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Portrayal of a Complex Personality

Hari Jaisingh

Edited by Pranay Gupte
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2009, pp. 597, Rs. 599.00


Pranay Gupte provides us a highly gripping multidimensional account of Indira Gandhi’s life, times and politics. As a credible journalist of with varied media outlets like the prestigious New York Times, Forbes and BBC he has taken great pains in reaching out to his potential news sources to capture the complex personality of India’s Prime Minister as objectively as a media person could go. Once known as a ‘goongi gudia’, Indira’s meteoric rise in politics could be anybody’s pride or envy depending on which side of the fence one happens to be. It is, however, remarkable the way she fought her way up against all odds and adversaries within and beyond the Congress umbrella. Among several of her critics, one name that stands out is that of the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia. For personal reasons, he was hostile to the very idea of a woman capturing the reins of power in New Delhi. The author recalls a speech of Lohia’s in which he said Indira should be defeated in the election so that ‘this pretty woman does not have to suffer pain and trouble beyond her endurance.’ Since the election then was, of course, some time away, the colourful socialist leader remarked that ‘we will have a pretty face for a time and she will be burdened with the weight of her father’s and Mr Shastri’s misdeeds. To that we can safely add the burdens of her own misdeeds.’ A very unfair observation indeed! The hostility faced by Indira from her political opponents and the Congress ‘syndicate’ threw up her real fighting spirit which in the long run helped her rebuild the Congress in her own mould. The split in the Congress thereafter was a landmark event. It was her first major political success. There was no looking back after the split. Despite her initial hesitant start, very soon Indira Gandhi emerged on her own and became a determined fighter to pursue her goals, policies and programmes.She was not doctrinaire. She preferred to call herself ‘pragmatist’. All the same, she said she believed in socialism, though not in a dogmatic way. She explained her views in these words:I believe in the people’s right to a better life—not only materially but also spiritually. I have been lucky to have had a rich life of the mind, and it hurts ...

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