President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday paid a rich tribute to Indira Gandhi and recalled her decisiveness while giving a subtle message to the present Congress leadership.
Mukherjee, who worked as minister under Indira, recalled how she shot back after the second Congress split of 1978.
"The Congress was defeated in 1977. I was a junior minister. She told me, 'Pranab, don't get unnerved by the defeat. This is the time to act.' And, she acted!" Mukherjee recalled.
In a veiled message to the current Congress leadership to speed up decision-making in organisational matters, Mukherjee recalled the former Indira's decisive style of functioning that helped her party score comeback victories in state elections within a couple of months after the split.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who has often been criticised for lack of decisiveness, was sitting on the dais when Mukherjee made the remark.
Mukherjee was speaking on the occasion of the release of a commemorative centennial volume on her life and works. Along with Rahul, Vice President Hamid Ansari and former prime minister Manmohan Singh were also present during the function.
He also received the first copy of 'India's Indira - A Centennial Tribute' that was unveiled by Ansari. The Congress is celebrating the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi.
The book edited by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma is a compilation of life and work of Indira Gandhi and its foreword is written by Sonia Gandhi, who could not attend the function due to her ill health.
Recalling the second split in Congress in 1978, President Mukherjee said Indira Gandhi was elected party president on January 2, 1978 and in a matter of few days by January 20 she completed the formation of the working committee, set up the parliamentary board, PCCs and AICC structures and prepared the party to face elections to state assemblies of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, and NEFA.
Soon after that, he said, she led the Congress to a decisive victory by two-thirds majority in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and went on to make her party the single-largest in Maharashtra where it formed the government along with the breakaway faction of the Congress.
Mukherjee said by the difference between January 2 and March 6, one can understand how quickly she had to take decisions and how decisively and determinately she took those decisions.
"I think, this is the characteristic of Indira Gandhi," he said, with Rahul Gandhi, her grandson, listening with rapt attention.
"Indiraji's response to the worst moments in her political life was to push herself into more action," he said, adding that in this centenary year, people will remember her for her various contributions.
Gandhi was one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century. And to the people of India, she still remains the "most acceptable" prime minister of a democratic country, the President said to wide applause from the audience that comprised a galaxy of top Congress leaders.
The President recalled a series of bold decisions the former prime minister took in the interest of the country, laying special emphasis to her decision to cleanse Golden Temple of militants, which he termed as the "most dangerous".
"As a student of history I was afraid to do anything with the Golden Temple. And as member of the then CCPA I told at the meeting that perhaps the most dangerous decisions we are taking," he said, referring to Operation Bluestar in 1984.
"Sometimes history demands some action which may not prove correct later on, but perhaps is most relevant at that time. This decision cannot be avoided," he said. Mukherjee said the fearlessness in Gandhi's actions, she did not make an inch of change in her policy. He said Indira Gandhi played the second longest innings as prime minister of this country in her two terms.
He said her entire life was infused with a tremendous passion for India and its people.
(With PTI inputs)