Rajiv Gandhi – 75

Srinivasan Balakrishnan

Had Rajiv Gandhi been alive he would begin his 75th year innings on 20th Aug., 2018. The third generation Prime Minister of Nehru-Gandhi clan, he raised so much of hope among the youth when he reluctantly wore the mantle of Prime Minister of India the same day when his mother, Indira Gandhi, met a gory death on 31 Oct. 1984, up North in New Delhi.  He also took up the post of President of the Congress party. Nobody would have imagined that some seven years later he would meet a gorier death down South near Chennai. By the by, is 75thbirth anniversary called Platinum or Diamond? Sometimes the WWW could confuse you than clear your doubt, making you pull the hair off your head. And I have very little left!Better I leave it to your discretion.

I had a chance to see Rajiv Gandhi during one of his whirlwind parliamentary election campaigns in 1989, after his 5-year term as PM. Traffic had been stopped in the ever-busy Haddows Road for a while and the unusual silence made me peep out of my office window. We heard that Rajiv was to pass by and it was almost lunch time. So, as I rushed out and waited, a while later he drove past in a car waving his hand to the curious onlookers gathered on either side of the road. It was a fly-by darshan of the third Prime Minister from the Nehru-Gandhi family.

 I had a one-minute darshan of his enigmatic mother, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, in Gangtok, Sikkim. It was a very brief function to unveil the plaque of a renamed road board from Nathula Road to JN Road; just that, no speech. Within a minute or two, she was gone.It was on 30th July 1983, a year and a half before her assassination. I have a hazy remembrance of seeing Rajiv’s grandfather, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, in Madurai accompanied by Kamaraj, the Chief Minister. Or was it only Kamaraj? As I said, it is a hazy recollection; I was just around eight years oldstudying in a Municipal Schoolin Madurai. I and other hapless students from various govt.-run schools were herded to the Thamukam ground to line the pathway with flags in hands to wave and welcome. And he died a year or so later, in 1964! Looking back, atragic hat trick, indeed! Believe me! I had no role in their death.

Though Rajiv was assassinated in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on the night of 21st May 1991, we learnt of it only the next morning.Chennai woke up in utter shock. I scampered out to get a newspaper but no luck. No milk also; we had to forego our dear morning cupa coffee, an unwilling sacrifice for no fault of ours. Neither was our portable B&W TV functional. So I had a peek of the ghastly event at the neighbours; once was enough. Thank goodness, the 24x7 news channels were not that many, especially in Tamil; else they would have had a field day and killed you by ‘breaking’ the sensational news repeatedly.

At 40, Rajiv was the youngest Prime Minister of India and,perhaps, even one of the youngest elected heads of Government in the world. The nation relied on this young prime minister and initially he did meet the hope reposed on him. He inducted fresh and young blood, including royal blood, into his cabinet, like Arun Nehru, Madhavrao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot, K. Natwar Singh, P. Chidambaram, etc., and at the same time had experienced old timers also; a balancing act. He brought Sam Pitroda to initiateIT/Communicationrevolution / expansion in India. The pilot-turned politician Rajiv, however, belied the hopes of the nation when allegations of Bofors guns boomed, fired by his own Defence Minister, V.P. Singh, who became the next immediate Prime Minister, switching sides. Instead of booming, the guns boomeranged. There were also allegations of hoarding money in Swiss bank.  Well, why dig up the past; we must have already spent much more money on the so-called investigation than what is presumed to have been actually swindled.  Let Rajiv RIP in New Delhi’s Veerbhumi.  However, I eagerly look forward to Modi’s assurance of Rs. 15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account by recovering black money. So far not even 15 paise has been deposited! Now the BJP President is trying to wriggle out of it by claiming that it was an ‘idiom’ and should not be taken literally. How sad!

Well, let us look at the bright future of being ruled by his son Rahul Gandhi. I would be one among the fortunate millions of Indians to be ruled by the fourth scion of the family.  And, why not, if I am further luckier I would also be ruled by the fifth generation member from that same family–Rehan (born 2000) or Miraya (born 2002), son and daughter of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra! For such a blessed time &rule, I have to keep myself fit & kicking; let me rush to a gym. I do not want to miss this unique, hysterical, sorry, historical,record of being ruled by five members of the same family!

As a retired central government employee, I gratefullyremember Rajiv Gandhi for introducing the 5-day-week concept for central govt. offices, while implementing the recommendations of the 5th pay commission. His logic was that employees would come refreshed after two full days of rest to give better ‘output’! While expecting any output as such from govt. employees would be a misnomer, he hoped for better output!   The Sarkari Babus and Sahibs, however, have the Monday Blues not only on Mondays but on all the days, throughout the week! He had underestimated them.  Being a pilot, maybe he was not grounded to the field truths.

Though I am not loyal either to Congress or to the Nehru-Gandhi family, yet I am curious to visit the well-designed memorial of Rajiv in Sriperumbudur, just 40 kms. from Chennai;but this issomehow getting postponed. I hope to make it up at least on the coming Monday, the beginning of his 75th birth anniversary. Born in Mumbai, died in Chennai and buried in Delhi is Rajiv Gandhi with his clean image shattered.Let the Bofors guns saluteBharat RatnaRajiv Gandhi!