In last few days I came across as many as 15 articles on late Mrs. Indira Gandhi. And was bewildered to see the ongoing debate about her legacy even after twenty-five years of her assassination. To be specific the debate between her DEVI AVATAR and her DEMON face.
To many of her well-wishers and admirers, she was an avatar of MA DURGA who liberated BANGLADESH from Pakistan’s stronghold. The charismatic leader who raised the slogan “Garibi hatao” and abolished privy purses, something, we have recently witnessed being implemented by present UPA government too. To her credit is the nationalization of banks, which helped India to withstand the effect of recession recently much better than the other countries. One cannot take away the credit from this legend of keeping the nation united in the most intense moments of South Asia when there were predictions about India’s break-up in west .
True, she did impose the infamous Emergency, one of the shameful chapters of India’s history; during which democratic rights were suspended, many were jailed and media too was not spared. Or the ‘license raj’ that was seen as savior of aam admi but turned out to be a pernicious and led the corruption creep into the administration machinery. Her own insecure feelings tempted her to declare her inexperience son, as her effective second-in-command. But the Bluestar operation, seen as the most heinous crime by her critics, in which the army stormed into Golden temple, Amritsar, stirred the emotions of many Sikhs. And that ultimately led to her assassination at the hands of her own security guard.
In this ‘Gandhi vs. Gandhi’, I don’t know who is right or who is wrong? Her decisions were not always right. But no one can deny the fact that despite of the flaws, she came back with a thumping victory in 1980 elections, which showed the faith people had in her and they saw her as their only hope. While the blots of Emergency, legitimizing dynasty in politics will always remain, one must give her the credit for introducing a vibrant electoral process, keeping India intact and her foreign policies. The flaws would not take away the appreciation for the good work she did and vice versa.
And so I guess this debate will go on… In my view, it would be solely wrong to restrict her character to any one of the above mentioned avatars as I feel there was a transition from devi to the authoritarian figure. One can witness the different forms of her from a charismatic leader to an autocrat and perhaps the most powerful and strongest prime minister, India ever had!!!