Shame that Indira Gandhi's birth centenary not being celebrated: Chidambaram

N S Vageesh Mumbai | Updated on January 09, 2018

It is a shame that the country is not celebrating Indira Gandhi's birth centenary, said P.Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Rajya Sabha MP at the Tata Literature Live! Festival in Mumbai this morning. He was speaking at a panel discussion on ' Remembering Indira' on her birth centenary day today.

Indira Gandhi was India's third Prime Minister between January 1966 and October 1984 with a short gap of two years and nine months when she was out of power between 1977 and 1980.

Chidambaram said that Indira Gandhi had bought the poor to the centre of the national agenda. Responding to a question, he said, Indira Gandhi was a product of her times and responded to the challenges in her own way. He countered the perception that she was unlike her father Jawaharlal Nehru by wondering why one PM should be like another.

She was successful in facing some challenges and not so in others, he said. She also acknowledged that Emergency (declared in June 1975) was a mistake and said that she wouldn't repeat it, Chidambaram said.

Asked by the chair about what it said about India as a democracy if she was able to make an electoral comeback so quickly after all the excesses of Emergency, Chidambaram said that it just showed the ability of the Indian electorate, especially the poor, to separate milk and water!

While making a reference to India's rising influence on the global stage particularly after 1991 and something which continues now, he cautioned the Modi Government about the jobs situation. "Modi will succeed or fail depending on whether he can provide jobs for the 1.2 crore people who enter the job market every year. So far he has failed. He has 15 months to deliver,'' Chidambaram said.

Jairam Ramesh, former Union Environment Minister and Congress leader, said that his archival research had shown that Indira Gandhi did not think of herself as a political personality at all, although there was an impression that she was more politically pragmatic than her father was.

She was instinctively a naturalist and deeply concerned about nature, wildlife and environment and more comfortable talking about these than about politics, he said.

She addressed these issues long before it became fashionable in the rest of the world, he said, and pointed out that she was the only Prime Minister in the world to attend the Stockholm conference on the subject in 1972.

Taking up issue with the chair who suggested that Indira Gandhi did not have an overarching foreign policy narrative and only responded to events, Jairam Ramesh said that this was not true.

Indira did have a design and she also created 'events', pointing to the opportunities she created in 1971 whether it was with in relation to Pakistan, with President Nixon, with the Soviets and with Europeans. He also pointed out that she was thinking of Sikkim in 1971 itself and that eventually led to its integration into India in 1975.

Published on November 19, 2017

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