Congress celebrated the 75th birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi with big pomp and show in Delhi where it’s workers from all over India were invited. Every senior leader of the party spoke at the event about how Rajiv Gandhi was such a great leader who had a vision(?) for India and how he transformed India. They have all the right to do so. Rajiv Gandhi was an energetic leader and one of the youngest Prime Minister of India. By the virtue of the chair he occupied, he deserves respect.
During her speech at the event, the newly appointed interim President of Congress & Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi gave a passionate speech which many of us may have heard. At one point, she said that he ‘never used power to create an atmosphere of fear’ in the country and how Rajiv ‘stood for strong institutions’. I was stunned at the brazenness of these statements. Well, these statements certainly need a reality check.
How Rajiv Gandhi ‘never’ used power to create an atmosphere of fear, was visible in very first days of his first tenure when thousands of Sikhs were massacred across India under his watch. He justified those murders by saying, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Till date, we witness how all the accused in those gruesome killings continue to be big leaders of the Congress.
Now let’s talk about the strength of institutions. In 1986, the Supreme Court gave a judgement granting an old Muslim lady named Shah Bano the right to get some amount as maintenance from her ex-husband who had divorced her. It was a landmark judgement because it went beyond regressive personal laws to deliver justice to a widow. But so much was Rajiv’s faith in the institutions, that he brought a legislation in Parliament and on the basis of the brute majority that he had, overturned the judgement and denied the right to basic compensation to a woman.
That he used INS Virat for holidays with family and friends is no hidden story now, showing another example of his respect for institutions.
The Post Office Amendment Bill 1986, moved by Rajiv Gandhi government, on being passed, would have given the central government the power to read any letter which was being handled by Indian Postal Department. In that era when there were no emails or SMS, a letter was the only way of sending information and Indian Post was the only agent. Rajiv Gandhi got the bill passed in Parliament but thanks to the wisdom of the then President Gyani Zail Singh, who didn’t sign it for two years, the bill didn’t become a reality. Subsequent government of VP Singh withdrew it. This was another glaring example of Rajiv’s commitment to ‘freedom & liberty of people’.
An amazing example of Rajiv’s immense respect for democracy and institutions was the infamous case of a chemical leak from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. Thousands of people got killed by the dangerous leak and the after-effects of which are still visible on some. The main culprit, Warren Anderson, was escorted by then Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh to the airport on orders of Rajiv Gandhi, who later ensured that Anderson flew back to the US safely. Later it was discovered that it happened under a Quid Pro Quo agreement due to which the then US President Ronald Reagen granted amnesty to Adil Shaharyar, a long-standing friend of Rajiv Gandhi.
Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘immense faith in democratic institutions’ was also seen in the way his government conducted assembly elections of Jammu & Kashmir in 1987. Every single rule was broken to ensure that his alliance partner and friend Farooq Abdullah became Chief Minister of the state of J&K. The process of elections and the discontent that spread after gross manipulations in their results are considered to be the biggest reasons for the unrest that started in Kashmir in the late 80s. To make his friend the Chief Minister, Rajiv killed democracy but is being hailed as protector of institutions. What a mockery of truth!
Mrs Sonia Gandhi & the Congress should realise that in New India, false narratives don’t work any more. New India is young, sharp, and is equipped with facts and hence it asks tough questions. So better be prepared in future, Madame!
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