‘Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti venture was point of discord between Indira, Haksar’
Former union minister Jairam Ramesh reveals the details of former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s working relationship with principal secretary PN Haksar .pune Updated: May 27, 2017 12:35 IST
India’s legendary prime minister Indira Gandhi and her equally legendary principal secretary PN Haksar developed serious differences with one another over the prime minister’s indulgence of her younger son, Sanjay, and his failed ‘Maruti’ car venture.
Indira Gandhi “was being pulled in two different directions”: On the one hand, she had to bear with Haksar’s “brutally outspoken” views on Sanjay Gandhi’s “Maruti adventure”; and on the other the prime minister “desperately sought opportunities” of keeping Haksar close to her.
These were part of the rich revelations and details of Haksar’s working relationship with prime minister Gandhi as presented by senior Congressman and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh in Pune on Friday. Ramesh was here to present the 10th S.V. Kogekar Memorial Lecture at the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics.
“Haksar and the making of Indira” was the topic of his lengthy and well-researched speech which is a part of his forthcoming book on Haksar and Gandhi.
Parmeshwar Narayan Haksar, well-known as PN Haksar, was part of the PM Secretariat, first as Gandhi’s secretary and then as principal secretary. Older to Indira Gandhi by four years, Haksar was not just a civil servant “but enjoyed an unusually warm personal relationship” with Gandhi, going back to decades, said Ramesh. On her part, Indira Gandhi looked upon Haksar as a member of her extended family, almost as an “alter ego”.
“Haksar contributed decisively to the making of Indira Gandhi in her magnificent phase,” he said. According to Ramesh, it was from early 1968 itself that Haksar had been expressing his apprehensions to Indira Gandhi on Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti car venture. Finally, on January 1973 he bid farewell to the prime minister.
Ramesh said that among those who had commented on Haksar’s differences with Indira Gandhi was the prime minister’s media adviser, HY Sharda Prasad, who had written in his obituary of Haksar that “there was growing friction between sovereign and chamberlain over the doings of the prince”.
Ramesh said that there were occasions when prime minister Gandhi expressed her concerns over her younger son to Haksar.
For example, on February 2, 1971, she said that she was worried that while her elder son Rajiv had a job, “Sanjay doesn’t and is also involved in an expensive venture. He is so much like I was at his age—rough edges and all—that my heart aches for the suffering he may have to bear”.
According to Ramesh, Haksar and Indira Gandhi’s husband Feroze were close friends in the late 1930s in London and it was this friendship that first brought Haksar to Indira Gandhi’s attention. “The three of them came under the spell of Krishna Menon and became very active in the India League that was espousing the cause of Indian independence,” Ramesh said.
Among the occasions she wrote to Haksar about Sanjay Gandhi was in February 1966 when Haksar was deputy high commissioner in London and Rajiv and Sanjay were studying in the UK, with Sanjay as an apprentice at the Rolls Royce factory at Crewe near London.
Ten days after leaving the PM’s Secretariat, Haksar wrote to the then union home secretary Govind Narain declining the offer of Padma Vibhushan. “The very thought that I should be given an Award is by itself a great reward for whatever services I might have rendered as a public servant. I am grateful to this for P.M.”. Haksar said he was declining the offer of the award as he felt “an inexplicable discomfort” in accepting an award for performing his duty.