Indira's 100 yrs: The legend still endures

Within no time, however, Indira showed she was a leader of world class who would remain unbowed in the face of adversity.

Sunday, November 19, was the birth centenary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was India’s most consequential leader after her father Jawaharlal Nehru, our first PM, laid and nurtured the foundations of democracy in the country. And yet, the best President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do as a public gesture was to write one-line tweets. That is damning a nation-builder with faint praise. For a country whose public tradition is to observe landmark anniversaries, this amounted to an effort to obliterate history consistent with the policy line of the present government to pretend as if Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi — and particularly Indira — did not exist as much-admired national figures. Fortunately, the official cold-shouldering of arguably the most significant national figure in standing tall when the country faced tribulations, and recording monumental achievements and victories in the face of two wars, three famines, and the international oil shock, was sought to be compensated, if only very partially, by the Lok Sabha Speaker on Sunday paying homage at Parliament House to Indira Gandhi’s memory, where sidelined BJP stalwart L.K. Advani was the only one of note from the ruling party to be present.

Indira did not succeed her father as PM. She was made Prime Minister by the Congress bosses after the demise of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, also one of the most loved leaders of the country, as she was thought to be the most malleable of options. Within no time, however, Indira showed she was a leader of world class who would remain unbowed in the face of adversity. Although the country was poor, Indira would not permit Indian pride to be trampled upon by either the Americans or by her then Soviet allies — a far cry from today when our Prime Minister hopes to “rise to America’s expectations” — as he put it in Manila recently. Indira showed herself to be an international stateswoman of the first rank while United States President Richard Nixon and his top adviser Henry Kissinger were instigating China to block India militarily as the emergence of Bangladesh and its break from Pakistan was in progress. She held her nerve, showing extraordinary courage, and became internationally famous as the “Iron Lady”.

The RSS-BJP, and simple-minded historians and analysts, remember Indira only for her most controversial decision — imposition of the Emergency, when the normal democratic rights of citizens stood suspended and Opposition leaders were jailed in that 19-month period. Although taken in the most complex of situations, this was a serious negative. But in democracies outside India, it was noted that Mrs Gandhi herself lifted the Emergency and held transparent elections. That was an acknowledgment of a grave error. When history is suppressed for partisan ends, the government slips in the eyes of the people.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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