The Congress appears to have strayed away from the basic tenets of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who on this day, 29 years ago, was blown into smithereens by a human bomb, while campaigning at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. An affable and a much-approachable leader, many of his key-aides betrayed him, and after a five-year tenure as the head of the government, in 1989, he lost power, following the hounding Bofors scandal that massively smeared his image.
Despite having secured 197 seats, with the Congress emerging as the singlelargest party in the Lok Sabha, he opted to sit in the Opposition, since he rightly understood that the mandate had gone against him. This act demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that he upheld democratic values; a matter, that for a long while, is very much amiss.
He had succeeded his late mother, Indira Gandhi, who also met an unimaginable gory end; having been gunned down by her own security guards. The nation paid the ultimate tribute to her when Rajiv became the youngest Prime Minister, with over 400 members in the House of the People. He ushered in sweeping reforms, and initiated India’s thriving journey into the cyberworld-cum-telecom sector.
His political flexibility was clear from the very start; he would accommodate the perspectives of his staunchest critics. In fact, his personal association with top RSS leader Bhaurau Deoras was a catalyst to the telecasting of the Ramayana serial on Doordarshan. Rajiv, however, was backstabbed by two of his closest associates — Arun Nehru and Arun Singh — both subsequently crossing over to the BJP. As the president of the grand old party, Rajiv adhered to certain primary principles — he was a firm believer in the power of the people, and therefore, prohibited those who had lost the Lok Sabha elections to acquire a berth in the Rajya Sabha.
This unwritten rule was overlooked during his wife Sonia Gandhi’s tenure, who knowingly, allowed defeated candidates to enter Parliament through the backdoor. He also advocated the One-Man-One-Post doctrine, with the sole exception of the Congress president. This norm was also flouted, with many holding multiple positions in the party and the government.
During the period Rajiv was in the Opposition, he matured as a leader, working exhaustively towards reviving the Congress. His gruesome death brought down the curtains on the political innings of a statesman, who for many years, could have bettered the country. His killing was a part of a well-planned conspiracy, and to this day, several questions, regarding his extermination remain unanswered. The official conclusion was that Rajiv was eliminated by the dreaded LTTE, but the fact remains that till now, this terror outfit has never ever officially claimed responsibility for his slaying. Consequently, the Congress is in the doldrums because it has abandoned his legacy, and has also buried the precepts of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.