POLITICAL INTEREST: In family, a long winter ends

The Roots and Branches of the Nehru Gandhi political dynasty - right experience, but with also right empathy or apathy ?!!

POLITICAL INTEREST: In family, a long winter ends – Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty succeeds, unquestioned and unchallenged as best for India Now ?!!

Sonia & Nayantara


New Delhi, July 8: The family has reunited after 30 years.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sahgal, who bitterly opposed first cousin Indira Gandhi and nephew Sanjay during and after the Emergency, told The Telegraph today that she was now in regular touch with Sonia Gandhi.

“I feel Sonia Gandhi is doing an excellent job under very difficult circumstances,” the 83-year-old author said from her Dehra Dun home. “I greatly admire the way she has conducted herself and handled everything.”

The compliment, over 30 years after the 1975 Emergency had muzzled dissent, indicated a quiet thaw in relations within the wider Nehru-Gandhi family.

Although Rajiv Gandhi had a healthy regard for his aunt, “past baggage” had limited their interaction to just social occasions.

Sahgal, daughter of Nehru’s sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit, never got along with Indira and Sanjay and had once compared the situation during the Emergency to that in Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel based on Soviet labour camps.

Sahgal, who also wrote on politics, had discovered during the 21-month Emergency that editors had started avoiding her. Then, someone keen to make a film based on her novel This Time of Morning abruptly dropped the idea.

The filmmaker, who lived abroad, reportedly conveyed to her that association with Sahgal could anger the ruling clique and jeopardise future sanctions for programmes from the information and broadcasting ministry, then headed by V.C. Shukla.

Today, Sahgal refused to dwell on the past. “I do not wish to comment on the past or each individual of my family,” she said, restricting her praise to Sonia.

Sahgal’s mother Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Sonia’s mother-in-law Indira never got along. At the height of the Emergency in December 1975, Vijayalakshmi had written pamphlets against the Indira regime.

Vijayalakshmi’s friends advised both her and her daughter to avoid writing on politics. But Sahgal refused to heed the advice.

In an article on the right to dissent, she recalled how historical figures — from Socrates to 16th-century theologian Michael Servetus who was burnt at the stake as a heretic — had been punished for disobeying the authorities.

“I recalled that one could be sentenced to death by poison for teaching the values of the good life, if these were different from what the state taught. One could be burned at the stake, broken on the wheel or condemned to galleys for declaring, writing or printing ‘heresies’ against the church or the monarch or challenging current theories about the sun, the earth and the stars.

“From Socrates to Servetus and beyond, prison, torture or extermination had been ordinary matter-of-fact punishments for those who disagreed,” Sahgal wrote.

In another article she said she was told to see chief censor Harry D’Penha before publishing her novel A Situation in New Delhi. D’Penha advised her to seek the home ministry’s approval. But Sahgal, who also claimed that her telephone had been tapped, declined to see Om Mehta, the minister of state for home who was considered a close Sanjay associate.

“I took my manuscript home and forgot about it. It had no importance now next to the sheer sickness I felt when I thought of admired, veteran leaders, some legendary for their contribution to India — in jail, of the thousands with no famous name or background to protect them,” she wrote.

By one estimate, over 100,000 political activists of all hues were jailed during the Emergency.

Sahgal was not arrested during the Emergency but, on one occasion, her sister was told by a close Indira associate: “We could pick her up under Misa any day.”

The four-letter acronym stood for the dreaded Maintenance of Internal Security Act, which gave the government powers of indefinite preventive detention.

On another occasion, Shukla reportedly told Vijayalakshmi that her daughter wouldn’t be able to write about politics. Nehru’s sister had retorted that politics was not the lone subject her daughter was capable of writing on.

But Sahgal insists she does not want to comment on past events. At 83, she is satisfied that the core values that Nehru stood for are safe with Sonia and her son Rahul.

Thwarted Jagan on the warpath – Telengana in psychological cold-store or back-burner ?!!

YSR Reddy’s supporters pay their tributes on Thursday on his birth anniversary in Hyderabad - another political dynasty in the making ?!! (PTI)


Hyderabad, July 8: The scorned scion has sounded the bugle loud and long.

Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of late Andhra chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, today took the battle to the Congress after being denied the crown following his father’s death in a chopper crash last September.

On his father’s 61st birth anniversary, Jaganmohan set out on a week-long bus yatra to console the families of people who died of heart attack or committed suicide unable to bear the shock of YSR’s death.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had apparently red-flagged the Odarpu yatra, which began from Itchapuram town on the Andhra-Orissa border. Itchapuram is the spot where YSR ended the 2003 padayatra that catapulted him into the chief minister’s chair.

As Jaganmohan’s bus wound its way through Itchapuram, huge crowds lined up along the roads and waved from rooftops. Many greeted him emotionally when he stopped at Loddaputti village to offer condolences to the family of Pyla Chandramma.

“I am not alone. My father has left behind such a huge family,” Jaganmohan said.

In an open letter released on Monday, Jaganmohan said he was going ahead with the yatra despite Sonia’s alleged disapproval. She is believed to have said he could compensate the families by asking them to converge at one place instead of going on a yatra to visit them individually.

Jaganmohan, the Congress MP from Kadapa, has termed Sonia “insensitive to Indian customs and practices” and claimed that she had “little knowledge” of them.

Jaganmohan also quoted what his mother, Vijayalakshmi, told Sonia during their June 29 meeting in Delhi. “When my husband died, you (Sonia) came to Hyderabad to console me. You did not ask us to come to Delhi,” she said.

Vijaylakshmi’s point was that one dropped by people’s homes when they lost loved ones. That was the custom in India, not the other way around. So, it would be insensitive to ask the bereaved families to come to Jaganmohan instead of him visiting them.

Sources close to Jaganmohan said his message to his supporters was clear: the time had come to choose between him and the party.

The sources said Jaganmohan felt he would never get the chief minister’s crown. If the high command had denied him last September when he had the support of 150 MLAs, why would it look at him now when most of his loyalists had switched over to current chief minister K. Rosaiah’s camp?

Jaganmohan was also aware that the sympathy factor was ebbing, the sources said. So if he had to extract political capital out of the death-and-denial drama and lob any challenge at the Congress high command, the time was now.

Rosaiah said the Congress was not against the yatra per se but against the manner in which it was being conducted.


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