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Event report: Indira Gandhi was a reluctant politician: Jairam Ramesh (Video and Audio)





‘She made the environment matter, while balancing her responsibilities as PM’

Indira Gandhi was a “reluctant politician”, unhappily stuck in politics, a chakravyuh that one could choose to enter but could not get out of.This was the verdict given by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on the life of the former Prime Minister, whose birth centenary falls this year.

The former Environment Minister spoke about Mrs. Gandhi’s environmental legacy as part of a discussion organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy here, on Thursday. Moderated by environmentalist Nanditha Krishna, currently a professor at the University of Madras, the discussion was based on Mr. Ramesh’s recently released biography, Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature .

Mr. Ramesh said most biographies on Mrs. Gandhi’s life fell into one of the two camps — one that tended to see her as Goddess Durga in the political arena, taking on vicious and powerful male leaders such as Richard Nixon, or the one that vilified her as the authoritarian leader who imposed the Emergency and violated civil rights. “Neither of the two camps bothered to ask who the real Indira Gandhi is. It was clear to me when I became Environment Minister that the entire legacy of environmental governance in India today is owed to her,” the author said.

Tactical politics

Given the politics over cow slaughter raging in present-day India, Mr. Ramesh gave an example of how Mrs. Gandhi prolonged politically tricky matters by setting up committees and commissioning studies. In 1966, when an anti-cow slaughter agitation aimed at the Congress went out of hand, Mrs. Gandhi set up a high-powered committee to contemplate on a national law on cow slaughter, which included M.S. Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a member.

“The committee met for 12 years and submitted no report, and the matter died a natural death when Morarji Desai as PM disbanded it finally,” Mr. Ramesh said.

He also challenged the popular view that Mrs. Gandhi was authoritarian by referring to how Congress Ministers she had hand-picked herself resisted her dictum, and several Congress CMs such as V.P. Naik, resisted her authority.

N. Ram, Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Ltd., and N. Ravi, Director of Kasturi & Sons Ltd., participated.

Also Read : Indira Gandhi, the environmentalist

Source:The Hindu

Related Link:

Ramesh, J. 2020 . Lecture: A Prime Minister and a Naturalist , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, March 5.

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