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Indira Gandhi’s 1977 pauperism tells a different story

Author: G Pramod Kumar
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: October 12, 2012
URL:      http://www.firstpost.com/politics/indira-gandhis-1977-pauperism-tells-a-different-story-488847.html/amp?__twitter_impression=true

Certainly nobody in the Gandhi family has been as vulnerable as Robert Vadra although his assets are short change compared to the astounding wealth of other political families in the country.

The fact is till today, the Gandhi family has been by and large spared, except for say, by Subramaniam Swamy and some journalists who never completed their stories. Even the Bofors allegations against Rajiv Gandhi went nowhere till his death. Neither was there any evidence of all those crores of rupees that Sanjay Gandhi had allegedly collected for Maruti.

It’s not to say that the most powerful "democratic dynasty" of India, that the Congress cannot live without, is clean as a whistle; but it is primarily known for its tryst with power than for financial irregularities or accumulation of wealth.

There is definitely no evidence to back this up, but there is also no evidence to back up the allegations that the family members have profiteered from public life, till Vadragate happened. May be in the coming days, history might change retroactively.

Perhaps till 1977 when Indira Gandhi was literally bankrupt.

The sensational biography of Mrs Gandhi by Katherine Frank (The Life of India Nehru Gandhi), which had pushed the entire Congress and Gandhi loyalists into nervous anxiety in 2001, had some revealing details of how money was not what either Mrs Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi pursued.

Katherine Frank, although unsparing of Mrs Gandhi and her family, didn’t say this in as many words, but everything she said amounted to just that.

“For the first time in her life, at the age of fifty-nine, Indira Gandhi found herself without a job, an income or a roof over her head” - this is how Frank ends the chapter (17, page 414) that describes her disastrous post-emergency elections and life.

Morarji Desai, the new prime minister threw her out of her 1 Safdarjang Road residence where she lived for 13 years, but she had no place to go. Neither did she have any money to support her family.

Not that she didn’t have any property in her name. Anand Bhavan in Allahabad was bequeathed to her, but she gave it to the nation in 1970 to be run as a museum.

"A roof—a home for herself and her family—was Indira’s most pressing need," writes Frank. Rajiv Gandhi had no money too. According to the author, Rajiv Gandhi tried to build a family house on a plot of land that Indira Gandhi owned in Mehrauli, but ran out of cash and the house remained half-built. Totally unbelievable by today’s standards of politicians.

Apparently, they finally were given refuge by an old family friend who vacated his Bungalow, which was relatively small for five adults, two children, five dogs and thirteen years of possessions.

Frank writes further that although Indira Gandhi now had a roof over her head, there was still no money to run the family. Apparently there was no money coming from Sanjay Gandhi too although he had allegedly "profited during the emergency". "The money she lived on came in uncertainly and irregularly from various sources." Of course, some of her industrialist friends sustained her till she came back to power.

The point is, perhaps her miserable post-1977 situation, despite being in public life and power for such a long time, could have been a moment of reckoning for the Gandhi family and the story could have been passed on as an oral tradition.

- Perhaps it was a game-changer. Now, let’s read the Vadra story again.
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