Vinod Mehta on Sanjay Gandhi. In Outlook:
While Sanjay and Indira were fighting legal battles in court, at home the two brothers and the two wives were barely on speaking terms. Relations between Rajiv and Sanjay were always “chilly” and between Sonia and Maneka “frigid”. Indira Gandhi sought to remain neutral, desperately trying to maintain some semblance of family peace. One morning, B.K. Nehru and his wife Flori were breakfasting with the Gandhis. “Sanjay went into a rage and threw his plate across the room when Sonia failed to cook his eggs in the precise way he had ordered.” Indira did not say a word to Sanjay.
In January 1980, Indira Gandhi won back power from the Janata clowns, who gifted her the prime minister’s chair meekly. Morarji Desai led the strange cocktail which had dethroned Indira. Instead of concentrating on governance, they set out to ‘punish’ their nemesis by hook or by crook. This publicly stated goal was combined with vicious infighting. It would be fair to say the Janata leaders fell on their own swords with great facility. Indira Gandhi stood and won from two constituencies, Rae Bareli and Medak; Sanjay was elected comfortably from Amethi.
With mother and son back in power, furious speculation raged in early 1980 as to what role the mother had planned for her son. Also, whether both had absorbed the egregious lessons of the Emergency—primarily excesses in the family planning and slum clearance programmes. Would a measure of civility replace the dreaded midnight knock in public life? Indira Gandhi admitted some excesses might have been committed by sycophants and overzealous ministers, bureaucrats and assorted flunkeys, but her son, she insisted, was innocent and not involved. She characterised the excesses as “gross exaggerations” spread by the media and long-standing Congress enemies. This defence, repeated ad nauseam, suggested that Sanjay and his merry men would resume from where they had left off. Privately, Indira conceded the no-smoke-without-fire hypothesis, ie., there must be some truth in the sundry allegations. But her formal position was to live in denial.
On March 31, 1980, Maneka gave birth to a son. He was named Varun. Indira was over the moon. Now, she had three grandchildren, one from her problem son. Alas, Varun’s birth did not ease the tensions between the brothers and their respective wives. Rajiv and Sonia retreated into their private space. It was as if they were hermetically sealed from the hectic goings-on at India’s most politically active house. More: