Indira was like my mother: Sonia

  • In first interview in 9 years, she recalls family travails

Allahabad: Congress president Sonia Gandhi said here on Monday that her party would come up from 44 seats and win enough seats to attain majority in Lok Sabha. She was talking to India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai on the occasion of the inauguration of a mobile exhibition on Indira Gandhi as part of her birth centenary celebrations. It was Sonia’s first structured interview in nine years.

Sonia Gandhi made it a point to talk only about Indira and not about politics. But she was persuaded to say a few things about current affairs now and then. She said there was no comparison between Indira and Modi. Indira was compassionate and had empathy, she observed.  “I would not have been in politics but for Indira. Rajiv joined politics much against my will. It was true that I fought like a tigress to prevent Rajiv from joining politics after his brother’s death. But Rajiv felt a duty towards his mother just like Indira felt a duty towards her father, Jawarharlal Nehru. Left to herself, Indira would not have joined politics”, said the Congress president. “It would have been cowardly on my part not to join politics after Rajiv’s assassination”, she said.

Asked about promoting the dynasty of Nehru-Gandhi, Sonia said it is the tradition all over the world for one of the siblings to take to father’s profession. There is nothing wrong in Rahul being in politics. Asked if Rahul would lead the Congress party to power, she replied that she is not the person to answer that question. She was not prepared to answer a question relating to Priyanka’s entry into politics except saying that her daughter resembles Indira.  She said both Rahul and Priyanka share Indira’s trait.

When Rajdeep said 1971, when India defeated Pakistan in Bangladesh war, was Indira’s biggest moment and 1975, when Emergency was clamped on the country, was her darkest moment, Sonia replied that Indira called for elections because she felt uncomfortable with the Emergency. She recalled that Indira felt strongly for the people of East Bengal. They were suffering and fleeing the country in lakhs. When pressed further to say something about the relationship she had with Indira, Sonia said she would say everything she had to say in her own book.

“Indira invited me warmly and kindly into her family when I married Rajiv. At that time, I was not able to make myself understood in English. Indira was like a mother. She was gentle and understanding. I first lived with Bachchans after coming to India. Indira wanted me and Rajiv to get married. She led me by hand in the initial days when the food was new and dressing habits were new to me. She has a great sense of humour. She was a good homemaker. She used to write copiously. She wrote a number of letters every day. Indira was interested in everything and everybody. She liked flowers and mountains. She was interested in classical music and folk music,” Sonia recalled.

Questioned about her memories of Indira when she died on her lap on 31st October 1984, Sonia said she was in her house when her mother-in-law was preparing for some interview. “It was Diwali time. When some sound was heard, I thought it was a cracker. But when I heard voices and shouts, I went out to find Indira’s body ridden with bullets. There was no ambulance. I was sitting on the back seat of an Ambassador car with Indira’s head on my lap. There was a lot of traffic. It took some time to go to hospital.  She was declared dead at the hospital. It was a terrible blow to Rajiv and the rest of us,” she recalled.

Sonia said: “We are upholding the values that Indira cherished. She was very particular about secularism. She never felt diffident when she was a prime minister since she was a woman. But she was ridiculed by people from her own party when she became the party president and prime minister. She fought back. We have learnt from her how to fight back. The Congress party is now fighting the Modi regime. I was inspired by Indira sub-consciously.”

The interview took place at Anand Bhavan in Allahabad where Indira Gandhi was born. Sonia said it was the place where Motilal Nehru and other Congress stalwarts were strategizing the freedom struggle. Rajdeep said more than two decades after her death, Indira remains the most recognized face in the country.

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