Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rajiv Gandhi

Most people, including many Indians think that Rajiv Gandhi is son or grandson of the founder of the independent India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [Mahatma Gandhi].In fact Rajiv is no relation of M.K. Gandhi. He is the first son of Indira Gandhi, Indias prime minister [nemesis?] for 15 long years. Indira was the only daughter of our blue eyed boy, the first prime minister of independent India Jawaharlal Nehru. Then how did Rajiv become a Gandhi? Indira Priyadarshini Nehru [Indira’s full name] married a Parsi called Feroz Gandhi. Feroz and Indira could not get along and the marriage did not last long but succeeded in producing two boys, Rajiv the elder and Sanjay the younger. So by a different route both the daughter and grandson of Jawaharlal acquired the sir name Gandhi. This no doubt did them some good as many ignorant Indians thought them to be old man Gandhi’s relatives and so can do no wrong and thus voted for them!

Indira Gandhi was assassinated 25 years ago and bereft of leadership the congress party roped in Rajiv Gandhi who was then a happy airlines Pilot, and made him the prime minister. For few days after the assassination, the country was in chaos and that is the time when the country was literally burning and Sikh’s were being targeted and murdered [Indira’s assassins were Sikhs], Rajiv made the now infamous statement, when a giant falls the earth tremors’ meaning that the riots were a consequence of the giant[Indira] falling. I have not come across a more stupid statement to make given the situation in the country. I still remember the shock I went through when Sikhs who have done so much for this nation being murdered in cold blood by the mostly Hindu riff raff. And here was an important person, future PM of the country making such a stupid remark.

It is twenty years since the fall of Rajiv Gandhi. He too was assassinated. This time the dastardly act was done by Tamil militants whose case Rajiv stoutly and rightly had opposed. I had admired Nehru and he was my child hood hero. History made me revise my opinion. His daughter came to power when I had grown up and began my life as an adult. I went through the pains as a result of her terrible rule and came to dislike her and that dislike still stands. The dislike was carried forward to his son too and I took to looking anything that Rajiv did as a prime minister with suspicion. Now with 20 years gone since he died I have come to believe that he was the best of the three Nehru/ Gandhi’s in prime ministerial performance. He was not exceptional but was better than the mother and grandfather who did nothing to improve the country and in fact steadily took the nation down the economic slide. My generation bore the brunt of their policies and therefore the grudge.

His freshness at looking at problems helped in his performance, He was unlike his mother and grandfather, not taken up with socialism and had a healthy respect for enterpreunership.He knew that he country can only progress if the economy opened up and the beginnings of what we see today started when he was the PM. Nevertheless his tenure was none extra ordinary and he could not shake up the ponderous and corrupt beurocracy and was forced to get along. He also made some blunders and the one which ultimately cost him his life was the unwanted interference into the affairs of SriLanka. Sending Indian army to fight Tamil tigers was his worse blunder. The other was the stink of Bofors gun deal. That it helped his Italian relatives is public knowledge though successive governments have tried hard to obliterate the traces to keep the Gandhi honor going.

But when he lasted he was different especially when compared to his mother.

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