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“Rajiv Gandhi was young, but a very dynamic person...”
Former Union Minister Mohan Dharia, who resigned from Indira Gandhi’s government in protest against her policies, speaks to B&E about Rajiv Gandhi
Issue Date - 30/05/2012
B&E: You were once a close confidante of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. You knew Rajiv well too. How do you judge him as a Prime Minister?
Mohan Dharia (MD): Rajiv Gandhi became the PM at a time when the when the country was passing through a gloomy period. People had sympathy for Rajiv who became the Prime Minister at a young age. His knowledge was limited. He was not aware of the problems of the people at the grassroots level. However he was a very dynamic person.

B&E: So would you say that Rajiv was a visionary leader who had imagined a modern India? Or is that description an overrating?
MD: He seriously wanted to modernise India. When US denied to give India the technology of supercomputing, it was he who encouraged the creation of the indigenous Param Supercomputer. That not only proved his vision but also his honest intent.

B&E: If you were to compare Rajiv with his mother Indira and grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, what would you say?
MD: All of them had totally different personalities. Nehru was the architect of our foreign policy even before independence. He always honoured our democracy. Indira Gandhi was a person with a strong determination and courage. She nationalised the commercial banks and also abolished the privileges of former rulers. Then, even A. B. Vajpayee had described her as Durga Mata. But somewhere down the line, she forgot the assurances given to her countrymen. On the other hand, though Rajiv was very young and ambitious, he was more humane than his mother.

B&E: Rajiv did ask you to become the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. You refused. What did you tell him?
MD: When he asked me to become the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, I expressed my inability to do so, as there were basic differences in our approach. In my two hour-long meeting with Rajiv, he fairly conceded his ignorance and assured me to amend his approach on many issues like removal of illiteracy, training and skill development to increase the employability of individuals, development of vast wastelands through micro watershed management, water conservation and more. He however had an open mind and we became close friends in the Congress camp.

B&E: You had a view on Rajiv naming many schemes, buildings and institutions after his family members... MD: It was wrong on the part of Rajiv to name programmes or big contributions after his family members. The reason being that if tomorrow an opposition party grows to power, it would not show interest in running schemes that are named after leaders of the opposition party/parties.

B&E: IT in India happened because of Rajiv’s liberal policies. MD: Yes. It is true that Rajiv did give a fillip to the IT sector. Introduction of scientist-cum-industrialist Sam Pitroda is a testimony of his vision.

B&E: How has India changed in the post Rajiv era?
MD: The situation in India has been deteriorating. Rampant corruption has affected our society, which includes politicians. People have forgotten the meaning of moral values and integrity. India has moved forward after Rajiv left us – but in many areas like human development we are shamefully low. High growth rates without human growth is irrelevant – and Rajiv would have done something about it.


Chandran Iyer           

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