Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's trusted aide, political advisor and Congress veteran ML Fotedar has revealed that she had a premonition about her death just days before she was assassinated and wanted her granddaughter Priyanka to carry forward her political legacy.
He has made some astute observations and revealed inside stories about political personages, moves and manouevres in his forthcoming book The Chinar Leaves, published by Harper Collins and which will be released on October 30.
In October 1984, Indira Gandhi visited a well known Hindu temple and a revered Muslim shrine in Jammu and Kashmir and during the visit she reflected on an inner voice within her that said her days of life are numbered, media reports quoted Fotedar. The former prime minister was assassinated in Delhi on October 31, 1984.
He said it was on a Saturday, just three days before her assassination, that they were in Kashmir. "She saw a sign - a shrivelled tree - at the Hindu shrine that made her feel that her life was coming to an end. On the way back to the rest house in a car, she said as much. Then, in a thoughtful mood, she said Priyanka might be cut out for politics... that she might be successful and be in power for a long time," Fotedar claimed. They then headed back to Delhi where, Fotedar said, Indira opened up to him.
''I was taken aback by the manner in which she opened up. Maybe she had a premonition that her end was imminent and she felt the need to talk about her desire to see Priyanka become a leader. I felt her words were really important. That night, I wrote down every word she said that day about Priyanka'', Fotedar added. He felt Indira was ''a good judge of character'' who saw herself in Priyanka.
According to Fotedar, Sonia Gandhi was not enamoured of what Indira saw in Priyanka. ''After Indiraji's death, I told Rajiv [Gandhi] about Indira's views on Priyanka. I have also told Soniaji about Indiraji's desire to see Priyanka as a leader. I do see a lot of similarity between Indiraji and Priyanka. I feel Priyanka has the same aggression that Indiraji had as a leader. The Priyanka we are seeing today is nothing. Just wait and watch. As Indiraji said, the next century belongs to Priyanka,'' Fotedar was quoted as saying.
Fotedar, giving glimpses party politics, said then President R. Venkataraman had wanted Pranab Mukherjee to be sworn in as the Prime Minister intead of Rahul Gandhi after Vishwanath Pratap Singh demitted office in November, 1990 when BJP withdrew support to the Janata Dal government following L. K. Advani's arrest during his Ayodhya Rathyatra. Venkataraman was also against Chandrasekhar becoming Prime Minister.
"I came back and reported the developments to Rajiv, who was also astounded by RV's stand. The Congress party was running out of options and Rajiv ultimately took the controversial decision of supporting Chandrashekhar from outside," Fotedar said.
Fotedar's book is dedicated to his leader, Indira Gandi. In it, he has also recounted his roled in making P.V. Narasimha Rao the Prime Minister, following Rajiv's assassination, after obtaining Sonia Gandhi's approval. He had also warned Narasimha Rao about the RSS conspiracy to destroy the Babri Masjid. He criticised Rao at a Cabinet meeting for his failure to protect the disputed monument on 6 December 1992 when Hindutva fanatics pulled down the Babri Masjid. He left the Cabinet over such differences.
He also mentions Madhavrao Scindia opposing the choice of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and the resultant skulduggery. He had also warned Rajiv Gandhi not to break ties with Arun Nehru who later hit back at Gandhi by means of the Bofors scandal.
There is a lot more in the book which is being awaited by all as it will be one, coming soon after Natwar Singh's reminiscences, that gives penetrating insight into the Gandhi family and its influence on Congress politics.