Friday, May 13, 2016

Indira Gandhi- an intriguing personality.

I have been always curious about life of India's third prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. She became prime minister for the first time after the death of second prime minister Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966. She held that position until 1977 and then again from 1980 to 1984 until she was assassinated by her own bodyguards. I read her biography written by her friend Mrs. Pupul Jaykar long time back and recently I finished reading another book about her by Katherine Frank. There is no doubt that anyone who reads about the life of such an intriguing personality will be overwhelmed by the series of events such people go through during their lives, I am no exception to this. Mrs. Jaykar's account is somewhat biased because of her close association to Mrs. Gandhi as a friend, but still it has lots of useful information which only a close confidant can tell about her, but she is very sympathetic towards most of her acts, good or bad. I suggest reading Katherine's book to anyone who want to read somewhat unbiased account about Mrs. Gandhi, I am sure people can find fault with this book also but it is relatively unbiased compared to other books on the same subject.

My first traceable memory about Indira Gandhi is the incident when I heard the news about her assassination. It was way back in 1984 when there were no 24 hour news channels, cell phones or social media. One of my friends told me that someone killed Indira Gandhi, maybe someone from his family heard it on radio and told him about it. But I didn't believe him, I ridiculed that guy and said to him that it was Mahatma Gandhi who was assassinated, that too long back not Indira so he must have confused the names, but I was wrong by evening it was clear that Indira Gandhi was killed by her own bodyguards. That time I did not know about her impact on Indian politics or anything about what resulted in the tragic end of her life. When I started reading about her, I came to know various aspects about her political and personal life. I never appreciated her economic policies. I still feel that nationalization of all major industries like banking, steel and cloth was a horrible idea. I feel that 'licence raj,' a term used to indicate excessive control of government over industrial sector  via totally unnecessary rules and regulations hampered India's industrial progress tremendously. These policies were largely responsible for India's pathetic industrial and technological growth during that time. I guess everyone knows about her special love for article-356 of Indian constitution, which she used very freely for political purpose, the declaration of emergency was another decision which very few can justify. Actually, one can find such anomalies in life of any powerful political leader, who has ruled any country for a considerable time and she is no exception to this. There is no doubt that she was a very powerful leader who wanted to have total control of her party and her government. As a woman she must have faced many challenges and issues in Indian society and I think she discovered her own ways, to deal with each of those issues. Whether those ways were right or wrong, it is up to us to decide. There is lots of gossip and trash talk about her personal life, some of it might be true, but many of those things really don't matter much as far as politician Indira Gandhi is considered.

Whenever I try to discuss about the impact of any political leader of her status in Indian politics, I find that most people talk based on information they receive from non reliable resources. They go more by perceptions, they don't even bother to cross check or confirm the information which they receive. Very few really study about the person they want to praise or criticize, rarely there is an informed opinion. This is true for any leader of today's politics as well as for any past leader including leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. People go by their perceptions rather than trying to find facts, these perceptions are based on region, religion or party their family supports. This makes most discussions very futile and at the end people end up arguing or abusing these people rather than trying to discuss and understand the person and their impact on India. I recommend readers who are interested in knowing about any person to read as much as possible about them. Try to read various accounts, positive and negative both to get the complete picture of that person. Life of Indira Gandhi was very interesting and her impact on Indian politics is huge, may be more than her father Jawaharlal Nehru. If you want to understand her, please read as many books and articles as possible about her, I am intrigued by her personality, even though I don't support many of her policies and actions, I am interested in knowing your opinion about her impact on India and Indian political culture.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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