Indira Gandhi most acceptable ruler, PM, of a democratic country even today: President Pranab Mukherjee

Mukherjee, who has had a long association with the Nehru-Gandhi family, was a senior minister in the UPA I and UPA II governments.

Written by Anand Mishra | New Delhi | Published:May 14, 2017 4:59 am
 Pranab Mukherjee, Pranab Mukherjee praises Indira Gandhi, India's Indira, Congress, Pranab Mukherjee on Congress, Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, UPA rule, UPA government, Nehru-Gandhi familuy, Mukherjee on Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Indian Express, India news President Pranab Mukherjee (PTI File Photo by Vijay Verma)

Indira Gandhi is the “most acceptable ruler, Prime Minister, of a democratic country even today,” President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday, hailing Indira as “one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century”. The former prime minister had raised her voice “against communal and sectarian forces”, and courage, conviction and fearlessness were hallmarks of her functioning, both nationally and internationally, the President said.

“She was one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century all over the world. And to the people of India, even today, after her passing away on 31st October, 1984, she is the most acceptable ruler, Prime Minister of a democratic country even today,” Mukherjee said on the occasion of the release of the book, India’s Indira — A Centennial Tribute.

Mukherjee, who has had a long association with the Nehru-Gandhi family, was a senior minister in the UPA I and UPA II governments.

At a time when the Congress faces unprecedented challenges, the veteran politician reminded the assembled leaders of the party about Indira’s determination and focus in bouncing back within three years of losing power in 1977.

“Those who have worked closely with her in her short period in her political wilderness remember how active and how determined she was to have her objective,” Mukherjee said. After the Congress lost power for the first time in 1977, she had told him, “Pranab, don’t get unnerved by defeat”, Mukherjee recalled.

“This is the time to act, (she said,) and she acted,” the President said.

Mukherjee cited several other decisions too, to drive home the point about Indira’s decisiveness and courage. He recalled that after being elected party president on January 2, 1978, she had taken only until January 20 to finish the process of formation of the working committee, the parliamentary board, PCCs and AICC structures, so the party could prepare for elections to the state assemblies of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam and NEFA that year.

Soon after, he recalled, Indira led the Congress to a two-thirds majority in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and it became the single largest party in Maharashtra, where it formed the government along with the party’s breakaway faction.

The Congress under its present leadership has faced repeated criticism for indecision, including the delay in the elevation of vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the party presidentship.

On Operation Blue Star, Mukherjee said it was not that Indira was unaware of the dangerous consequences it could lead to. “Sometimes, history demands some action which may not prove correct later on, but perhaps most relevant at the time. These decisions cannot be avoided,” he recalled Indira as having told him. He added: “I have no intention of festering the wound. The short point that I am trying to make is the fearlessness in her action.”

The book, edited by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, was unveiled by Vice President Hamid Ansari. Rahul was on the dais. Mukherjee received the first copy of the book.

Sharma said, “Belittling Indira Gandhi’s contribution and sacrifice will be a great injustice and a historic mistake. This is my firm and clear view that history cannot be rewritten or erased. History will triumphantly assert itself.”

The Congress has been accusing the BJP of trying to either appropriate Congress icons of the freedom struggle, or to belittle them, especially those belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Vice-President Ansari said Indira had “succeeded in good measure” and “faltered in places”, and recalled she had lived in troubled times for India. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said Indira was not only India’s prime minister, but also an acknowledged leader of developing countries.

In a message read out by Rahul, Congress president Sonia Gandhi dwelt at length on her personal relationship with her “nurturing mother-in-law”, who had a “broad and tolerant outlook”, and a “brand of patriotism, which was inclusive”. She recalled “how kindly she (Indira) welcomed me, nervous and shy as I was, into her home, how patiently she taught me to adapt to the new country and family. She understood my difficulties, drew me into her heart and opened my eyes to India’s great history and culture.”

Sonia, who is still recuperating after a recent illness, did not attend the function.

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  1. M
    Mukherjee
    May 14, 2017 at 4:55 pm
    Tell me under Indira if we won war with p a k i s tan why the Kashmir problem is still unresolved.
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    1. M
      Mukherjee
      May 14, 2017 at 4:54 pm
      Tell me under Indira if we won war with stan why the Kashmir problem is still unresolved.
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      1. M
        Mj
        May 14, 2017 at 12:37 pm
        Mr. President please make an honorable exit. Vying for the presidents post again, will not serve purpose. Indira lost the 1971 war on the negotiating table which the generals had won on the ground. Why she bargained from a position of weakness when she could have bullied stan into almost anything, is anyone's guess. she was dictatorial , corrupt and wanted to sustain family rule. These are not good qualifications for a leader.
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          Mansoor Sayyed
          May 14, 2017 at 12:16 pm
          Really she was great.
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          1. R
            romi
            May 14, 2017 at 11:46 am
            sorry don't agree he cleverly forgets about emergency afterall he is ex congi In 1971 Indira had golden change retaking or negotiating Kashmir as india was holding 70k Pak POW - but got fooled by Bhutto also she ignored pak nuclear ambitions & failed to take action against it
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            1. N
              Namasivayam Nadarajan
              May 14, 2017 at 11:45 am
              "The Grapes (second chance) are sour, and not ripe as I thought."
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              1. P
                Praveen Chopra
                May 14, 2017 at 11:44 am
                History will prove otherwise. Bank Nationalising was an economic disaster. She was the main architect of power politics linked with corruption and a dedicated bureaucracy and judiciary. The declaration of emergency was a sword against democracy. Finally her frittering away the gains of the military victory against stan at the Simla accord was a b er we are still paying. Of course she was a powerful leader who could mesmerise crowds.
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                1. R
                  romi
                  May 14, 2017 at 11:43 am
                  Pranab shud forget about reelection as president again
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                  1. T
                    Truth
                    May 14, 2017 at 11:42 am
                    IG had a charisma that even the Opposition admired and which the current PM of BJP (and not of I N DI A) totally lacks mainly due to his cheap theatrics !
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                    1. R
                      ravi
                      May 14, 2017 at 11:40 am
                      real reason indira was killed was she had nationalised majority banks and LIC and was on way of nationalising everything - which would have brought socialist revolution and taken india on heights of progress but western bankers were ditched of cash and hatched conspiracy to eliminate her and choosen bindranwale given him arms and money and pitted both against each other - kalistani demand was just a hogwash for public
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                      1. Y
                        yunus
                        May 14, 2017 at 11:35 am
                        who killed sanjay hi and why - google will tell who is great
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                        1. B
                          bachhayadav
                          May 14, 2017 at 11:32 am
                          Not true. She hesitated storming hte mosque where PDF leaders daughter was held ransom in kashmir but didn;t hesitated to storm suvarna mandir. Rajiv hi Sent troops to fight against LTTE. And see what we are getting in return from Srilanka. nehru went to UN giving away kashmir on platter. All nehru could have done was status quo.
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                          1. N
                            namit
                            May 14, 2017 at 11:24 am
                            Shame on Mr. Mukherjee he is the president of the country and not a Congress worker or MP that he should so partisan towards the former PM who is largely responsible for various problems if this country including corruption
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                              Ashish Biswas
                              May 14, 2017 at 11:16 am
                              You are wrong Mr President.
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                              1. S
                                stranger
                                May 14, 2017 at 11:11 am
                                so says the histories most acceptable tea spoon.
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                                  Mahendran Arumugam
                                  May 14, 2017 at 11:07 am
                                  A good leader should have made arrangements for good successors after them. But no party leaders of congress can come forward to lead the party leaving their internal egoistic conflict.
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                                  1. M
                                    Murthy
                                    May 14, 2017 at 11:01 am
                                    When we come to write on your legacy for India, President Sir, we will mention how skilfully you dealt with BOFORS to let your Masters off the hook..... how humbly you accepted the humiliation when you argued your case to become the successor Premier to Indira hi. Of course, you were not as badly humiliated as Sitaram Kesri. Remember him,,,?? If I say any more, my post may not survive.... so
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                                      Aam Admi
                                      May 14, 2017 at 10:58 am
                                      The statement by President is a absolute . Whom is he trying to fool. Indira was one of the worst PM of India. A PM who had stifled democracy by imposing emergency for a very prolonged period to secure her position which proves she was selfish. Her tenure of 17 long years during which she promoted mafia and licence raj under the garb of garibi hato and socialism. Had India taken the liberalisation steps during those 17 years we would have been on a different pedestal today. She belived in concentration of power and high command culture. She was a blot on Indian democracy.The President is praising her because he grew under her and that shows the partisan approach of the President who belonged to the same corrupt Congress party.
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                                        Murthy
                                        May 14, 2017 at 10:56 am
                                        Indira hi had courage and the confidence of someone brought up with the strong message, "I AM BORN TO RULE".... She was supremely dismissive of all the old hands of the OLD Congress Party - Morarji, Kripalani, Masani, Kamraj and so on. She stormed back into power on "Garibi Hatao". But her "Emergency" was fake. She jailed every leader, past and present, of the Jan Sangh, including Narendra Modi. Modi escaped jail by dressing up as a Sikh. She messed up Punjab by secretly encouraging Bindranwale and Sri Lanka by encouraging Prabhakaran. She missed a HUGE chance to settle the Kashmir issue by releasing 94,000 Stani prisoners without getting anything in return. No, Sir, Hon. Courtier Mukherjee, she is NOT getting universal acclaim from Indians ... but only from courtier like you.
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                                          Rajiv
                                          May 14, 2017 at 10:55 am
                                          Indira hi is defenitely a remarkable and daring personality but also most controversial. Downfall of congress party and democracy actually started from her with her authoritarian style and favouritism. Congress has still not recovered from that hangover. I am sure this is going to end very soon when there will be no congress in the parliament.
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                                            SK Gupta
                                            May 14, 2017 at 10:43 am
                                            I agree with the President. Indira hi in her last term was exceptional.
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