How two prodigal sons impacted Congress prospects
Posted September 28, 2014on:
Congress lost the Lok Sabha elections for the first time in 1977. During the Emergency that preceded the elections, Indira Gandhi had literally abdicated her authority as Prime Minister to her younger son Sanjay Gandhi who was petulant, had little regard for law and had been dubbed as the ‘unconstitutional authority’ in the Indira Gandhi regime.
If the Congress barely mustered 44 members in Lok Sabha in 2014, the blame is put by many Congress leaders – openly by some and in hushed tones by others – on Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Here are accounts of two persons, one close to Indira Gandhi and the other to Sonia Gandhi, on how they perceived the roles of Sanjay Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
B K Nehru, ICS and an outstanding administrator and diplomat, was not only a cousin of Indira Gandhi but also her close adviser on internal and foreign affairs. Captain Amarinder Singh, now Deputy Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and former chief minister of Punjab, has had close and prolonged association with (late) Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
I did discuss Sanjay’s doings with Rajiv. He was as discontented, disgusted and depressed with what was happening as was everybody not belonging to the small clique of Sanjay’s buddies and supporters. I asked Rajiv why his mother allowed all this to happen; he said that the fact was that she had abdicated in favour of her son. She exercised none of the powers of the Prime Minister, they had all been delegated to Sanjay. From what I myself had seen it seemed that she was operating as if she were the President and the Foreign Minister. It seemed that she did not know what was happening inside the country. Fori Nehru ( B K Nehru’s wife), not as circumspect as myself… had no hesitation in telling her (Indira Gandhi) of what she had heard in Chandigarh about the compulsory sterilisation of young boys and old men and of the discontent this was causing. To this Indira’s answer was to take her head in her hands and say ‘What am I to do? What am I to do? They tell me nothing.’
–B K Nehru in in his memoirs ‘Nice Guys Finish Second’, quoted by Natwar Singh in his autobiography ‘One Life Is Not Enough’
I tried my best at that stage to tell him (Rahul Gandhi) that do not do these elections (inner-party experiments). I spoke to the Congress president, who, too, spoke to him. But he had made up his mind that something had to be put in place and shouldn’t be interfered with. I told him pre-2012 that ‘You will divide each village, which will have its own Youth Congress, and that means it will get divided right to the top; even parents take sides in such a situation, we will have problem’. He didn’t listen and that is exactly what happened.
…She (Priyanka Gandhi) and Rahul have their own abilities and together they can make a very good team to help the Congress president. I have known them since they were children because they studied with my daughter and son. Priyanka is a very determined young lady, you saw the way she carried herself when her grandmother died and when her father died…I have never worked with Rahul because he takes care of the Youth Congress only, though he has been the vice-president for some time.
–Captain Amarinder Singh in ‘Idea Exchange’ in The Indian Express of June 15, 2014