Who sowed seeds of dynastic politics in India? Nehru or Indira Gandhi
New Delhi, Nov 19: Today (November 19) is former prime minister Indira Gandhi's 101st birth anniversary. Indira Gandhi is the second longest serving prime minister of India after her father Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira Gandhi was an astute and shrewd politician who waded her way through the political corridors dominated by males through sheer grit and what some say as ruthlessness.
From way she handled foreign policy to the role India played in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 under her rule, Indira Gandhi has left an indelible mark on the India's post-independence history.
But, from where did Indira get her political lessons or who groomed her to enter politics? Was it Nehru or were it the circumstances? These questions would be debated for a long time to come. Some even say that Indira becoming the Prime Minister was the beginning of the dynastic politics in India because after Indira her son Rajiv Gandhi became PM and now Congress wants her grandson Rahul Gandhi to become PM. So where did it all start and did Nehru really want it to be this way.
Gandhi served as her father's personal assistant during his tenure as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1964. She was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
Dr Anil Rajvanshi writes in a blog that Nehru may not have wanted to groom Indira, but she was so much around him during important meetings and trips that she got politically involved.
"..it was Govind Ballabh Pant the Home Minister who persuaded Nehru to bring Indira Gandhi into active politics so she could help Nehru. He would constantly remind Nehru that she has learnt so many political lessons by observing her father and also being with Gandhi ji and so would be a natural choice to become a Congress Working Committee member. Though Nehru outwardly showed that it was unethical but was never forceful enough to oppose it and so he was the one who really started the dynastic process. Naturally Indira Gandhi took it to its logical conclusion and till today we are still suffering the Nehru-Gandhi family!," Dr Anil Rajvanshi wrote.
Many, however, argue that it was not Nehru but Indira who sowed the seeds of dynastic politics in India. Nehru in fact never wanted that Indira Gandhi become the Prime Minister. Indira Gandhi, on the other hand, groomed Sanjay Gandhi to be her political heir, while Rajiv Gandhi was kept out of it.
But, in the end it so turned out that Sanjay Gandhi got killed in a plane crash and Indira had to force Rajiv Gandhi to enter politics. Why did she force Rajiv Gandhi to quit his career as pilot and enter politics? A logical answer to this would be that she did not want her family to lose a grip on the Congress.
Nehru may not have envisioned Indira as the next prime minister, but he also did not object to her growing powerful within the Congress while he was alive. The grooming of Indira Gandhi was so perfect that she started talking and giving speeches just like her father.
In the book Six Thousand Days, Amiya Rao and B.G. Rao, write that six months after she was nominated to the Working Committee, Nehru resigned from the powerful Central Parliamentary Board and nominated Indira Gandhi. This was the committee which picked the candidates for elections and decided on the political fate of thousands of Congressmen and women.
The book 'Six thousand days : Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister' also argues that Nehru had moulded the party to accept Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister.
"He skillfully removed all the strong contenders to the post like Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai by making statements that Congress does not encourage people getting addicted to power. He kept people like Gulzarilal Nanda, who would not be a strong contender, but would be a stop gap arrangement. All of Nehru's actions indicated that he was promoting the dynasty, but it is strange that modern historians have no recollection of all these events," the book says.