Friday, 11 September 2015

Bewildering Questions, Part-3 (Indira Gandhi)

Blog-Series: Bewildering Questions, Part-3 (Indira Gandhi)

A Bunch of Bewildering Questions


Bewildering Questions (1) : Freedom, Partition, Socialism, Dynacracy
Bewildering Questions (2) : Nehru's "Exemplary" Score-Card
Bewildering Questions (3) : Indira Gandhi
Bewildering Questions (3) : Sanjay Gandhi

3G: Indira Gandhi

(1G=Motilal Nehru, 2G=Jawaharlal Nehru)

Was it not said that Indira was the only "man" in the cabinet? Isn't it true that what we need is a strong,  tough and decisive leader like Indira Gandhi?
It is certainly good to have a strong, tough and decisive leader. Provided, of course, those qualities are leveraged in the service of the nation. And, not for perpetuation of personal position and power.  Or, to satisfy one's ego. Or, to show off one's power. Or, to humiliate others. Or, to launch one's own dynasty. Or, to engage in naked nepotism.

Did Indira's so-called toughness fetch anything for the nation?
India's economic condition went from bad to worse.

Net Result of Indira's Policies:
Garibi Badhao, NOT Garibi Hatao

Rather than learning from her father's mistakes, Indira pushed India further into the abyss of socialism. It was in the Emergency-period that the retrograde pseudo-socialist laws were passed in the sixth-year of an illegitimate parliament, including insertion of the word  “socialist” in the preamble of the Constitution.

Note the hypocrisy of the election slogan of the Indira Congress “Garibi Hatao!”, as if it was some other third party that had ruled India and caused Garibi (poverty), and not the Congress itself, which had been ruling uninterrupted since Independence! The Garibi brought about by her father's policies was further exacerbated by her more of the same, and far worse socialistic policies. It was not so much the concern for the poor or the economic content that attracted the Congress of Nehru and Indira to socialism, as its pro-poor image-projection potential for winning elections.

The licensing became Kafkaesque under Indira, and corruption rose dramatically. It was actually gross economic failure, massive unprecedented rise in prices, and increased corruption at all levels that led to the JP movement and agitations against her regime. To save her position, she declared Emergency, and went in for suppressive measures.

Many of the economic reforms required since comprise turning the clock back to 1969—the pre-Indira period, since Indira asserted herself 1969 onwards. The state usurped enormous powers during her tenure. 1969 onwards, Indira Gandhi turned pink as part of her political manoeuvring and survival strategy, plunging India deep into the License-Permit-Quota-Control Raj.

To have all the money and all the facilities at one's disposal, to even spend precious funds to study abroad, and yet fail to complete even graduation!

What does it show about the person?

Does it not demonstrate some basic lack of stuff?

And, why name educational and research institutions after such a pathetically poor person in academics , and an appalling non-achiever? Why IGNOUIndira Gandhi National Open University? Why Indira Gandhi Technological & Medical Sciences University, Arunachal Pradesh? Why Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology, Sarang in Odisha? Why Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai? Why Smt Indira Gandhi College Of Engineering? Why Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology, Nagpur? ... it's a long list!

Deficit Education—A Dynastic Feature, despite all the Opportunities & Facilities : Demonstrative of Basic Lack of Stuff

In fact, there is little rationale for naming any educational institution after Nehru-Gandhis, as all the members of the Dynasty have not only been gross under-achievers academically, they all, despite all the money and opportunities, whiled away their time in schools and colleges, both in India and abroad, wasting precious foreign exchange.

Nehru’s academic achievements  were rather modest. He was a graduate and had passed the bar exams. Writes MJ Akbar in Nehru: The Making of India: “Eventually  when he [Jawaharlal] passed in the second half of the second class, Motilal was relieved enough to celebrate lavishly...Motilal was acutely terrified that his son might fail, so even such moderate results were cause for celebrations... Motilal had set his heart on sending his son to the Indian Civil Service...He called the ICS the ‘greatest of services in the world’...But the weak Second [class of Jawaharlal Nehru] at the end of Cambridge persuaded Motilal that his son was unlikely to get through the tough ICS examinations...His [Jawaharlal’s] expenditure in 1911 was £800, enough to pay for three years of an ordinary student’s existence...”

Contrast this with Ambedkar who often skipped meals or ate frugally to save money when he was studying in London. In Dr.Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Dhananjay Keer mentions that  Ambedkar subsisted in London on mere £8 a month! That amounts to £96 a year. Compare this with £800 a year of Nehru, which excluded expenses for several other requirements that were separately arranged by Nehru’s father.

Indira Gandhi failed to complete her graduation despite spending considerable time and money in prestigious institutions in India, Europe and Britain.

Sanjay Gandhi never attended college!

Rajiv Gandhi did not do his graduation despite all the expenses at London. He was at Cambridge till 1965, but left it without a degree, because he did not appear for the examinations. He joined Imperial College, London in 1966, but again left it after a year, without a degree.

Sonia Gandhi? A graduate? Not clear. Most probably not.

Rahul Gandhi. Educational details are not available with due clarity, although he is reported to be a graduate. Like his father he had the habit of joining a college or a course, and leaving it mid-way, perhaps finding the load too much to tackle.

It can of course be argued that academics is not all. It is not necessary to be highly qualified to be a good leader. That’s fine. If a certain leader was unable to go in for higher studies on account of paucity of money, or because of some special circumstances, one can understand. But, when you do take admission in a college, and have all the monetary support, and all the facilities, and yet you either fail to finish your education or do poorly, it does reflect on you as a person. Perhaps, you have no self-discipline, or you lack commitment, or you possess no determination, or you are too casual and irresponsible and while away time, or you have low IQ. You need not be a topper, but blessed with all facilities, you do need to do reasonably well.

Another queer thing about the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty has been pursuing studies and courses abroad at considerable expense when those courses of similar or better standards were available in India. Indira tried to engage in elementary studies abroad, Rajiv tried to do engineering in London. Why? Didn’t the family, which flaunted its patriotism, find good schools and colleges in India! One could understand if they were academically brilliant and went abroad to do some specialised courses not available in India, or went to prestigious colleges abroad for their better teaching. But, no. They went for ordinary courses; and mostly, they whiled away their time there.

Why was Indira Gandhi awarded Bharat Ratna? Did she deserve it?

Perhaps the only reason could be creation of Bangladesh during her time.

But, even that one aspect needs to be looked at closely.

Mishandling the Bangladesh War Victory:
Frittering Away Once-in-a-Life-Time
Golden Opportunity

Although people tend to give credit to Indira for creation of Bangladesh, the fact remains that Pakistan brought it upon themselves, thanks to the callousness and the racist and colonialist attitude of the West Pakistani political and military elite. Of course, the leadership of Awami League was also a factor.

True, Indira did show guts to deploy the army—guts her father certainly did not have. But, there was little alternative. True, she managed the fallout well, and showed determination and decisiveness. But, when it came to crux, she faltered. No vision, or understanding, or leadership, or statesmanship there. She let go of the big, big bargaining advantage the Indian military win gave her.

We returned 93,000 Pakistani PoWs, we returned the land won by our armed forces on the western front, while we remained burdened with the refugees. And what did Indira Gandhi get from Bhutto in return? Nothing. A mere oral promise at the Shimla Conference in 1972. It was a golden opportunity for India to settle the Kashmir issue with Pakistan, and close all outstanding issues. We lost it.

Her defenders claim it was the sly Bhutto who went back on his promise, and Indira can’t be blamed. The question then arises is: Was she, her cabinet and the foreign ministry establishment all innocent about what Bhutto and the Pakistanis had been up to for many, many years. Was she not aware of the Pakistani duplicity in the past, and their conduct both in the Kashmir war of the late forties and the 1965-war? Was she not aware that Pakistani leadership cannot be trusted? And if she and her colleagues still did what they did, it only demonstrates their lack of wisdom and their incompetence in protecting the country's interests. One has to know when to hit the iron. And, in political history, such opportunities do not come again.

We lost many soldiers, spent hundreds of crores of rupees, accumulated lacs of refugees, won the war, but gained nothing! Indira Gandhi simply frittered away the strategic advantage the soldiers conferred on us through their sacrifices.

Wrote Inder Malhotra in an article Revisiting Shimla in The Indian Express of 2nd July 2012: “P.N. Dhar, who had headed the PM’s secretariat from 1970 to 1977, first published a candid and detailed account of  the talks between the two PMs well after the Shimla negotiations were declared a “failure”. He even quoted Bhutto’s exact words— ‘aap mujh par bharosa keejiye [please do trust me]’. Almost immediately there was an avalanche of disdainful denials from across the border. Close to the bone, however, was an article by Humayun Gohar [of Pakistan]. While praising Bhutto’s ‘diplomatic artistry’, he wrote: ‘Face it Mr Dhar, even if we accept what you say, Mr Bhutto fooled your prime minister.’

“...The nub of the matter at this stage was to have a credible commitment by Bhutto ‘gradually’ to change [LoC] this line (he at one stage suggested it may be called the ‘Line of Peace’) into an international border. That is where his plea that he could not commit himself to this in writing and his word should be trusted came in. Indira Gandhi accepted it. Later, when she and Bhutto disclosed their agreement to their respective top advisers, P.N. Dhar demurred and she frowned on him...However, many still wonder how India’s most clear-eyed and hard-headed PM agreed to trust Bhutto’s word. Many years later I took this question to her confidant, the legendary spymaster R. N. Kao. To my surprise he answered it frankly and allowed me to quote him. ‘I am also totally surprised’, he said. ‘Before leaving for Shimla, she had asked me “Can I trust Bhutto? People tell me that if I shake hands with him, I should immediately count my fingers.”’”

Writes Arun Shourie in Will the Iron Fence Save a Tree Hollowed by Termites: “ is even the deeper pain he [Field Marshal KM Cariappa] felt when—without binding Pakistan to lasting commitments: on Kashmir, and other issues—political leaders returned the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners and threw away the other gains that our armed forces had secured in 1971.”

Indira Gandhi and her confidants, the leftist-socialist-crypto-communist Kashmiri-band comprising PN Dhar, TN Kaul and RN Kao, utterly failed to derive any national advantage and long-term benefit for the country from the victory—they merely used it for domestic advantage for the Congress.

The leftist Dhar-Kaul-Kao “Kashmiri Mafia” and Indira, rather than  leveraging the brilliant military victory for a lasting strategic gain, used it domestically to further turn disastrously left on economic policies. What was the result? Even more corruption, run-away inflation, price-rise, popular unrest, and finally Emergency!

Seventies and eighties, rather than gaining from the victory, became the lost decades.

Nation on Sale!
(Mitrokhin Archives)

Mitrokhin Archives is a collection of Soviet documents relating to USSR’s clandestine intelligence operations around the world, including India. One of the books based on these archives and other sources is The Mitrokhin Archive II : The KGB and the World written by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, and published by Penguin/Allen Lane. It was first published in 2005, and covers KGB operations in Latin America, Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Chapters 17 and 18 of this book deal with India.

Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist for 30 years, and when he defected to the UK in 1992, he carried a huge collection of secret documents with him. FBI called it ‘the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source’.

The book has much to reveal on the funding of the Communist Party of India and the Congress, and about some of their prominent leaders. KGB funded both the CPI and the Congress agents, one of the most senior Congress agents being a minister. Who? That is not revealed by the book. KGB routinely bribed the Left and the Congress politicians. Certain influential journalists and newspapers advancing leftist lines were also in KGB’s pay.

Reportedly, as per the Archives, ten Indian newspapers and one press agency were on the Soviet payroll; and that in 1972 alone the KGB had planted over 3000 articles in the Indian media. 

One Oleg Kalugin of KGB, who became the head of the Counter Intelligence in 1973, remembered India as a model of KGB infiltration of a Third World government. He claimed that KGB had scores of sources across the Indian government in various wings and ministries such as Intelligence, Counter Intelligence, Police, Defence and External Affairs. He even recalled an occasion where the demand of an Indian minister for $50,000, in exchange for information, was refused by the Soviets, as they claimed they already had more than enough information!! The most shocking comment of Kalugin about India was that it was as if the entire country was for sale! He also stated that KGB and CIA had penetrated India so much that neither wanted to trust India with any sensitive information for fear that the very next day it would be known to the other side!!

While many countries like the UK, the USA, Italy, and others, about whom too revelations had come out, took them very seriously, set up expert committees to minutely examine all aspects, and took appropriate action; India, true to its character fashioned by the Dynasty and its leftist supporters and ‘intellectuals’, only engaged in denying what had been revealed, and attributed motives to the authors. India made no attempt to examine the matter. Somnath Chatterjee, then Speaker of the Lok Sabha (between 2004 to 2009 during UPA-I government headed by the Congress), and a member of the CPM, the party, along with the Congress, affected by the revelations, agreed with the Congress claim that the book was ‘fiction’ and stonewalled a discussion in Parliament. Such is our feudal dynastic democracy, and so ineffective has been the opposition headed by the BJP-Old-Guard.

It was like revelations on Bofors or black money or foreign bank accounts or WikiLeaks. By default, the Government always goes into the denial mode. However, if forced by the media or the opposition, it most reluctantly drags its feet to show it is doing something, hoping that after sometime the noise would die down. That nobody is caught or punished is because in practically all cases it is the government and the powerful people behind it who are the actual culprits. Why should a government move against itself?

This is also one of the reasons Indian people must rise against dynastic politics and dynacracy—whether at the central level or at the state level. Dynasties in power, being the affected party, would always prevent access to our own documents and archives, what to speak of foreign ones. That is why changes in government are necessary. You should not have one party and one dynasty ruling. That is very harmful for democracy. Monopoly is bound to lead to malpractices.

It is worth noting that the Mitrokhin Archives were minutely examined by the British Government at various levels over a long period of about seven years (1992 to 1999), so voluminous were the archives. Then, the British Government did due diligence to identify the person most suitable to co-author the volumes with Vasili Mitrokhin. They zeroed-in on Professor Christopher Andrew of the Cambridge University. The first volume, which covered countries in the West, was published in 1999. In the British House of Commons, tribute was paid to Vasili Mitrokhin for his courage and the risk that he took, even though there were many adverse revelations about Britain.

This was in sharp contrast to the attitude of the Indian government which seemed very keen to sweep the inconvenient facts under the carpet, vilify the author, and call the contents of the book mere fiction—without making any enquiry or doing due diligence.

In fact, what was published in the book was very limited, so voluminous were the documents. Therefore, MI6 and the British Foreign Office had made it clear that friendly countries and intelligence agencies were free to request access to the voluminous Mitrokhin papers, at least to sections and dossiers that concern them. But, India took no initiative whatsoever to get the documents and conduct an enquiry.

The foreword in the Mitrokhin’s book says that a report by the British Intelligence and Security Committee revealed that other Western intelligence agencies found the Mitrokhin material very useful for the leads provided by it, and were extremely grateful for it.

Countries like Britain, the US, Germany and Italy have made use of the Mitrokhin material to uncover spies, and set their house and institutions in order. But, not India! Rather than using them, we want to run away from them!!

Media too did little to pursue the matter as it affected the establishment, the ruling Congress and the Left.

Opposition too failed.
BJP has much to answer on this. What were the Party and the trio of Advani-Sushma-Jaitley doing? Why not bring it up now? Why shouldn't this whole affait be thoroughly investigated? It's highly relevant for national interest. One must know who all traded national interest, and importantly, who all are still there in the national polity affecting outcomes.  The ball is now in Narendra Modi's court. BJP and RSS who wear nationalism on their sleeves and shout patriotism at the drop of a hat must now measure up with appropriate action.

Pathetic Record

The only two positives of Indira Gandhi were the handling of the Bangladesh affair, excluding post-war negotiations, and taking further the Green and White Revolution initiatives that began under Shastri.

Otherwise, Indira Gandhi’s decades can be termed as the ‘lost decades’ of India.

She took India further down the precipice of socialistic suicide. Rather than ‘Garibi Hatao’ (her election slogan), she spread Garibi further.

While she made no headway with China and the other neighbours, her major foreign policy failure was frittering away the leverage the military provided by winning the Bangladesh war to permanently settle the J&K and boundary issues with Pakistan. Shimla summit was a huge failure for India, and a huge win for Pakistan.

On the internal security front, while the position in Kashmir deteriorated, her politics and that of her son and the Congress led to the creation of a brand new problem—that of  Punjab, which took a huge toll of human life and property, and affected the unity of India.

Babudom got further entrenched, thanks to the spreading tentacles of socialism and nationalisation. Corruption came to be institutionalised during her tenure. Brazenly unethical state of affairs resulted in a feeling of hopelessness. All round cynicism prevailed.

To hell with democracy and the freedom of others’ she decided, and got the Emergency promulgated, when in the wake of the court verdict her position became untenable—saving self and her Dynasty was more important.

There was a deliberate propagation of the myth that India can only be ruled by the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty—myths that demeaned India and the Indians. She brazenly engaged in shameless, undemocratic, detrimental-to-the-nation, dynastic acts of first unleashing a gone-case misfit like Sanjay Gandhi on the nation, followed by yet another incompetent, inexperienced and unqualified son—Rajiv Gandhi.

She totally subverted the Congress Party. She did not allow competent leaders to emerge, lest they threaten either her position or that of her sons. Ill-treatment and humiliation of the capable and those with promise became a norm. As Tavleen Singh remarked, “Dynasties thrive by making everyone else seem like dwarfs.”

Politics for Indira Gandhi was a series of gimmickry.

* * * * *

Rajnikant Puranik
September 11, 2015

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