Nearly two years before the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the CIA had suggested that her son Rajiv Gandhi may not succeed her in the event of her sudden death because he was “politically immature” and had “failed to excite either the party or the public”, according to a secret report declassified by the US agency. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a report dated January 14, 1983, noted that the Congress Party would become weaker in such circumstances. However, the sequence of events after the then premier’s assassination in October 1984 proved otherwise as she was succeeded by Rajiv, who within a few months was re-elected with an unprecedented mandate.
A sanitised copy of the report ‘India in the Mid-1980s: Goals and Challenges’ was released by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is similar to India’s Right to Information Act. Running into more than 30 pages, the document discussed the prospects of India in the mid-1980s and looked into various political scenarios, which among others included re-election of Indira Gandhi in the next general election in 1985 with a slim majority and what happens in the case of her sudden death.
“In the event of (Indira) Gandhi’s sudden death, Raiiv Gandhi, working closely with President Zail Singh, would be one of the major figures involved in the selection of a successor. His own chances of being elevated to the office right now are uncertain, in part because of his political immaturity and because of his still junior status,” the CIA had said in its secret report declassified in December.
“Rajiv’s prospects would probably improve the longer Indira Gandhi remained in office. However, even if he were to become prime minister, his hold on the reins of power could be short lived unless he unexpectedly emerges as a superb political strategist like his mother or develops a party organisation,” the report noted.
“Other possible candidates which party factional leaders might consider are such cabinet-level statesmen-politicians as Defence Minister R Venkataraman, Foreign Minister P V Narasimha Rao, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Industry Minister Narain Dutt Tiwari,” it said. Intelligence agencies, globally, are known for talking about and discussing various political scenarios in the country of their interest.