A Di­vi­sive Legacy

ThirTy Three years af­Ter her as­sas­si­na­Tion, in­dra Gandhi re­mains a po­lar­is­inG fiG­ure and The sub­jecT of Sa­garika ghoSe’S new book

India Today - - NEWS WRAP - Kaveree Bamzai

What was the most sur­pris­ing thing you learnt about mrs Gandhi?

I didn’t know she was so sporty and so much of an out­doors per­son! She could ski, ride, swim, trek, loved dogs (al­ways had more than one dog) and headed a bird watch­ers’ so­ci­ety. She was also very in­ter­ested in in­sects and kept plas­tic but­ter­flies and a life-size cock­roach on her ta­ble.

do you be­lieve Naren­dra modi is mod­el­ling him­self on her?

I don’t know whether he is con­sciously mod­el­ing him­self on her, but their styles are very sim­i­lar. The supremo cult in party and gov­ern­ment, reach­ing out to the peo­ple in a di­rect pop­ulist em­brace, clash­ing with in­sti­tu­tions like judiciary and me­dia, and yes in­creas­ingly iso­lated and hardly able to trust any­one.

What about her still foxes you?

She was an in­cred­i­bly para­dox­i­cal per­son—that’s why I wrote those let­ters to her in the book, be­cause there were so many things about her that I found mys­ti­fy­ing. How could some­one as as­tute as her not see what she was do­ing by en­cour­ag­ing San­jay the way she did? Or build­ing up a Bhin­dran­wale and then send­ing the army into a place of wor­ship? Her con­tra­dic­tory per­son­al­ity in­trigues me.

Writ­ing about such a po­lar­is­ing fig­ure in such po­larised times...

There’s a stereo­type about me that I’m a “lib­tard” “Congi”, so many peo­ple as­sumed that I was writ­ing a par­tic­u­lar kind of book. It’s a chal­lenge be­cause I wanted to bring Indira Gandhi alive, warts and all, as a liv­ing, breath­ing flesh and blood woman, not a mem­ber of a party. My book is em­phat­i­cally not a ha­giog­ra­phy, nor is it a vil­i­fi­ca­tion. I wanted read­ers to read about Indira the per­son and the politi­cian, not look for my so-called “bi­ases” or “agen­das”, par­tic­u­larly be­cause I re­ally don’t have any.

Com­piled by As­mitA bAk­shi

Indira: In­dia’s Most Pow­er­ful Prime Min­is­ter Pub­lished by Jug­ger­naut; 342 pages; `699

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