India’s ‘Crown Prince: The Legacy of Sanjay Gandhi and secrets of his kitchen cabinet

0
82
His critics hate his rebellious, destructive, often rude side and the fact that he practically ran the government on behalf of his mother between 1973-1977, without standing for elections even once.
His critics hate his rebellious, destructive, often rude side and the fact that he practically ran the government on behalf of his mother between 1973-1977, without standing for elections even once.

Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi and grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, always evokes mixed feelings. His supporters love his practicality, action-oriented thinking, aggressiveness and decisiveness. His critics hate his rebellious, destructive, often rude side and the fact that he practically ran the government on behalf of his mother between 1973-1977, without standing for elections even once.

Either way, he was unmissable in the 1970s. He had a lot of energy and zeal, a loyal following, a wide network of contacts and the Gandhi surname behind him, which made him the ideal prime ministerial candidate – a milestone that seemed inevitable. But his strongly authoritarian personality and disdain for parliamentary governance and procedures created several obstacles along the way until his recklessness finally killed him in a tragic plane crash in 1980.

indra with rajiv and sanjay gandhi
indra with rajiv and sanjay gandhi

we take you through some of the lesser-known facts about the controversial man.

‘A BIT OF A KLEPTOMANIAC’

The late Vinod Mehta authored The Sanjay Story – a biography about Indira’s elder son. Considering his political influence and prowess at the time of Emergency, no one could have thought that Mehta’s inquiries at the Doon School would reveal the young Gandhi as “outstandingly mediocre”.

According to a report in the Hindu about the book, Sanjay was a “loner” and largely “uncommunicative” keeping to himself most of the time. Mehta attributes him as “a bit of a kleptomaniac” too! The political scion reportedly had an affinity towards breaking into cars, taking them for a drive and returning them before anyone noticed.

Another report highlights how his reputation caused constant comparisons in the school between “Rajiv’s Doons and Sanjay’s Goons.”

HOT WHEELS

Sanjay Gandhi was passionate about cars, which compelled him to get a crash course internship of sorts at Rolls-Royce, England.

His zeal for wheels led him to set up an enterprise of his own after returning to India in 1968. He set out to design a prototype that year. In 1971, he was assigned the post of Managing Director in Maruti Motors Limited.

Yep, you read that right. Maruti Suzuki (although Suzuki hadn’t tied up with Maruti at that point) was an initiative by Sanjay Gandhi to produce an indigenous “people’s car”. Sadly, however, the company did not produce en masse automobiles as it does today until after his death.

While the origin of the car project is embroiled in an alleged controversy of land grabbing and excesses, Sanjay Gandhi remains the pioneer in India’s first car manufacturing project.

THREE TIMES LUCKY

Sanjay Gandhi most often comes into the conversation for his draconian policies during the 1975 Emergency.

According to a report, a Wikileaks cable from September 1976 states that three assassination attempts were made on his life.

In the third such attempt, he was shot thrice between August 30 and 31, 1976. While the assailant remains unidentified, the nature of Sanjay’s injuries, if at all, is not known.

It is believed that in order to throw the attacker off the trail, his mother Indira Gandhi made a statement on 27 December 1976, saying that Sanjay was a “small fry” and he would never make it to the prime minister or president. “So I think the attack is definitely meant on me,” she added.

HE FLEW TO HIS DEATH, LITERALLY

Sanjay Gandhi’s death was an unprecedented event for the Congress. Sanjay loved to fly and while later reports say that he held a pilot’s license, the report which announced his death said it was unclear if he had permission to fly. Ironically, it was this hobby which leads to his death at 33-years of age.

On 23 June 1980, Sanjay Gandhi was trying his hand at a new aircraft at Delhi’s Safdarjung Airport. He lost control while attempting an aerobatic loop and the craft plummeted.

The devastating crash killed Gandhi and it apparently took eight hours for the surgeons to stitch together his mutilated body. The only other person on board – Captain Subash Saxena – also died in the crash.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here