Tag Archive for 'Rajiv Gandhi'

More than a kiss-and-tell

Namita Bhandare on the website Newslaundry: Three reasons why you should read Tavleen Singh’s Durbar and why it ultimately fails.

If you’ve been following Tavleen Singh’s weekly column in The Indian Express, you should be fairly familiar with her politics. At the very least, you would be aware of her antipathy to Congress policies, or more specifically to Sonia Gandhi. Yet, regardless of whether you agree with her politics or not, there are three reasons why you should read Durbar.

First, Ms Singh is a been there-done that journalist, covering every important event in contemporary India, and covering it the old-fashioned, hard way: by train, staying in dusty circuit houses, riding through pot-holed constituencies, sneaking into curfew-bound Amritsar, going the extra mile for The Story. You have to respect that and you have to concede that Ms Singh has certainly earned her gripes. more

Interpreting Sonia Gandhi

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph:

In Zareer Masani’s recent memoir of his parents, And All is Said, he quotes a letter written to him by his mother in 1968. “Yesterday we went to Mrs Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his wife,” wrote Shakuntala Masani, adding, “I can’t tell you how dim she is, and she comes from a working-class family. I really don’t know what he saw in her.”

And All is Said was widely reviewed when it was published, but no reviewer seems to have picked up on this comment. Shakuntala Masani was the daughter of Sir J.P. Srivastava, once one of the most influential men in India, an industrialist with wide business interests and a member of the viceroy’s executive council besides. Shakuntala’s husband, Minoo Masani, was a well-educated Parsi from a family of successful professionals, who was himself a leading politician and writer. By upbringing and marriage Shakuntala Masani was a paid-up member of the Indian elite. Hence the condescending remarks about the working-class Italian whom Rajiv Gandhi had chosen as his wife.

The object of Mrs Masani’s contempt has, for some time now, been the most powerful person in India. How did she achieve that power, and what has she done with it? Sonia Gandhi’s rise in politics has been at least as unlikely as Barack Obama’s. Moving to Cambridge to learn English (but not at the university), she met and fell in love with Rajiv Gandhi. He brought her to India, where she lived a life of quiet domesticity, bringing up her children and attending to her husband. Through the turmoil of the 1970s, through the Emergency and its aftermath, Rajiv Gandhi stayed well out of politics. His stated ambition, at this stage, was to be promoted from flying Avros between Delhi and Lucknow to piloting Boeings on the more prestigious Delhi-Bombay run. More

When Rajiv and Sonia went for ice cream

Heather Timmons at NYT / India Ink:

One summer day in the early 1970s, a photographer named Baldev Kapoor snapped a shot of a young, handsome couple enjoying one of Delhi’s most common warm weather pursuits: eating ice cream near the India Gate monument.

It was no ordinary couple, of course — it was a recently married Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi.

The photographer, who goes by his first name, has chronicled India’s history through a camera lens for more than five decades, from the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Dalai Lama’s escape to India, through the establishment of controversial “family planning” camps and the Emergency, until the present day visits of foreign leaders including United States president Barack Obama.

While some of Baldev’s images are archived with photo agency Sygma, now Corbis, many others, like the iconic ice cream shot above, are stored on slide film, tucked in envelopes he keeps in his New Delhi home. More:

The Bofors story, 25 years later…

In The Hoot, Sten Lindstrom tells Chitra Subramaniam-Duella on why he chose to turn whistle-blower

April 2012 marks the 25 anniversary of the Bofors-India media revelations, which began on April 16, 1987 with revelations on Swedish state radio. The Hoot presents an interview with the man who decided to leak over 350-documents to former Indian journalist Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, then with The Hindu and later with The Indian Express and The Statesman. The documents included payment instructions to banks, open and secret contracts, hand written notes, minutes of meetings and an explosive diary. They led to the electoral defeat of an Indian prime minister and blew gaping holes into a Swedish prime minister’s record as a champion of peace and disarmament. Above all, they formed the basis for the first ever transfer of secret bank documents from Switzerland to India.  more

Sonia Gandhi: A new biography

Sonia Gandhi: An Extraordinary Life, An Indian Destiny by Rani Singh; foreword by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Tom Wright in WSJ blogs:

Last year, Congress stalwarts complained that Spanish author Javier Moro’s “The Red Saree,” a fictionalized account of Ms. Gandhi’s life, was libelous in part due to one section where Ms. Gandhi considers quitting India to return to Italy. Roli Books, the New Delhi-based publisher, has demurred over bringing out an English translation of the book in the Indian market amid threats by Congress of legal action.

And a few years back, plans for a film of Ms. Gandhi’s life, starring Monica Bellucci, the Italian actress, were shelved after complaints from Congress apparatchiks that the script was to be based on an unauthorized biography by an Indian journalist.

The latest work to tackle Ms. Gandhi’s story, “Sonia Gandhi: An Extraordinary Life, An Indian Destiny,” which was publicly launched Monday by Palgrave Macmillan and will be available in India next week, is unlikely to face such challenges.

Rani Singh, a former BBC journalist, has written a favorable, at times cloying, account of Ms. Gandhi’s rise to power from unlikely beginnings that does little to challenge the notion in Congress circles that those bearing the Nehru-Gandhi name stand, like a royal family, above criticism.

Ms. Singh’s narrative is strongest when recounting Ms. Gandhi’s early life. Today, Ms. Gandhi is known as a sphinx-like politician who rarely shows her emotions and eschews the media. Ms. Singh ekes out a different portrait of a young Sonia studying with nuns in Italy and then at an English language school in Cambridge, where she meets Rajiv Gandhi, her future husband.

In one episode, Ms. Gandhi tips a plate of spaghetti over a drunk friend’s head after he added sodium glutamate to the dish as a prank. Ms. Gandhi is drawn as a beautiful “well turned out” individual who enjoyed socializing and was never short of money. More:

Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi

Samar Halarnkar in Hindustan Times:

The NaMo vs RaGa battle is coming in 2014 — and before that to your television screen. Though rising local chieftains could upset the hopes of either, there is little doubt that one of the two will play a pivotal role in creating or leading a new government, whether single-party or coalition.

Three recent polls on possible prime ministers clearly indicate a Gandhi-Modi race. RaGa is ahead in two, NaMo in one.

The problem for India is that a tussle between the two in today’s polarised times will probably lead to a race where regardless of who wins, India’s minorities may suffer.

Both Gandhi and Modi, after all, represent and lead legacies of blood in an era of a new, often ugly, nationalism.

In 1984, mobs urged on by Congress leaders butchered or burnt alive 2,700 Sikhs in Delhi alone over four days after Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards. In 2002, mobs urged on by BJP leaders killed more than 1,200 Muslims over six days (though attacks continued later for about three months) in Gujarat after 58 Hindus were roasted alive in a train.

In both cases, the police either ignored or were complicit in the massacres. Investigations have been sabotaged, and senior leaders of both parties have evaded justice.

Last August, the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court that the Delhi Police were conducting “sham investigations and farce prosecutions” to shield Congress MP Sajjan Kumar. In Gujarat, where more than 250 Hindus were also killed, most convictions have been of Muslims.

A concerned Supreme Court started monitoring ten cases directly in 2009; Monday’s judgement, perhaps reflecting new reluctance, was one of those, though the Supreme Court will continue to monitor the other nine.

Like Modi, the Gandhis have never apologised for the riots. Rahul’s father Rajiv famously said after the anti-Sikh pogrom: “When a giant tree falls, the earth trembles.” Both legacies lay bare India’s proclivity to reward orchestrated majority violence with electoral success. More:

The princely state of India

In Outlook, an except from India: A Portrait — An intimate biography of 1.2 billion people by Patrick French:

It had first become apparent to me during the 2004 election campaign, and it niggled again now. The problem was the first-time MPs. With their spanking faces and sense of bland entitlement, these young men and women were treated with reverence by the Indian media, although their achievement was usually to have shared genes with an earlier leader. I watched one of these new MPs on television as he drove through the dust of his inherited family constituency in an enormous Pajero, turning now and then to a waiting camera with a purposeful frown and saying things like “I want to help these people, like my father did” or “We are going to make India No. 1.” He looked like a giant baby who had been dressed up and put in a big buggy and sent off on an adventure.

The disjuncture between these fresh fruits and the hopes of the many millions of individuals they were supposedly representing was massive. In person, they were perfectly affable and often idealistic, but as a phenomenon, they were damaging. Was Indian national politics becoming hereditary, with power passing to a few hundred families, even as the elections themselves became more vibrant and open?

In the case of the new contenders, all you needed to know was the surname. It seemed India’s strong women politicians were not reproducing themselves, for most of the new MPs were only sons, probably on account of the social convention in the 1970s that educated people should have small families. ‘Hum do, hamare do’—‘We two, and our two’—was the slogan. Rahul was the son of Rajiv Gandhi, Jitin was the son of Jitendra Prasada, Jyotiraditya was the son of Madhavrao Scindia, Sachin was the son of Rajesh Pilot and brother-in-law of Omar Abdullah, who was the grandson of Sheikh Abdullah and son of Farooq Abdullah; Akhilesh was the son of the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Dushyant was the son of Vasundhara Raje, the former BJP chief minister of Rajasthan and sister of Madhavrao Scindia. And so it continued. More:

So Nehru killed Gandhi!!!

Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express recalls a meeting with the former RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a right-wing Hindu organisation) chief K.S. Sudarshan. Sudarshan is in the news for calling Sonia Gandhi a CIA agent; he accused her of plotting assassinations of her husband Rajiv Gandhi and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi. Both BJP and RSS have distanced themselves from his statements.

The key to understanding India’s plight, he said, right elbow resting thoughtfully on his raised knee, is to understand the Nehru parivar, how they have “conspired” to take control of this country, and to systematically destroy all that should have been dear to all “Hindustanis”. He started the story of this “conspiracy” from Gandhi’s assassination for which the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were “unfairly blamed”. This was the usual RSS lament I thought, until he asked me, eyes wide with genuine disbelief: “So, do you also believe that Godse killed Gandhi?”“Is there any doubt?” I asked. “The courts convicted him.”“You people are so gullible,” he said. “You do not even look at the facts.”Then he started to explain the “facts”. See that picture of Godse with folded hands in front of Gandhi. “If he had actually shot him, the bullet would have entered from a higher point in his body and exited from a lower point,” he said. He asked me, further, if I knew the difference between someone being shot with a revolver and a pistol.“I am not sure I do,” I said. “But how is that important?”“Because the entry wound of a pistol shot is smaller than the exit wound and, in Gandhi’s case, it was the other way round. Yet they claimed Godse shot him with a pistol.”“And how is that important?” I asked, now worried that our dinner, where we were supposed to discuss areas that our interview would explore the next morning, was going into some kind of jadoo territory.“Because, from all evidence, Godse did not kill Gandhi. And you know what,” he continued, “Nehru made sure no post-mortem was conducted on Gandhi’s body. Because he did not want the truth to come out.”“So then, Sudarshanji, who killed Gandhi?” I asked.“Why ask me?” he said, with a smile that was as conspiratorial as QED. “You can see who stood to benefit from Gandhi’s assassination. Everybody knows Gandhi was going to make Patel prime minister.”“But, Sudarshanji, somebody did shoot Gandhi in front of hundreds of people,” I asked.“Yes, somebody did. But not saamne se, kintu peechhe se,” he explained. “It was a do-dhaari ki talwar (two-edged sword),” a conspi-racy to give the Nehru parivar unfettered power and to blame the Hindus for killing Gandhi.“And how do you know this, Sudarshanji?” I asked.“There was this book written by a former police officer in Andhra Pradesh. I believe he exposed all these facts,” he said. Of course, he said he had not read the book himself, did not remember its title or the name of its author and closed the argument with the finality of death, literally, by saying that the supposed cop-writer, whose name nobody could recall, had also obviously been dead for some time. More:

The human face of our national idols

In his book A Contemporary’s Estimate, Walter Crocker says Nehru would push and slap the people who got too close to him in public, as Indians tend to do. Aakar Patel in Mint Lounge:

Indians revere their leaders, but don’t read them. This comes naturally to a culture that worships physical forms, rather than ideas. But it means that the leader remains unexamined. Here are some facts about great people that we would rather not know.

In his book A Contemporary’s Estimate, Walter Crocker says Nehru would push and slap the people who got too close to him in public, as Indians tend to do.

Nehru was irritable, but also bombastic and verbose, making too many speeches (often three a day) and spending too much time lecturing the West. He was careless with his time, once giving 3 hours to a high school delegation from Australia, while his ministers waited.

Crocker, who served in Delhi as Australia’s ambassador, thought Nehru “had no sympathy for Gandhi’s religion, or for religiousness at all”. But there is a photograph in Mushirul Hasan’s The Nehrus that shows Jawaharlal entering the Ganga wearing a janoi, the Brahmin’s sacred thread. The thread looks new, however, and it’s not visible in two other photographs of him bare-chested, one in swimming trunks and the other doing shirshasan.

Nehru’s annexation of Goa was illegal, though only Rajagopalachari and Jayaprakash Narayan opposed it. Crocker writes what many of us will not believe: If Portugal had insisted on a plebiscite, Goans would have preferred Portuguese rule to Indian. More:

India’s young and poor rally to another Gandhi

Jim Yardley on Rahul Gandhi in The New York Times:

Rahul Gandhi’s helicopter descends out of the boiling afternoon sky and a restless, sweat-soaked crowd of 100,000 people suddenly surges to life. Men rush forward in the staggering heat. Teenage boys wave a white bedsheet bearing a faintly cheeky request: We Want to Meet the Prince of India.

Mr. Gandhi climbs onto a special viewing stand in this isolated corner of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and offers a boyish wave. Not yet 40, Mr. Gandhi is the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, the grandson of India’s fourth prime minister and the son of India’s seventh prime minister. His audience includes some of the poorest people in India.

“I’m standing here with you,” he declared to loud cheers, speaking for about 15 minutes before he left, waving through the window of his helicopter. “I can come with you anywhere and everywhere to fight with you.”

India is Mr. Gandhi’s family inheritance. Seemingly the only uncertainty is when he will collect it. He holds no major post in government, yet rumors persist that the governing Indian National Congress Party — whose president is his mother, Sonia Gandhi — might install him as prime minister before the current government expires in 2014. The job’s current occupant, Manmohan Singh, recently had to bat away retirement questions.

Yet despite his aura of inevitability, Mr. Gandhi largely remains an enigma. India is an emerging power, facing myriad domestic and international issues, but he remains deliberately aloof from daily politics. His thoughts on many major issues — as well as the temperature of the fire in his belly — remain mostly unknown. More

The catholicity of Sonia

Aakar Patel in Mint-Lounge:

Born in December 1946, Sonia got her certificate at 18. She’s had no education since. Her important qualification is for English, but those who watch her on television are struck by how poor her English is. She cannot express complex ideas in it.

The Nehru-Gandhis were all dull students. Rajiv failed in Cambridge, Indira failed in Oxford, Sanjay failed in high school and Nehru didn’t shine at Trinity.

It’s unlikely Sonia knows much about world history. If she has read Seneca and Cicero she doesn’t show it. Those unburdened by education, like Sanjay Gandhi, find it easier to view things as either good or bad. How has this affected Sonia’s decisions? We shall see later.

Sonia is slim and fit. At the dining table, she is probably disciplined. She looks younger than 64. Her aesthetic sense may be seen in her understated saris. She dresses in neat perfection, like an Italian woman. Her manner isn’t brusque. With the press she’s polite, and listens before responding. Her tone rarely changes. When attacking BJP leaders, she uses the oblique unko or unhonein. This distances her from them, while BJP is crude and direct with her. Her Hindi is broken, but she persists with it through a sentence, unlike urban Indians who mix Hindi with English. More:

A history of India, as told by the Budget

From The Wall Street Journal:

Below are excerpts from major national budget speeches in the 63 years of India’s nationhood.

1. 1947-1948

“The long-term effects of the division of the country still remain to be assessed and we are too near the events to take a dispassionate view. When the ashes of controversy have died down, it will be for the future historian to judge the wisdom of the step and its consequences on the destiny of one fifth of the human race.”

–R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, finance minister, Nov.26, 1947

2. 1949-1950

“Although this is the fourth year since the cessation of hostilities, the return of normal conditions, without which it is impossible to expand production and develop trade, seems still as far off as ever. Over large parts of the world, conditions remain disturbed and the progress of recovery from the ravages of the war is painfully slow. In Europe the impasse in Berlin, the civil war in Greece and the emergence of two rival camps among the countries that fought the war as allies are symptomatic of the abnormal conditions which still prevail.”

–John Mathai, finance minister, Feb.28, 1949


The politics of Amitabh Bachchan

Why does the greatest superstar in Indian cinema history hanker so much for political patronage? From Open:

In his biography of Sonia Gandhi, journalist Rashid Kidwai writes of a winter day on 13 January 1968, when Sonia Maino landed in Delhi to marry Rajiv Gandhi. It was Amitabh who received her at the airport. In a 1985 interview, Sonia said, “Mummy (Indira) had asked me to stay with the Bachchans so that I could learn Indian customs and culture from close up. Slowly I came to learn a lot from that family. Teji Aunty is my second… no, my third mother. My first is my mother in Italy, the other was my mother-in-law Mrs Indira Gandhi, the third is Teji Aunty. Amit and Bunty (Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh) are my brothers.”

In 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Amitabh was one of the men drafted by Rajiv into politics. The two men had known each other since childhood—Amitabh was four and Rajiv two when they met at a fancy dress party at the Bachchan home in Allahabad. “Ma says he messed up his pants,” Amitabh was to recall.

But the mess that was to follow their entry to politics was more than Bachchan could stand. It took no more than a few years for controversies such as Bofors to surface, where Amitabh’s name figured along with Rajiv’s. It was only then that this son of a Sikh mother, who had given little thought to fighting the 1984 election for the Congress in the wake of the massacres of Sikhs, chose to quit. More:

From INC to Congress Inc.

It was a party of educated professionals once, and Rahul Gandhi wants to make it so again. But his father before him had tried, and he will succeed only if he finds a new way to do it. Jatin Gandhi and Hartosh Singh Bal in Open:

Indeed, as an organisation, the current Congress faces the same challenge any family-run business faces—how to bring about greater professionalisation while retaining control. The need to do so is not in doubt, spelt out as it is by the first of Ramachandran’s working hypotheses: family businesses with a higher level of professionalism practised both in business and by the family are likely to perform better and perpetuate their success over a longer time frame.

This, though, is easier said than done. Within the Congress, the idea has been in the making since Rajiv Gandhi’s ascent to power. But what was then a limited initiative to bring in a few friends with professional qualifications has now given way to a far more ambitious approach. Already, in the transition from Rajiv to Rahul, Sonia Gandhi has managed to implement an important step. She has placed a ‘professional CEO’ such as Manmohan Singh in charge of what managers call a ‘key result area’ (KRA): governance. Since 22 May 2004, Manmohan Singh has wrought professionalism across several governance functions, but his party itself has remained much the same. More:

[Image: Open]

The Idea of Indira

Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express:

Time magazine cover (November 1984) on the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Time magazine cover (November 1984) on the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

What makes it even more challenging to understand a personality like Indira Gandhi even 25 years after her passing is the fact that you are not talking about one person, but three. Or, to put it more accurately, not one prime minister, but three. Indira Gandhi had two spells in power, but in fairness you have to break her first tenure (1966-77) also into two, with a changing of chapters at the end of the Bangladesh war in December 1971. This gives us three reigns of almost equal length, 1966-71, 1972-77 and 1980-end 1984. In each one, it was the same personality in office but a different prime minister. Mrs Gandhi was no doctrinaire figure, with all her wisdom or ideas inherited from her father. She changed and evolved, often for the better, sometimes not quite so. To that extent, she was an original among leaders who serve long tenures. Think of her, in fact, as a complete opposite of another titan of her times – and one she shared so much mutual fondness with – the unchanging Fidel Castro. Remember that wonderful picture of their joyous hug at the Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi in 1983?

Unlike her son Rajiv, subsequently, Indira was not a reluctant politician. Even when Lal Bahadur Shastri stepped in after Nehru in 1964, many in the Congress saw her as a successor soon enough. She was already the minister for information and broadcasting, but, just like Rajiv, she was fated to be catapulted to prime ministership, unexpectedly with Shastri’s sudden death in Tashkent. Her first tenure, therefore, reflected some of that under-preparedness and diffidence. This is what persuaded Ram Manohar Lohia to use for her the description, “goongi gudiya” (dumb doll). She made the entire opposition pay for that over her “three” tenures in power. And how. More:

Prabhakaran — The Economist obit

From the Economist:

THE body of the young man lay on a scarlet bier. He was in his colonel’s uniform and beret, with white gloves that made his hands seem enormous beside his emaciated body. His face was set in a rictus of death that was somewhat like a smile. But the portly, mustachioed man who stood looking at him, in a short-sleeved white shirt and blue trousers, hands clasped awkwardly in front of him, was not smiling.

Velupillai Prabhakaran always said this was the moment, four years into the war in September 1987, when he gave up any faith in non-violence. The young man before him, Thileepan, had fasted to death to highlight the plight of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority and their demands for independence. The Sinhalese majority had paid no attention. So Prabhakaran pledged himself and his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to a path of unremitting carnage. More:

RIP: Vishwanath Pratap Singh

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

vpsingh2Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, who formed a non-Congress government at the Centre that dethroned Rajiv Gandhi in the 1989 general elections, died in Delhi on Thursday after a prolonged illness.

Singh was Uttar Pradesh chief minister during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s tenure. He resigned, owning ‘moral responsibility’ after a series of dacoit attacks (including one that claimed the life of his brother).

Singh was rehabilitated into the political mainstream by Rajiv Gandhi who made him his finance minister; a man who was widely known as the Mr Clean of Indian politics, vowing to cleanse the system of corruption. He ordered a series of raids to look into the financial affairs of such heavyweight businessmen as Dhirubhai Ambani. But when it was revealed that Singh’s investigators had hired — without Cabinet authorisation — the services of an American investigative agency called Fairfax to look into the affairs of Ambani, things began to unravel.

Towards the end of 1986, two letters allegedly written by the head of Fairfax to Singh’s investigating officers surfaced. They gave the impression that the agency was not only investigating Ambani but also Amitabh Bachchan (then Rajiv Gandhi’s closest friend) and even, worse, Sonia Gandhi. Singh said the letters were forgeries, but the damage was done and the relationship of trust he seemed to share with Rajiv Gandhi had been breached. Singh was transferred out of the finance ministry into the defence ministry where, of course, another hot potato awaited him in the form of what would eventually come to be known as Bofors.

The rest as they say is history. Singh marched out of the Congress and into the waiting arms of the Jan Morcha (where Rajiv Gandhi’s now estranged cousin, Arun Nehru awaited him). Amitabh Bachchan resigned from Parliament — and Singh easily won the byelection for Allahabad caused by Bachchan’s resignation. Giani Zail Singh, then the Indian president, joined hands with Rajiv’s worst critics (The Indian Express, Nusli Wadia and Ramnath Goenka). Rajiv himself lost the huge mandate he had won in the 1984 general election (which he won largely on a sympathy vote created by the assassination of his mother). He lost the 1989 general election as Bofors became synonymous with corruption (though to this day there is not a shred of evidence linking Rajiv Gandhi or his family to any sort of illegal kickbacks by A.B. Bofors).

As the head of the Janata Dal which won 141 seats, V.P. Singh became prime minister with the support of both the BJP and the Left. But this government was doomed to self-destroy, which it did through a series of crises, including Kashmir where militants kidnapped the daughter of Singh’s home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (the government agreed to swap militants for her release, sowing the seeds of insurgency which persist to this day).

In the end, the man was known as Mr Clean lost the sympathy of India’s middle classes with his decision to push ahead with the Mandal Commission (increasing caste-based reservations in educational institutions). A horrified nation watched as angry, protesting students began committing suicide by immolating themselves to protest against Mandal. It is perhaps Singh’s only legacy to continue to have ramifications and implications to this day.

By the time, the Congress returned to power under Narasimha Rao, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, it was all over for V.P. Singh and politically at least he had become yesterday’s man as a new set of power brokers and career politicians took over in Delhi (though he would resurface from time to time from his hospital bed). In 1991 he was diagnosed with blood cancer, and V.P. Singh, once the most powerful man in India, slowly withdrew into his private world, writing poetry and painting. Here’s a sample:

Every time I wake up

It is night.

The world is just beyond

My hospital window

My only company

A distant window light.

That goes off.

First details go

Then colour

Finally even form

All that is left is a blank

In the fog of age.

With only my echo to tell me

How far away I am.

All have fallen asleep

None to tell me

‘Go to sleep.’

For more obituaries and tributes click here, here and here.

Priyanka Gandhi visits father’s assassin

(Updated on April 16)


Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination is making news once again. This time it is because of his daughter Priyanka Vadra’s visit to a Vellore prison, where the only living member of Rajiv’s assassination squad, Nalini Sriharan, is lodged…

…”It’s completely personal, I don’t want to say anything about it. I needed to make peace with all the violence in my life,” she said.

“I don’t believe in anger or violence and I refuse to let it overpower me. Meeting Nalini (Sriharan) was my way of coming to terms with my father’s death,” Ms Gandhi said.


And on CNN-IBN: My family doesn’t carry anger, hatred: Rahul Gandhi

The Priyanka-Nalini meeting is a moment of grace and humanity, rare in our public life says an editorial in The Indian Express

It is an almost novelistic encounter — Priyanka Gandhi meeting Nalini Sriharan, one of her father’s assassins in Vellore jail, “to make peace with the violence”. Nalini, an LTTE rebel, was part of the squad that killed Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 during an election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, and would not even have lived if Sonia Gandhi had not pleaded for clemency on her behalf because she had a young child. Priyanka asked Nalini why her father had been so brutally killed, whether Nalini had known him — talking to her, trying to come to terms with his death and refusing to let “anger and violence overpower” her.


Finally, Nalini believes her sins have been cleansed following her meeting with Priyanka, writes Radha Venkatesan in Times of India

To the world, it was a stunning revelation to learn that Priyanka Vadra had met Nalini, serving a life term for involvement in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

For Priyanka, it was an attempt to attain closure, to come to terms with the tragic loss of her beloved father. But how did Nalini feel about the meeting?

According to the account she gave to her brother, it was a singularly emotional encounter. “I feel all my sins have been washed off by Priyanka’s visit…I feel she has pardoned me by calling on me at the prison…. I am indebted to her all my life,” she told her younger brother P S Bhagyanathan a few days after her March 19 meeting with Priyanka behind the majestic walls of Vellore prison.