Posts Tagged ‘Rajiv Gandhi’

“What puzzled me about Sonia in those early days was her complete lack of interest in doing something worthwhile in response to the dreadful poverty she saw everyday in her husband’s country… The only comment on politics I remember her making was on a night when Rajiv and she were dropping me home after a dinner party. I asked her if she would like her children to be in politics some day, and she said, ‘I would rather my children begged in the streets than went into politics.”

Engrossing, and voyeuristic, is how one could describe Durbar, well-known political journalist Tavleen Singh’s book on the Indian political scenario since the Emergency. And if you’re a Nehru-Gandhi family basher, you’ll love the book!

Tavleen Singh began her career with The Statesman as a junior reporter in 1975 and within five weeks of that she witnessed post-independent India’s most turbulent period. On June 12, 1975 the Allahabad High Court annulled the election of Mrs Gandhi from Rae Bareli. And around a fortnight later, on June 26, claiming the country was being destabilised, she declared an Emergency.

Tavleen’s account of the days during and after the Emergency details the rise of Sanjay Gandhi as a political force, his five-point programme that was meant to make India a better place, but which, she says, only ended up doing more harm than good. Her description of the events that led to the demolition of Muslim settlements at Turkman Gate and the subsequent riots that broke out resulting in the deaths of a number of Muslims, make for avid reading, especially if you’re, like me, interested in politics and politicians. Quite a few incidents she has written about are, as she herself claims, hearsay, but since she has made them public, we’ll take her word for it.

However, what held my interest was her description of Operation Bluestar, the ascension of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister on the assassination of his mother, and his refusal to stop the riots that followed, resulting in the cold blooded murders of countless Sikhs on Delhi’s streets. Having been a part of Sonia Gandhi’s circle of friends, Tavleen gives us a pretty unflattering view of India’s Camelot. It is something loyalists of the First Family might find hard to digest. Rajiv, according to her, is a “comical, half-witted prince with no idea of the country he was ruling or its problems” – the charm notwithstanding.

There are other incidents she describes that show Rajiv in very poor light. The Indian Airlines hijack incident, the much publicised visit to Kalahandi in Orissa, his public sacking of the foreign secretary, his reluctance to order a probe into the Bofors deal, which did make people wonder whether he was shielding anyone specific, his role in the problems in Kashmir which India is still paying for, his disastrous forays into Sri Lanka (the IPKF) and Nepal, his inner circle of advisors, and the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and the power brokers over the late prime minister, once the corruption charges began to flow thick and fast, all portray Rajiv as an incompetent leader with little understanding of ground realities.

Sonia is portrayed as a warm, friendly person at times, but indifferent to India’s problems, at others. She is caring towards her family and friends but contemptuous towards her husband’s political advisors and politicians. One senses that Tavleen is bitter at being dumped by Sonia Gandhi, even though she feels she was only doing her job, and ‘Durbar’ seems to be a way to get back at the First Family. But look at the bright side. If Tavleen had remained one of Sonia Gandhi’s close friends, I doubt if we would have got an almost voyeuristic account on the role of India’s First Family, so up close and personal, in India’s recent history.


Nice guys don’t make good prime ministers – Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are good examples of this. Would the Bofors deal have dragged Rajiv down if he had been careful about what his ministers and bureaucrats were up to? And Manmohan Singh?

To me the Prime Minister, more and more, is beginning to resemble a cross between Roman Emperor Nero and the fictional character Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. On the one hand his government is in trouble and he fiddles, while on the other just like the comic French detective, he stumbles from one controversy to another, completely oblivious to the mess he leaves behind.

Honesty and decency are not enough to run a country of one billion people when one is dealing, day in and day out, with a bunch of crooks masquerading as honest politicians. Efficiency, competence and ruthlessness are also mandatory requirements and the PM seems to be way off the mark with these attributes.

He and his government are blundering along from one disaster to another, with the latest one being the Nira Radia phone tapping scandal involving a couple of media personalities and the names of industry stalwarts being dragged in. But we don’t hear anything from the man himself, while his office tells the media that he is clean and doing the best he can!

We hear that the PM is just a rubber stamp, and that the real power lies elsewhere – which may be true to some extent, but I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to the running of ministries. Had that been so, Singh would have quit a long time back. He’s too decent a bloke to allow himself to be led around by a chain and leash by the Gandhi family. Some politicians in the chain-and-leash category spring to mind – Giani Zail Singh, DK. Borooah, V.C. Shukla, R.K. Dhawan, S.S. Ray, H.K.L. Bhagat, M.L. Fotedar and Sitaram Kesri – but Manmohan Singh?

It just seems Singh is totally ineffectual and prefers to do nothing as his ministers and his allies, use their proximity to either Sonia or their own party chiefs and run riot. Raja is a good example. He used his proximity to DMK supremo Karunanidhi to loot the ex-chequer, secure in the knowledge that he could always hide behind the Tamil patriarch’s dhoti, in case the government decided to ask him uncomfortable questions.

Drawing parallels with the Raja case, if you see a man about to steal something or in an extreme case jump in front of a running train, what would you do? Politely tell him not to, or physically stop him from doing so? Was the written nudge to Raja enough? Shouldn’t he have stopped the former telecom minister, before things got out of hand? If Singh’s office says Raja was told to revamp the bidding process, it also means Singh knew all the facts. And if that be the case, the guy is an accomplice and guilty as hell along with his former minister.

More importantly, did the PM need to wait so long before asking Raja to quit? Strangely, this has been the case in every controversy this government has been involved in. Take the case of Tharoor and his tweets, the Commonwealth Games fiasco or even the Adarsh scam. In all these cases, the PM allowed things to drift till they reached a stage where he had to step in douse the flames. And is the Prime Minister a fire fighter or worse, a hostage negotiator, that he stalls for time, till the commandos reach the place and neutralise the criminal?

Now, even the Supreme Court is asking the PM the same question that we are. Let’s wait for the answer when Attorney General GE Vahanvati represents the P in the Supreme Court and, hopefully, clears the air.

In the meantime, step aside Chief Inspector Jack Clouseau, you’ve got competition!

Trust the politicians to indulge in their silly games of one-upmanship and buck-passing over the Bhopal gas tragedy. When they should have been going after Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, they’re going after each other. While the farce continues, over whether Rajiv knew or didn’t know about Anderson’s flight out of India, the real issues – proving succour to the sufferers and extradition on Anderson to India – has taken the backseat.

Rajiv Gandhi is up there with Him (or down there, as some others would have us believe), so even if he did, does it really matter, anymore? The two people – one being Rajiv himself and the other P.V. Narasimha Rao – who knew the answer to this question, are both dead. So you can interview all the bureaucrats who served under them and unless someone actually says he informed the prime minister, it’s always going to be hearsay. Of course, when did that stop the politicians from flying off on a tangent?

If Rajiv really didn’t know, it casts him in even poor light – that of a prime minister who didn’t know what his chief ministers and bureaucrats were doing. Even worse is the fact that the CMs took decisions without informing him or even taking his permission. It doesn’t do much for Rajiv’s credibility as a leader of the largest democracy in the world.

I’ve always been an admirer of Rajiv – not because he was Indira Gandhi’s son, but because I think it took guts to take up the job of running the country, post the riots. And the fact that he was an honest man-made it all the more difficult in an environment where a lot of people didn’t care too much for the basic tenets of law and justice.

Compared to his mother, who was in every sense a politician – cunning, conniving and crooked, Rajiv basically seemed an honest guy and a gentleman. The problem was a lot of the people around him were leftovers from his late mother’s regime, and all just like her. They – the politicians and bureaucrats – who branded him a crook, didn’t do so because they knew he was one, but probably because they knew that once branded a crook, he would spend his time fighting off the allegations. It would ensure that he stayed out of their way and allow them to pursue their one-act agenda of making money. That is exactly what happened, till he was cleared of all charges on the floor of the Lok Sabha.

In that scenario to run a country, must have been a difficult task. As the Bofors deal proved after doing the rounds of the various inquiry commissions and being flogged to death by the media these 25 years or so, was that Rajiv had not taken a penny in the deal. So while he was basically an honest man, or at least so it emerges from various accounts heard and read, he was pretty naive and inexperienced in his early years as Prime Minister. And by the time he figured out a few things he was gone.

While I agree that the manner, in which the events that occurred after the Bhopal gas disaster were handled, was very amateurish, nailing Rajiv is hardly the solution. To first arrest Warren Anderson and then escort him out of the country was one of the dumbest things to do – especially, when he was assured safe passage into and out of India by the government. But, it still wasn’t as dumb as the NDA Government’s decision to allow the terrorists in IC 814 to refuel and then let them fly off to Kandahar!

Do the pictures tell their own story? You know how as kids we went to the beach and got our hands and feet dirty while building sand castles? At least we did it when we were kids. Mr Prime Minister-in-Waiting is getting his hands dirty too. Don’t miss his shoes and his spanking clean outfit.
I wish Rahul Baba would also drink the water that’s available in the villages and tell us how it feels.
My father livd in a little village called Kansi Simri of Darbhanga district, in Bihar. I went there over a decade ago to see him just before he died.
During lunch when I asked for water, I was given something in a plastic bottle that had some green muccous like substance floating inside. My step-sister said “peejeye na, kuan ka paani hai, bahut saaf hain. hum sab lok yahin paani peetey hain.” I didn’t touch it, and she looked hurt when I refused. I know she mean’t well, and not wanting to look a snob, I gulped down a glass. By that evening, I was down and out! The next day I sent the driver to buy mineral water and fetch a doctor, who looked at me and said “Aap shaher wale log gaon ka paani kahe peetey hain?
There was no electricity in the village and I spend the entire week in candle light. The only time they had power was when they connected the TV to the car battery.
It’s ok for Mr Barack Obama to talk of Joe the Plumber, because Joe will at least get unemployment benefits if he loses his job. When Rahul baba refers to Kalawati Bandurkar and espouses her cause, he should keep that in mind. A jobless villager doesn’t have too many options before him if he is rendered penniless. He will throw his family in the village well and jump in as well.
Remember Kalahandi? Right from Indira Gandhi, to Rajiv to Sonia to Rahul – all of them visited the little Oriya village. Rajiv even spoke about the woman who was found selling her 14 year-old daughter to feed herself. He promised to help. But nothing’s changed. Some years ago the same woman was still found selling her kids.
So Mr PM-in_Waiting, the next time you try these stunts, take off the Reeboks (or whatever), drink the filthy water, and dump the mosquito repellant. Maybe then you’ll understand the real India.

Isn’t it time we gave the longest running ‘soap opera’ a decent burial? I’m not talking about the ones that you see on the telly, but the one that’s been flogged to death in Parliament and the newspapers. Yes, that’s right – Bofors.

I am surprised at the BJP. What’s the point of raking up Bofors now, so many years later? They obviously have no issues and it’s a great way to deflect attention from the Narendra Modi issue! Whether it was Q or some other X, Y, Z who took the money, it hardly matters anymore, does it? I don’t think anyone, except the sanctimonious humbugs we elect to power, care anymore about how much or how many were involved in this deal. At least, I don’t. Do you? And even these humbugs bring it up only around election time or in Parliament, where anyway nothing too constructive is ever achieved except walkouts and fistcuffs.

What will the politicians do, even if they find out who took the money? Arrest the people involved? Win Chadda is dead, and the others are too powerful, with too many political contacts to go after. And anway, the BJP’s pet hate, the late Rajiv Gandhi was absolved of any wrong doing, if I remember right, when the BJP Government was in power. I also remember that there were strong rumours around that time that the Congress and the BJP had done a deal to clear Rajiv’s name.

The money that was given as bribes or commissions, (whatever you want to call it) is probably spent and circulating worldwide! And considering what some of our politicians make today, it’s small change. Like the Babri Masjid issue, the Bofors scandal should also now be given a decent burial.