The sex scandal featuring Suresh Ram, the son of the then Defence
Minister, Babu Jagjivan Ram had a sinister and seamy side too. It
was, as experts say, a scathing political vendetta launched against
Jagjivan Ram, the then Defence Minister in Morarji Desai's cabinet.
Narrating the mood of the time, Inder Malhotra, the
eminent journalist says, "It was a transitional phase in Indian
polity. Congress was defeated in the general elections in 1977 and
Janata Dal, a coalition of loosely connected elements came to power.
Within the Janata Dal, there was intense rivalry. Morarji Desai,
Charn Singh and Jagjivan Ram, each vying for No. 1 slot, trying
to undercut each other."
It was under these political circumstances, the photograph of Suresh
Ram in compromising positions with a girl called Sushma Chaudhury
decorated the central-spread of a monthly magazine called Surya.
Maneka Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi was the editor of
"The photographs came to us also. But we refused
to publish it. It was sleazy and in bad taste", say Inder Malhotra
who was associated with one of the English dailies. "It was
politically motivated and a bad game to be trapped in", adds
Politicians have often used sex scandals of their
rivals to achieve their goals. But in case of Suresh Ram, the distinctive
feature was, "He was neither a political figure nor a public
personality. But Jagjivan Ram's detractors exploited Suresh Ram's
philandering to the hilt", observes Mr. Malhotra.
The issue rocked the nation and it ended Jagjivan
Ram's ambition to become India's Prime Minister. Prithvis Chakravorty,
another eminent journalist who lived the moments of the time says,
"Jagjivan Ram was a strong contender for Prime Ministership,
and especially because his pre-election defection from Indira Gandhi
had helped Janata Party formed government in 1977."
It was the time India forayed into political experiment,
dumping Congress and electing Janata Dal to power. This was the
first time; a non-Congress government was elected to power.
The change of vanguards also witnessed intense political
conspiracy, personality clashes and deceits among top political
leaders of the time.
A sulking Indira Gandhi who had tasted defeat for
the first time in her career was desperate to seize power. The Janata
Dal government, on the other hand was busy framing charges against
her. They had only one agenda - to avenge the wrongdoings of Emergency
and snub Mrs Gandhi's political career for future.
It was Janata Dal's internal dissention that gave
Mrs. Gandhi a golden opportunity to play her cards. Janata Dal,
which came to power in February 1977, was fundamentally a conglomeration
of disparate elements of Congress dissidents, Morarji Desai, Jagjivan
Ram, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna (Congress For Democracy), Old Bhartiya
Jan Sangh members like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Socialist George Fernandes,
Chandrasekhar, Mohan Dharia and Krishan Kant and Charan Singh of
Bhartiya Kranti Dal.