in some quarters in Washington. India must assess the possible political responses in the Subcontinent to the new warmth between New Delhi and Washington, as well as devise a range of policies that will reduce apprehensions in its neighbourhood that there might be less of a check on India's hegemonic aspirations in the region following an Indo-U.S. rapprochement.

    One likely response from our neighbours would be to deepen strategic engagement with China. At a time when Sino-U.S. tensions are on the rise and Indo-U.S. relations are on the mend, turning to China seems an obvious geopolitical response. Some commentators in Pakistan have already hinted at this during the recent visit of the Chinese Premier, Mr. Zhu Rongji to Islamabad. But the speculation of a prospective polarisation in the region with India and the U.S. on one side and China on the other, does not stand close scrutiny. No one in the region, not even India or Pakistan, has either the luxury or desire to choose between the U.S. and China.

    India's own strategy is to simultaneously improve its relations with both Washington and Beijing. This is not necessarily an impossible task. At the end of the Cold War, India's relations with the U.S. and China were way below potential and the scope for improvement with both remains enormous. Much as India would think twice before joining a U.S.-led containment ring against China, Beijing too would be loath to designate India as an adversary and attempt to build a South Asian coalition against New Delhi. As two large neighbours with a deep historical burden of mistrust, it makes sense for India and China to insulate their bilateral relationship from the larger global power play, and focus on solving their many bilateral problems.

    Pakistan has even less of an option of choosing between Beijing and Washington, two of its long-standing political partners. Although China will always be held up in Pakistan as an all- weather friend, the establishment in Islamabad knows the enduring importance of at least a working relationship with the U.S. India's other neighbours too will value their ties to Beijing; but they cannot and will not try and distance themselves from the U.S.

    Sensible Indian diplomacy in the region could easily reassure China, Pakistan and the smaller neighbours in the Subcontinent that the aim of its new partnership with the U.S. is not to seek hegemony but to promote regional stability and prosperity. What would be the elements of such a regional policy?

    First, an emphasis on the primacy of rapid economic development through regional integration. In the past, the autarchic economic policies of all the South Asian nations limited the potential for regional integration. But now as they cope with the pressures to globalise, there is a sense of urgency everywhere in the region, expect perhaps in Pakistan, on the importance of working with the integrative forces.

    Second, India needs to shed much of its own past paranoia about U.S. policy in the Subcontinent. An India that is building a new cooperative relationship with the U.S. should be less prone to constantly looking over its shoulder about the activities of other major powers. In short, the time has come for India to give a decent burial to the Indira doctrine and take the initiative to work with the forces of globalisation and the U.S. to promote regional economic integration.

    Third, while India will continue to have differences with China over many political and strategic issues, they can work together to promote regional economic cooperation within and across the Subcontinent. Instead of dragging its feet on the Kunming initiative, in which China has called for regional cooperation among the Yunan province in South Western China, India's northeast, Bangladesh and Myanmar, New Delhi should join Beijing in promoting economic integration across the India, China and South East Asia. Unlike the paranoic Indira doctrine, a politically confident and globalising India can move forward on the premise that both the U.S. and China could be partners in creating a single integrated market for the Subcontinent. The smaller nations of the Subcontinent, except Pakistan, are already crying out for one to improve their own economic prospects.

    Fourth, India needs to modernise its political relations with the smaller neighbours to dispel the deep anxieties about Indian hegemony. And in the new scheme of things there can be no place for such instruments as the obsolete Indo-Nepal treaty, which the other side feels is unequal. India should take the lead to scrap the treaty with Nepal as well as find ways to resolve the long- standing boundary dispute with Bangladesh.

    Fifth, India should shed the Indira doctrine's obsession with bilateralism and reciprocity in solving problems with its neighbours. Instead, at least with neighbours other than Pakistan, India can openly pursue a strategy of positive unilateralism in which New Delhi takes the lead and goes more than half way in trying to find solutions to long- standing problems. This was initiated by Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral as Prime Minister, but needs a fresh political impetus now.

    Finally to reduce misperceptions about an incipient alliance between India and the U.S., the two nations need to proclaim a set of common political objectives and work to realise them in an open and transparent way. At the top of a common Indo-U.S. political agenda in the region will be the mutual commitment to oppose the forces of extremism and terrorism and support those in favour of political moderation, social modernisation and economic prosperity. This converging of viewpoints was already visible in their approaches to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

    In building a new partnership in the region, India and the U.S. have no reason to look for any particular set of adversaries. Once they identify and pursue a widely acceptable agenda for political and economic action in the Subcontinent, the enemies will present themselves.

    India's smaller neighbours are likely to grow increasingly uneasy that the new bonhomie with the U.S. might just overwhelm them... The Indian security establishment must find ways to overcome these fears.

    It is a 8 years old article and ~ 6 year of Congress-I rule. But will India be successful to discard Indira's doctrine!? The trend is set and India is now more flexible making friends. Is this is a peek of successful India's foreign policy or mere a matrix of economical prosperity enabling India to invite more associates.

    My personal opinion on this doctrine is that contemporary its out dated and more prone to invite conflicts of interests between neighbours of India. But i strongly believe that the same was very helpful to serve India's national interests in those times.
  8. truthfull

    truthfull Regular Member

    Oct 27, 2009
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    in those riots even our great general js arora has to take shelter in ahindu family
  9. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 13, 2009
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    on the lighter side.

    Indira Gandhi liked her meal straight & simple

    2 Nov 2009, 0002 hrs IST, Vikram Doctor, ET Bureau

    It’s not uncommon abroad for people to scrutinise the eating habits of their leaders. Michelle Obama’s decision to plant a vegetable garden in
    the White House was seen as a presidential endorsement of healthy, locally grown produce. The garden has provided over 430 kilos of vegetables so far, divided between the White House kitchens and a homeless shelter. The criticism this has drawn from the industrial farm sector clearly shows how the political point is hitting home.

    Indian politicians generally escape such attention, which in some ways is a pity. Quite apart from the signals they could give out about proper eating habits — if nothing else, the number of party workers who will immediately adopt the same habits will have some impact — it can also provide interesting insights into their personalities. We all have to eat, and seeing how others eat, their habits and likings humanises them. It has nothing to do with whether they are gourmets or not; in fact, it’s often the more ordinary foods that say the most about them.

    Indira Gandhi, whose 25th death anniversary is currently being remembered, doesn’t seem to have been hugely interested in food. Some of those now remembering her talk about her liking for regional foods, and how she always showed great interest in the foods of regions where she was campaigning.

    This could quite possibly have been a genuine interest, but it could also have been smart politics, since what could endear you more to your voters than showing an interest in their food.

    Personal accounts of her don’t reveal much, either because the writers were too awed by her public persona to note what she ate, or simply because she was so guarded, even on this. One person she was not guarded with was her father, and in Two Alone, Two Together, a fascinating and moving collection of the letters between them, edited by Sonia Gandhi, one gets occasional glimpses of the food she ate. For example, in 1932, from Panchgani where she was in a school run by friends of Nehru, she wrote that he would like their food: “We have the usual things: vegetable, fish, eggs, etc, but our salad is extra good. We get fresh leaves every day and everybody eats more of it than anything else.”

    One of the advantages of Panchgani was that she was close to Pune where Mahatma Gandhi was in jail. Nehru encouraged his daughter to meet his mentor, and later that year Indira was by Gandhi’s side at the end of his epic fast. This was to convince Dr Ambedkar not to press for separate electorates for the Depressed Classes, but instead have reserved seats for them in the general electorate. It was an issue whose consequences are still being felt today, and Indira was not only at Gandhi’s side at his moment of ‘victory’, but she bought and squeezed the oranges for the juice with which he broke his fast.

    Yet despite this closeness, it’s interesting to note that neither Indira nor Nehru seem to have followed Gandhi’s proscriptions on diet. Gandhi relentlessly showered diet and health advice on close associates like Vallabhai Patel and GD Birla, but such advice to the Nehrus is almost nonexistent. They even ate meat — apart from the fish Indira ate at Panchgani, a couple of years later she announced she was eating meat again, persuaded it seems by Feroze Gandhi, who had already become a friend; he had set up a plan, she wrote to, “make me consume vast amounts of food-stuffs.” Returning from the North-West Frontier Nehru would write to her how a meal of roast lamb he was given by the Afridi tribe was, “one of the most satisfying meals I have had...”

    It’s an interesting indication of how, for all Gandhi’s political closeness to the Nehrus, perhaps he didn’t count them among his personal disciples, whose health and diet he supervised. Nationalism was one thing, but the Kashmiri love for good food
    and meat was another! It’s also true that Indira’s poor health in her teens would have made her parents intent on feeding her in every way possible. Much of her time in those years was spent in Europe, either with her mother at the sanatoriums she went to in an attempt to cure the TB that finally killed her (Indira was also treated), or at college in Oxford. Good, plain food was a major part of the TB treatment, and Indira must have had to force herself to eat a lot of it.

    The right person to speak about Indira’s eating habits is, of course, Sonia Gandhi. Katherine Frank’s biography of Indira says that she quickly
    formed a very close bond with her Italian daughter-in-law because of Sonia’s evident quietness and preference for cooking over politics (although in one ugly incident later, where Sanjay throws away a plate of eggs that Sonia hasn’t cooked to his liking, she just remains quiet and shaken, a sign of his influence over her). But until we see her memoirs, one can only go on the basis of a few personal accounts like two that have been told to me.

    One is Bhicoo Manekshaw, the cookbook writer and doyenne of Delhi’s catering scene, who was once asked to arrange a small dinner for Indira. This was during the Emergency, at the notorious height of her powers, and also a time when there were strict curbs on gatherings. Dinners could not be for more than 25, otherwise “only potato snacks could be served,” Ms Manekshaw recalled in her wonderful cookbook Feast of Love. Since she knew Indira didn’t like chicken, she decided on duck a l’orange and hot lobster soufflé for starter.

    Dinner was at 8.30 pm and Ms Manekshaw had timed the soufflé for that, but when the time came Indira hadn’t arrived. Just in time, she came — but then, to Ms Manekshaw’s further irritation, insisted on coming into the kitchen to apologise. Not one to take any nonsense, Ms Manekshaw told her sternly, “Madam Prime Minister, a hot soufflé will not wait even for a prime minister. Please go in...” Indira took the reproof in good spirit, and insisted that Ms Manekshaw join them for dinner.

    The other story comes from a friend of mine, who was a young air steward in Air India around that time. Prime ministers flew on regular flights then, and Indira didn’t even have the first class to herself — just a group of eight seats. The staff knew she was fond of small open sandwiches of smoked salmon and had some onboard for her. But during the meal service she was asleep, and my friend concluded she wasn’t hungry, so being young and hungry and fond of smoked salmon, he ate the sandwiches himself.

    At which point, of course, she woke up and asked for some, and my friend’s supervisor almost had a nervous breakdown. He insisted my friend go and confess his crime, so he duly went up to the PM. “Madam, you’ve asked for the smoked salmon sandwiches, but I’m afraid they are all over,” he said. Indira looked surprised: “Not even one left?” My friend steeled himself. “No madam, because I’m afraid I ate them.” Indira looked at my friend — and it must have helped that he would have been as handsome and personable then as he is now — with a twinkle in her eye. “Well, I hope you enjoyed them,” she said, and smiled and left it at that.
  10. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 10, 2009
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    The 80s were terrible times. I would like to say something more substantial, but I think this should suffice. I hope those times never return to our country.
  11. F-14

    F-14 Global Defence Moderator Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2009
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    I like Indra Gandhi for her Strategic games of How she stood up world powers and gave it to the Foes in such instances she was the Only Man produced by the Indian Political system but on the Home front she was an Utter disaster she almost killed the Democracy that we hold dear but the Biggest blunder of her Life was her Initial support for what would become the snake that killed many relations people and tore the fabric of Punjab and 25 years down the line i think it is time to exorcise the Ghosts of Punjab and move on though we know that words cant bring back those who died but a first thing to be done is to give the Justice that the victims of this dark period
  12. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 13, 2009
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    10 things that have changed since Indira Gandhi

    Pritish Nandy, TOI Crest 7 November 2009, 12:51pm IST

    Indira Gandhi means different things to different people. Some remember her as the person who brought machismo to Indian politics. They remember
    how she manoeuvered herself to power, absolute power, cut down to size the regional satraps, humbled the royalty, seized their purses, nationalised the banks, threatened to abolish garibi, won a war against Pakistan, stared down the US Seventh Fleet in the Bay of Bengal, liberated Bangladesh, challenged terrorism in Punjab, sanctioned Operation Bluestar and sent the army into the Golden Temple, paid for it with her life.

    Others remember her for imposing the Emergency, the scary midnight knock, for jailing almost the entire political Opposition, intimidating and muzzling the press. They remember her for her left-wing politics, her obsessive anti-Americanism , the devaluation of the Indian rupee, the destruction of our democratic institutions, Kissa Kursi Ka, Turkmen Gate, Dhirendra Brahmachari and his infamous gun factory, coterie politics and the kitchen cabinet she ran.
    She was the most dramatic face of Indian politics, adored by many, reviled by as many. But what is more interesting is how much India has changed since that fateful day in October when those two young Sikh guards, part of her own security detail, pumped 31 bullets into Mrs Gandhi and ended a turbulent chapter in India’s history.

    To begin with, we have seen the end of the demonisation of the US. The nuclear deal that Manmohan Singh signed with George Bush brought to a close the deeprooted suspicion with which the world’s two biggest democracies viewed each other for over four decades. Indira Gandhi saw the dirty hand of the CIA behind every political move against her. Today, the FBI helps us fight terrorism on this subcontinent. India and the US plan joint tactical exercises, share intelligence, discuss a common strategy to keep Afghanistan and Pakistan out of the hands of extremist groups. What a change from Mrs Gandhi’s time when she attributed every global ill and almost all of India’s economic woes to US imperialism and the evils of Western-style capitalism.

    With anti-US sentiment dying down, so has rampant socialist rhetoric. In fact, we rarely hear of socialism today (although last year’s global economic meltdown has given it a temporary lease of life). Most of the socialist parties have packed up or morphed into regional entities. The old socialists in the Congress are now full-time propagandists for economic reforms and public-private partnership. If the West had not been hit by recession — exposing the dark, greedy underbelly of capitalism — India would have by now gone full-throttle on reforms. Our caution and circumspection are actually the outcome of what has happened in the US since September 15, 2008 when Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11. Mrs Gandhi’s 97 per cent income tax is now down to a much saner 30 per cent and if the Model Tax Code comes through, it may even come down to 25 per cent.

    Indira Gandhi would also be startled to see where the media, which she so deeply mistrusted, has reached today. Her favorite instrument for disseminating political news, Doordarshan, is deader than the T-Rex and 500 independent channels have blossomed in its place. Print, which is crumbling worldwide, is still doing fine in India and the number of newspapers and magazines has grown exponentially since her time. People are now consuming news across many new media platforms, mostly the internet. Even that is likely to change with the spectacular growth of the cellphone, which is now predicted to be the next big platform for both news-seekers and entertainment junkies. No, the Om Mehtas and VC Shuklas can’t manage or intimidate the media any more. Whoever’s in power now, however mighty the mandate may be, has no option but to learn to live with it.

    Another change is the crumbling of her license raj. It is no longer possible to control Indian industry or enterprise in the way she once did. Regardless of how much further reforms go, one thing is certain: Indian entrepreneurs have shrugged off the shackles of state interference and shown that they can do business better than anyone anywhere in the world. A new corporate elite has emerged that is now part of the national decision making process. Businessmen are no longer seen as political pariahs. They are part of the new power bloc in Parliament and some of them have even joined government. Several politicians have business empires of their own and lobbying before the Union budget is considered legitimate activity these days.

    Indira Gandhi may have used poverty and backwardness to further her political cause, but never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined the power that the backwards have gained in the past two decades. What began with VP Singh and the Mandal Commission is now an irreversible part of the political process, so much so that the upper castes find themselves pretty much cornered in terms of seats in educational institutions, government jobs, and other domains they once controlled. Even the middle class is now demanding more merit-based opportunities, but reservations have acquired a life of their own and are growing wherever you look. Some states are even asking for job reservations for backwards in the private sector. Luckily, the business lobby is now strong enough to fend for itself. Indian society is finding its own balance and fine-tuning its sense of social justice.

    In Indira Gandhi’s world, English was a foreign language and Hindi was the language of governance . So Shrikant Verma went about formulating an official government policy on how to promote Hindi. Every ministry, every public sector undertaking had a department for the promotion of Hindi. The result was predictable. Many states like Tamil Nadu protested violently against its imposition while others went out of their way to promote regional languages in affairs of the state, to checkmate the rise of Hindi. Today, English is widely accepted as an Indian language. We write and speak it better than most people in the English-speaking world. It’s the language of higher education, technology, business and global trade. Barring a few crackpots, no one challenges its importance in modern India. On the other hand, Bollywood has made Hindi everyone’s language. No one resists it any more; what state policy couldn’t accomplish, popular culture has.

    Politics was entirely male-dominated during Mrs Gandhi’s time. There’s no better proof of that than the fact that she was often described as the only person wearing trousers in her cabinet. There was hardly any representation for women and Mrs Gandhi preferred it that way. She enjoyed being the sole woman playing hardball in Indian politics. Today, not only has gender representation in public life become more balanced, Sonia, Mamata, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa are controlling Indian politics. Today, we have a woman as President, a woman as Speaker in the Lok Sabha, and a woman as president of the ruling Congress . Now, all we need is a woman as leader of the Opposition. It’s not just in politics that women are asserting themselves. Look at society, and at the rise of female sexuality. And popular culture is beginning to reflect the change.

    Mrs Gandhi would have found it difficult to imagine the rise of consumer culture that has slowly but defiantly crept into post-Gandhian polity and society. It began with the Mont Blanc pen her son Rajiv flaunted , which then became every Congressman’s dream accessory. Later, the Rolex watch became every MP’s badge of honor. Today, frugality has been given short shrift and, despite everyone talking about austerity, MPs turn up in Parliament in flashy SUVs. Lutyens homes are being redesigned by fashionable interior decorators . Chief ministers are flying around in smart jets. The Prime Minister has his own Boeing. The khadi has yielded way to Armani suits, Vertus and LVs. Fashion, luxury brands, a five-star lifestyle: it’s all part of our politics today. Just as it is with India’s postliberalisation society. .

    Indira Gandhi successfully crushed all regional satraps. She wanted total power, and no one around could stand up to her or challenge her authority. Today, the Congress is in power in the states with the support of strong regional parties with independent-minded leaders like Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Omar Abdullah in Jammu & Kashmir. In Tamil Nadu, it has aligned with Karunanidhi and the DMK. This is an age of coalitions — holy or unholy. (Mrs Gandhi’s grandson, Rahul’s agenda seems to be more aggressive than his mother’s : One of them is to restore the Congress to a position where it doesn’t need to bank on outside support.)

    Finally, what no one could have foreseen is the rise and rise of Bollywood as India’s one truly global industry (more than even IT; it is the one industry where it’s clearly world No 1). During Mrs Gandhi’s time, the film industry wasn’t a power centre. It was heavily taxed, frequently raided, used at election time and shunned thereafter. Those who stood up to her were badly mauled, like Kishore Kumar, who was banned on AIR and put through a series of tax raids because he refused to perform at her command during the Emergency. Dev Anand, who backed the Janata Party, was also in the doghouse. Today, no party can fight an election without the enormous campaigning power of Bollywood . Her son Rajiv began it all by fielding Amitabh Bachchan from Allahabad. Today Shah Rukh Khan is a Congress favourite and before every election rumors fly that he will campaign for the party. He never does. Bollywood stars are now allowed to have a mind of their own.

    10 things that have changed since Indira Gandhi - India - The Times of India

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