Union Minister for Women and Child development, Maneka Gandhi is the wife of late Sanjay Gandhi. Despite her relations with the politically famous ‘Gandhi’ family, she has been successful in creating a separate identity for herself.
- Maneka Gandhi was born to Amteshwar Kaur Anand and Lt. Col. Tarlochan Singh Anand in New Delhi on 26th August 1956.
- She was born to a Khatri Sikh family. Her mother claimed to be a distant relative of Lt Khushwant Singh. Maneka Gandhi and her mother started an NGO for animals called Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care centre. For Maneka her mother was her strength and helped her through all the rough patches of life.
- After Maneka Gandhi had left her in-laws house she returned to her maternal home where she was welcomed back with love. Her father served in the Indian Army and retired as Colonel.
Here we sharing some very interesting facts about her.
- Maneka Gandhi is quite well read. She did her primary schooling from Lawrence School, Sanawar, a popular school among the elite of India. Following this, she completed her college from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Soon after, she studied German from Jawaharlal Nehru University. A true Delhi intellect!
- During her days in Lady Shri Ram College, she won several beauty pageants, due to her extremely beautiful features and an impressionable personality.
- Clearly, her beauty and brains led to more modelling contracts. She also went to model for a towel company at that time. It was Bombay Dyeing.
- During her coGandhirother’s wedding, she met and fell in love with a young man. They shifted to a quiet corner and had a long conversation for several hours. Apparently, it was love at first sight for both of them. He was, of course, Sanjay Gandhi.
- Maneka’s family had apprehensions of her getting married into a political family especially due to the fact that Sanjay’s mother was gaining stark notoriety from the public, the then current Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. However, they gave in and both were married in September 1974.
- According to a book titled, The Red Sari by Italian author Javier Moro, Maneka Gandhi used to smoke much to the annoyance of her mother-in-law and Rajiv Gandhi.
- Maneka moved in with Sanjay to live with her mother-in-law at 1, Safdarjung Road. Sanjay’s political career was on a rise and at the time, he was actively promoting the Youth Congress. Maneka accompanied him almost everywhere during his tours and speeches.
- Maneka is also a successful journalist. She was the Founding Editor of the magazine, Surya in 1977, which eventually helped to rebuild Congress’ image among the public by carrying out regular interviews of Sanjay and Indira Gandhi. Many claims that the mag was one of the sole platforms that defended and helped the image of the party, thereby directly causing the party’s re-election in 1980.
- The more happy news was just around the corner. After the party came back in power in just three years, Maneka gave birth to a son. He was named Feroz after Sanjay’s father and later, Indira Gandhi gave another name – Varun
- However, this happiness was not meant to stay. Sanjay, a trained pilot, passed away instantaneously in an avoidable plane crash. The plane was flying extremely low and Sanjay was not wearing the appropriate gear. The plane crashed 100 meters away from his house. Maneka was only 23 years old and Varun was merely 100 days old.
- In 1983, Maneka had a falling out with her mother-in-law in full public glare. She was asked to leave 1, Safdarjung Road. Indira was speculative that Maneka wanted to take Sanjay’s place, something she could have. Instead, Rajiv Gandhi was her preferred heir apparent. Nonetheless, Maneka formed her own party, Rashtriya Sanjay Manch, which focussed on youth empowerment and employment. The party went on to win 4 out 5 seats in Andhra Pradesh that year.
- In 1999, Maneka joined the BJP and after the party was elected to power she was appointed as the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. Here, she supported the OASIS Project (Old Age Social and Income Security) which went to become her key contribution as this project was later implemented as the New Pension System (NPS) coming into force in 2004