|Constituency||Amethi, Uttar Pradesh|
14 December 1946|
New Delhi, Delhi, British India
|Died||23 June 1980
New Delhi, Delhi, India
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Residence||Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India|
Sanjay Gandhi (14 December 1946 – 23 June 1980) was an Indian politician. He was a member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. During his lifetime he was widely expected to succeed his mother as head of the Indian National Congress, but following his early death in a plane crash his elder brother Rajiv became their mother's political heir, and succeeded her as Prime Minister of India after her death. Sanjay's widow Maneka Gandhi and son Varun Gandhi are also politicians from BJP.
Early life and education
Sanjay was born in New Delhi, on 14 December 1946, as the younger son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. like his elder brother Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay studied first at Welham Boys' School and then at the Doon School in Dehra Dun. Sanjay never attended college, but took up automobile engineering as career and an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe, England. He was very interested in sports cars, and also obtained a pilot's license. While he was building a career as an airline pilot independent of politics, Sanjay still chose to remain close to his mother.
Maruti Udyog, India controversy
In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Cabinet proposed the production of a "People's car"—an efficient indigenous automobile that middle-class Indians could afford. While Sanjay had no experience, design proposals or tie-ins with any corporation, he was awarded the contract and the exclusive production license. The criticism that followed this decision was mostly directed at Indira, but the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and victory over Pakistan drowned out the issue. Indira's victory and the Congress's landslide victory in the 1971 Indian general election only left Indira Gandhi more powerful.
Maruti Udyog, today India's premier automobile manufacturing corporation, was founded by Sanjay Gandhi, but the company did not produce any vehicles during his lifetime. A test model put out as a showpiece of progress was criticized. Public perception turned against Sanjay Gandhi, and many began to speculate of growing corruption. Sanjay Gandhi then contacted Volkswagen AG from West Germany for a possible collaboration, transfer of technology and joint production of the Indian version of the "People's Car", to emulate Volkswagen's worldwide success with the Beetle.
The Japanese company Suzuki was also contacted to present the design and feasibility of their car to be manufactured in India. When Suzuki came to know that the Government of India had contacted Volkswagen as well, it did everything to pip the German company in the race to produce India's first People's Car (Maruti 800). It provided the Government a feasible Design of their 'Model 796' (another big hit in Japan and East Asian countries)
Role during emergency
In 1974, the opposition-led protests and strikes had caused a widespread disturbance in many parts of the country and badly affected the government and the economy. On 26 June 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a national emergency, delayed elections, censored the press and suspended some constitutional freedoms in the name of national security. Non-Congress governments throughout the country were dismissed. Thousands of people, including several freedom fighters like Jaya Prakash Narayan and Jivatram Kripalani who were against the Emergency were arrested.
In the extremely hostile political environment just before and soon after the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi rose in importance as Indira's advisor. With the defections of former loyalists, Sanjay's influence with Indira and the government increased dramatically, although he was never in an official or elected position. According to Mark Tully, "His inexperience did not stop him from using the Draconian powers his mother, Indira Gandhi, had taken to terrorise the administration, setting up what was in effect a police state."
It was said that during the Emergency he virtually ran India along with his friends, especially Bansi Lal. It was also quipped that Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).
Involvement in politics and government
Although he had not been elected and held no office, Sanjay began exercising his new-found influence with Cabinet ministers, high-level government officers and police officers. While many Cabinet ministers and officials resigned in protest, Sanjay reportedly appointed their successors.
In one famous example, Inder Kumar Gujral resid from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting when Sanjay attempted to direct the affairs of his ministry and give him orders. Gujral is reported to have angrily rebuked Sanjay and refused to take orders from an unelected person. He was replaced by Vidya Charan Shukla, a Sanjay Gandhi acolyte. In another incident, after popular Bollywood singer Kishore Kumar refused to sing in a function of the Indian Youth Congress, his songs were banned on All India Radio upon Gandhi's insistence.
Just one month before his death, he was appointed secretary general of the Congress Party in May 1980.
Jama Masjid beautification and slum demolition
Sanjay Gandhi accompanied by Jagmohan, the vice-chairman of Delhi Development Authority, was reportedly irked during his visit to Turkman Gate in old Delhi area that he couldn't see the grand old mosque Jama Masjid Delhi because of the maze of tenements. On 13th April 1976, the DDA team bulldozed the tenements. Police resorted to firing to quell the demonstrations resulting in at least 150 deaths. The inhabitants were provided housing sites, building material and ration cards across the Yamuna river. Over 70,000 people, thus displaced, were provided free transportation to carry their belonging to the new location.
Compulsory sterilization program
In September 1976, Sanjay Gandhi initiated a widespread compulsory sterilization program to limit population growth. The implementation of the program was initially based on voluntary sterilization driven by incentives; Participant were offered incentives including radio sets, cash, food etc. However, Lack of success turned the program into coercive sterilizations by local officials preparing list of 'eligible men', that is, of those who already had three or more children, Sanjay Gandhi allegedly handed down targets to government officials including doctors to perform certain number of vasectomies in a given month. The program was used by locals to avenge and settle old scores as well to punish those who disagreed with the government's efforts.
Sanjay Gandhi died instantly from head wounds in an air crash on 23 June 1980 near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. He was flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying club, and, while performing a loop over his office, lost control and crashed. The only passenger in the plane, Captain Subhash Saxena, was also killed in the crash.
- Dommermuth-Costa, Carol. Indira Gandhi. p. 60.
- Dommermuth-Costa, Carol. Indira Gandhi. p. 60.
- First Woman of India St. Petersburg Times, 10 January 1966.
- Mark Tully Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle, p. 55, ISBN 81-291-0917-4
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