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The saga of a prolific young leader

On the 63rd birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, Hindustan Times pays tribute to this great leader, visionary and one of the youngest prime minister of India.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2007 02:22 IST
Himadree C
Himadree C
Hindustan Times

Rajiv Gandhi spend his childhood years under the caring wings of his grandfather, the leader of Independent India Jawaharlal Nehru and his mother Indira Gandhi in Delhi as well as in Ahmedabad. Educated from two of the most elite institution of India, Welham Boys School and The Doon School, he pursued his studies abroad in acclaimed institutions such as, Imperial College London, University of London, Trinity College and University of Cambridge. It was during his Cambridge years that he met his wife Sonia Manio, a lovely Italian girl, whom he fell in love with and got married in the year 1967. They were blessed with two adorable children, Rahul and Priyanka. A mechanical engineer by academics he opted to join the aviation industry back home. Having done his studies, he came back to India, acquired his license as a commercial pilot and thus begun his career as a professional pilot of the Indian airlines till he entered politics in the year 1981.

Growing Years Of The Future Chieftain

Born in the year 1944 into the legendary Gandhi family, Rajiv Gandhi was barely three years old when India gained its independence, with his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru on the power wheel. Rajiv Gandhi grew in the shadow of his mother Indira Gandhi, who was very well adapted to the crude brutalities of politics. She was known as a hardworking, intelligent and courageous woman of Independent India. Henceforth, the expectation from her son too was sky high. Dynamic personality, positive attitude and the dream to see tomorrow, today, Rajiv Gandhi was one of the youngest Prime Ministers of the world's largest democracy. He was a true embodiment of the aims and ambitions of the voice of Indian youth of the time who were high on the crest of life and thereby wanted to spread their wings far and wide and achieve what the preceding generations never even fathomed in their far-fetched dreams.

Beginning Of His Political Voyage

A pilot by profession, Rajiv Gandhi at first was quite hesitant to join the political world. He preferred to stay out of politics despite the fact that every single member of his family was involved in the nations progressive state of affair. It was with great reluctance that he agreed to run the race for the Lok Sabha seat in the year 1980, when his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi was killed.
Gandhi after a lot of persuasion by his mother took his baby step into politics by serving foremost as her advisor. He then became the general secretary of the Congress (I) party after winning the elections by a handsome majority and very successfully executed his responsibility of making the Asian Games held in India in the year 1982 a success story. While at the same time, Rajiv sincerely carried on his devoted and challenging role as his mother's chief advisor and helped her in all policy, related to foreign and domestic matters.
As the youngest son of the family, and also known as a very soft-spoken and straightforward boy at that point of time, his mother, the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi had her own good reasons of whether her son will be able to take on to his stride the realities of politics. But, this young man, on the day of his mother's assassination in 1984 took the throne as India's Prime Minister, when he was forty years old. Twisting circumstances or fate, as it can be said, the reluctant man stepped into his mother's shoes. Thus, the uncertain leader succeeded as the anchor of the Congress Party and was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the country. On assuming his responsibilities as the nations leader, Rajiv could very well identify the Herculean task that he had to perform. The struggle just begun…
Coming from a family of India's biggest political honchos the pressure was acute and he was of a very tender age when the future leader had to take the hot seat. With his good looks, commanding personality and personal charm, he had won the heart of many admirers and friends not only in India but also abroad. However, the leader knew it very well that charm alone would not help him in executing the magnitude of work that he had on his platter towards resolving much more urgent problems prevalent in the nation. Rajiv was a big dreamer, who always had a passion to develop India according to the changes happening globally and wanted to make it more like a twenty-first century flying ship.
Aware of the sensitive scenario across the nation, this young man with his great insight altogether changed his approach of handling the crucial problems that was brooding at large over the people of the chaotic divided India. With his fresh approach, he infused in the political groups a sense of positive attitude, dynamism, noble vision and mission towards the society. With this mantra, he started his rendezvous with Indian politics.

Mission Impossible Begins

Very strategically, the leader divided the major areas of concern that he had to deal with straight away. The raging politico-religious violence that was rampant in Punjab and in the North eastern region, the bridging gap between the upper strata and middle strata of the society, the nations horrid judiciary, the menacing war-like scenario of India and Pakistan and its neighboring states and to stabilize the nations aggravating economic status.

Streamlining the party rules and regulations - Having taken over as the impeccable captain of the sailing ship of India, Gandhi decided to put in place certain thumb rules, which all the members of the party was to follow during his tenure. A gentle and honest persona by nature, Gandhi could not stand incompetent, crooked and laid back members within the group. His soft-spoken yet commanding authority added to his modus operandi. Gradually, he started re-structuring the Congress (I) party by bringing in young and proactive people within the organization, initiating the use of modern techniques for all kind of administrative purposes and instilling in the party members the decision-making power. Initially observers around him were quite apprehensive whether this gentle natured man would be able to prove his mettle. Nevertheless, the impeccable reforms that he put in action, definitely made critics change their thought process about Gandhi's working style.

Restoring peace and order

A dynamic person by nature he took from the riding seat as the next leader that India much needed. Slowly and steadily in between the year 1985 and 1987, he managed to bring about the much awaited and needed calm and order in Punjab and the ever volatile states of North East. The commencement of order in the torrid state of affairs was a temporary relief, however the optimistic leader never gave up his dedicated endeavours of restoring peace in the nation and his sincere efforts certainly was appreciated by many a great leader.

Renaissance in industry and economic reforms -Under his able leadership, his government brought terrific changes in the foreign investment sector and the industry made progress by leaps and bounds He successfully did away with lot may hazardous restrictions imposed on the import and export business. His well thought out plan of 1986 -1980 gave the nation a momentum to flourish in the area of foreign investment. He introduced and implemented many economic reform measures and gave incentives to the private sectors and gave a heavy rebate on government tax rates.

Techno persona of Modern India

Drawing on his few years of experience as a pilot he emphasized the value of technology and modern business methods. He increased government support for science and technology and associated industries, and reduced import quotas, taxes and tariffs on technology-based industries, especially computers, airlines, defence and telecommunications.

Judicial Revolution - As a supporter of justice, Gandhi was not oblivious to the nations judicial services. The leader was always aware of the rock bottom fact that the unreasonable delay in justice delivery to the deserved people caused a lot of problem. At the same time, the wise man never overlooked the fact behind the delay of justice, i.e. too much of cases were already on the pipeline waiting for justice and the court was over-burdened. Keeping in mind the growing pressure of the court, he was the one who was instrumental in introducing an entity called the 'Lok Adalats'. This firm determination of the mature leader to eradicate the society from the demonic claws of "Aayaa Rams and Gaya Rams" was the reason behind the framing of the Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985, which is popular as the 'Anti-Defection Laws'.

Voting Reforms

Gandhi as an individual was very much into giving chance to the younger generation of the society in being the decision makers of the progressing nation. Thus, he lowered the voters' age from 21 years straight away to just 18 years. The change was evident; a massive crowd of around 50 million young patriotic individual took part in the electoral process of the country.
Agricultural Progress - The leader had a soft corner for the agricultural community. He identified that if India has to be a self-sufficient nation, the agricultural community needed a boost from his government both in terms of financial support and modernization of techniques of cultivation. He thereby, made a point of voicing out his desire to help the community by extending the Green Revolution to the rain shadow areas. Two of his major achievements in this process were the Technology Mission for Oil Seeds and the National Project for Pulse.

Contribution to Educational Institution

In 1986, Rajiv announced a national education policy to modernize and expand higher education programs across the country. It was Gandhi who was the brain behind one of the most successful educational system currently prevalent in the 21st century India that we are living in. It was this handsome young man who founded the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya System.
Staunch believer of Panchayati Raj - Rajiv was also the man who stood for the Panchayati Raj system. It was precisely under his tenure that Mahatma Gandhi's dream of strengthening the Panchayat Raj and hence transferring power to the aam junta saw it's true manifestation. A true visionary by heart, the proactive leader believed that India could not become a super power unless and until prosperity and education reached the heart and soul of every Indian village. Today as the Panchaayat Raj is growing stronger, self-governance is paving the way for India's development.
A helping hand to the neighboring countries - In the year 1987, Gandhi initiated a talk with the Sri Lankan government to help them in dealing with the perennial and ever-growing militant problem of the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were demanding for a separate land for Tamil community. In this context, he promised the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to the government of Sri Lanka.
Life of every great man comes to an end, but his ideology would never cease to exist. Even today, with warmth in our heart and great reverence, we the people of India fondly remember the great visionary, a youth icon and the political dynamite of our nation.

First Published: Aug 20, 2007 00:37 IST