President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday that Indira Gandhi remains the “most acceptable Prime Minister to the people of India till today” and recalled her decisiveness in effectively reorganising the Congress party after the electoral debacle in 1977.
Referring to ‘Operation Blue Star’, a military action to flush out militants hiding in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984, Mukherjee recalled, “As a student of history, I was mortally afraid to do anything with Golden Temple. And as a member of the cabinet, I could not avoid my responsibility of co-sharing the decision. But in meeting itself I said we are perhaps taking the most dangerous decision. The plight of Ahmad Shah Abdali after the Third Battle of Panipat always comes to my mind. He did something wrong with Golden Temple and what plight he had to face. It’s not that she (Indira Gandhi) did not know it, she knew it very well. She said sometimes history demands action which may not prove correct later on but is relevant at that time and that this decision cannot be avoided. I have no intention of festering the wound.”
Mukherjee’s remarks came as the Congress leadership is in the process of revamping the grand old party after a string of electoral defeats from 2014 onwards.
He recalled her decisions while restructuring the Congress after the second split in January 1978 – the first divide happened in 1969 — that helped the party make a strong comeback in state polls despite a huge setback in 1977.
“On 2 January 1978, she was elected Congress president and by January 20, she completed the formation of the working committee, central parliamentary board and prepared the party for elections in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam and NEFA,” he said.
“Congress won decisively with two-thirds majority in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and emerged as the single-largest party in Maharashtra and along with the other faction, formed the government,” he said.
“One of the remarkable personalities of the 20th century all over the world and to the people of India even today, she is the most acceptable ruler, Prime Minister of a democratic country,” he said.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was discharged from Sir Ganga Ram hospital on Friday, could not attend the event. Her speech was read by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Quoting from his mother’s speech, Rahul Gandhi said the “brand of patriotism I saw in Indira Gandhi was a noble one that she imbibed from freedom struggle”. The speech added Indira Gandhi was “ always careful not to impose her will on me except in little things like forcing me to drink milk and eat spinach which I detested while I was expecting my first child”.
Former PM Manmohan Singh also attended the event.
Mukherjee has also written a chapter in the book titled ‘India’s Indira – A Centennial Tribute’, which was released by vice-president M Hamid Ansari. Senior leader Anand Sharma has edited the book.