Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who fell to the bullets of her bodyguards 25 years ago, was today remembered across the country which recalled her momentous decisions, some of which were hailed and riled in equal measure even in her life time.
In the national capital, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul paid floral tributes to the late leader at her memorial ‘Shakti Sthal’ on the banks of river Yamuna.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Union Ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde and A K Antony, Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Ajay Maken and R K Dhawan, for long her political aide, were among the others who paid homage to the late prime minister.
Gandhi fell victim to her own bodyguards - Satwant Singh, Beant Singh - who pumped 31 bullets into the 66-year-old charismatic leader.
Two of her momentous but controversial decisions invoke strong reactions even today.
Siddharth Shankar Ray, former West Bengal Chief Minister and a barrister who was consulted by Gandhi on crucial occasions, says the decision to impose emergency in 1975 was taken by the Cabinet in a matter of minutes and there was no opposition.
Dhawan, her political aide, remembers that the country was headed for a “serious” situation when there was a nation-wide rail strike and all sorts of confusion was sought to be created. The Allahabad High Court judgement and the Opposition demanded her resignation.
In the Cabinet, Dhawan said there was a demand that “something drastic” needs to be done.
Ram Jethmalani, for long an MP and a bitter critic of the late prime minister during her life time, recalls that it was the poor and rural voters who brought her down and the same people voted her back to power.
“But she never treated me as an enemy. She was a fair opponent in her own way,” he said.
The other decision was Operation Blue Star to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple which was cited by her killers as the reason for their action.
Dhawan says Gandhi gave the nod but regretted the decision later. “She (Gandhi) was told that it (Operation Blue Star) will be a simple operation. No damage will be done to the structure and there would be no loss of human lives. She was also told that terrorists would be flushed out of the temple in no time,” he said.
“Though Gandhi was not informed that tanks would be used during the operation, it is true that once the army operation started, it was difficult to stop it,” Dhawan said.
According to another Gandhi loyalist M L Fotedar, “Operation Blue Star was her compulsion. There was no alternative left to stop terrorist and other disruptive activities”.