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Can Sonia's family ever be wrong?

August 16, 2010 20:00 IST
Can prime ministers hailing from the Nehru family ever be wrong, asks Virendra Kapoor.

Believe it or not, prime ministers from the Nehru-Gandhi family did no wrong, infallible as all three were.

If there were mistakes, nay, Himalayan blunders, these were the handiwork of lesser mortals, not of super human beings belonging to India's First Family.

Constraints of space do not allow one to catalogue all that went wrong during the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. Suffice it to say, the man guilty for the bloody nose the Chinese gave India was not Nehru. No, how could it be him? No way.

It was then defence minister V K Krishna Menon. However, if the defence forces did anything good, such as 'liberating' tiny Goa on the eve of the 1962 general election, the credit solely belonged to Nehru and Nehru alone.

Of course, it was not Nehru who internationalised the Kashmir dispute by rushing to the United Nations. Why? Simple, being a Nehru, he could do not wrong.

Now come to a huge black mark during the reign of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Of course, she was happy to be Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Durga when our valiant soldiers helped liberate Bangladesh. But if a few months later Bangladesh became an Islamic republic, it wasn't her fault, was it?

Mind you, snuffing out of democracy from the land for 19 months was certainly not her decision. The Emergency was the handiwork of her minions. So were those horrible excesses committed during that dark period. Corrupt bureaucrats and policemen were clearly at fault while Indira Gandhi was completely innocent. And her younger son, Sanjay, well, he was the epitome of good political behaviour all along.

As for Rajiv Gandhi, dearest to the current bosses of the Congress party, one seeks the reader's indulgence, especially because one has to acknowledge the sterling contribution of one of his most enlightened followers, Arjun Singh, as well.

Hats off to Singh. Age might have taken a toll physically, but mentally he continues to be as crafty, as devious as at anytime before.

Maybe the Churhat Lottery king still hoped to get a crumb or two from the table of Sonia Gandhi when he absolved her late husband and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of any role in the escape of Warren Anderson from these shores in the wake of the Union Carbide catastrophe.

That at no time he wanted to tell the truth was clear from the fact that hours before actually speaking in the House, he had duly sent the text of his speech to at least two Cabinet ministers who, in turn, vetted it for ensuring that there was nothing in it that may show the great prime minister of the time in bad light even by inference.

So it was that the wily Thakur told the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the Bhopal gas leak tragedy that then prime minister uttered not a word edgeways when informed about Anderson's arrest soon after the latter had set foot in Bhopal.

Singh would like everyone to believe that Rajiv Gandhi had nothing to say about the arrest and escape of the head of the parent Union Carbide Company. Now, which other prime minister could maintain such stoic silence upon being told that the boss of the company which was responsible for the deaths of thousands had been arrested?

Clearly, Rajiv Gandhi had acquired such saintly qualities that he could be completely unmoved by mundane, worldly events. Remaining indifferent both to a huge tragedy or a great windfall is one of the prerequisites for being a godly person.

No wonder the party led by his widow was duly engaged in deifying him, though personally the one-time Italian does have a very good reason to do so. And people like Singh were determined to bolster Project Mahatma Rajiv Gandhi in the expectation of some worldly gain.

It was not without significance that Singh sought to blame then home minister P V Narasimha Rao for Anderson's inexplicable release. That way he indulged his pet peeve while simultaneously earning brownie points from the Congress boss who too shares his antipathy towards Rao. And, on the whole, quite a good one at that.

Curiously, all persons Singh named to buttress his story -- and what a story it was -- are no longer alive. Rajiv Gandhi, Rao and then chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh whom he named are not around to testify as true his version of events.

Nonetheless, one is really happy that even at the ripe old age of 80, when he can hardly walk or speak, Singh has not lost his sycophantic streak, though of late he has been denied an opportunity to worship at the altar of 10, Janpath.

The British monarch, it is famously said, can do no wrong, (even though a British monarch behaves far more responsibly and correctly than most democratic leaders in this country.) For our Congressmen, members of the Gandhi-Nehru family too can do no wrong. Be it the Bhopal gas tragedy, or the Bofors bribery scam, or the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in the national capital, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was entirely blameless.

Though the anti-Sikh riots took place under his very nose, the nation was expected to believe that then prime minister was completely unaware -- even if he had proclaimed at a Boat Club rally that when 'a big tree falls the earth shakes'.

Or take the Bofors scam. Ottavio Quattorocchi had publicly claimed that he was like a member of the Gandhi family. But Gandhi, the nation was told, was completely in the dark about Q's involvement, if any, in the Bofors deal.

It was another matter that without the Italian agent's powerful intervention the contract for the purchase of the howitzer guns could not have been given to the Swedish firm in preference to the French Safma which had emerged number one in the short-listed panel after rigorous field trials.

Now, anyone with a wee bit of common sense would ask whether a prime minister who was unaware of these huge controversies was fit to rule the country. Or was he sleeping on the job?

Admittedly, Congressmen are not expected to ask questions; they are only expected to follow the Great Leader. But must everyone else, especially the so-called independent media, give in to this craven display of cringing sycophancy?

Meanwhile, it ought to be remembered that unlike the present system under which every minister does his or her own thing while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh minds his own business, that is, in case he has any business to mind, prime ministers from the Nehru-Gandhi family were truly in firm control of their governments.

Nobody dared take a decision without prior consultation with them. So, to say that Andersen was released and sent back to America without Rajiv Gandhi's prior approval is truly a cock-and-bull story which must form part of the fiction section in the parliamentary library.

ALSO SEE: Nehru's Legacy: A Review
'Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away?'
The India-China War
The 1971 War
A billion people, but where are the leaders?

Virendra Kapoor