Ironically enough, Rajiv means lotus. The symbol of the party which opposes with all its might the ideology and policies that Rajiv Gandhi, India’s youngest prime minister espoused. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his tributes to the former prime minister on his birth anniversary.
Born on 20 August 1944 in Mumbai to the illustrious Indira Gandhi and her Parsi husband Feroz Gandhi, Rajiv would have been 78 today, had he not been assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber on that fateful day in May 1991 during his campaign trail at Shriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.
Rajiv Gandhi, a quintessential reluctant politician was brought onto centre stage as the leader of the world’s largest democracy by a quirk of fate. Happily married and content with his job as a pilot with Air India, Rajiv was forced to enter into politics as his politically inclined younger brother Sanjay died during a plane crash.
Fate intervened again for Rajiv Gandhi when tragedy struck on India’s premier political family with a legacy of generations starting from his maternal great grandfather Motilal Nehru and his maternal grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru – Independent India’s first prime minister; when her mother and prime minister of India Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her own bodyguards supporting Sikh separatism.
Rajiv became the prime minister of India at just 40, the third in his family and riding on the sympathy wave, won the elections with a landslide, winning 404 of 514 seats.
He came as a breeze of fresh air with his charming youthful looks and cosmopolitan demeanour. He talked about readying India for the 21st century and he talked about computers. He brought in the telecom revolution in the country and was singularly responsible for providing access to telecommunication to an average India by setting up ubiquitous STD-PCO booths with the help of his technocrat friend Sam Pitroda.
Rajiv Gandhi is also credited with panchayat raj reforms. He had global standing and improved relations with China. Agreements with the Akalis in Punjab and in the nagas northeast were his major decisions.
Rajiv Gandhi’s image took a beating with the corruption charges in connection with Bofors. The charges have not yet been proved though. However, history will judge him for three paramount errors of judgements he committed which altered India’s political landscape forever in the years to come. First is overturning the Shahbano verdict, which painted him pro-Muslim, the second was opening the gates of Ram shrine at Ayodhya disputed structure, which painted him anti-Muslim and the third was lowering the voting age to 18. All three decisions have become the biggest weapons in the hands of the BJP the party that vows to annihilate the name of his family and family’s legacy forever.
Rajiv, a shy and introverted human being met and fell in love with Italian Sonia Gandhi, the present Congress President at Cambridge University in London. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are their children. Rahul Gandhi tweeted a sentimental message oh his late father’s birthday.