New Delhi: Indira Gandhi could be vengeful, even petty. Rajiv Gandhi wasn't really a leader, just a boy scout. Sanjay Gandhi had a conscience, was a man of action. Manmohan Singh is the best prime minister India's ever had. And men like Varun Gandhi are dangerous for the very unity of the country — in his latest book Absolute Khushwant, veteran author, journalist and historian Khushwant Singh writes with plenty of malice, though not towards one and all, reports Times of India.
The 95-year-old writer sharply criticizes Indira Gandhi. He writes, “She was dictatorial and, like her father, indulged in favouritism. She overlooked corruption and undermined democratic institutions... Power went to her head...her public image changed from goddess to vindictive despot...”
India's grand old man of letters was a supporter of the Emergency. Many regard the period (1975-77) as a blot on India's democratic register. But he maintains that he has no regrets. “(Sanjay) was always true to his word. He had a conscience. Many said he had the makings of a dictator — because of the demolition drives and the family planning methods he forced — but I feel that he was keen to bring about rapid changes. He had a vision and this was not really understood.”
The book, titled ‘Absolute Khushwant', is written with journalist Humra Quraishi.
The nonagenarian is sharply disapproving of Rajiv Gandhi. In his eyes, Sanjay was “dynamic” and Rajiv “just a boy scout.” Writes the author of ‘Train to Pakistan', “(Rajiv) wasn't really a leader. And I don't think he was cut out for politics. He followed in his mother's footsteps and made many of the same mistakes....His role in both the Shah Bano case and in the Babri Masjid incident cannot be denied. Both were big blunders that were irreversible and did long-term damage.”
However, Khushwant admits to personally benefiting from being in Sanjay's good books. “He had been good to me. He put me in Parliament. Even The Hindustan Times — it was he who called up Birla and told him to give me the editor's job,” he writes.
However, Khushwant is critical of Maneka Gandhi and her son, Varun Gandhi. “Maneka and her family used and exploited me. I think she's no-good politician,” he says in the book.
He further writes, “Varun should never have been allowed to contest in the recent elections. He should have been banned from contesting and people should have had the sense to keep him out. Such men are dangerous for the very unity of the country. His abusive language and the venom he spilled against Muslims showed his very poor upbringing.”
But Khushwant has nice words for some people too.
One of them is Rahul Gandhi. “I think that Rahul is much more talented than his father. He has a vision and that's very important,” he writes.
He also believes that Manmohan (Singh) is the best Prime Minister India ever had. “I would even rate him higher than Nehru. Nehru had vision and charisma, but he had his faults. He was instinctively anti-American and blindly pro-Soviet and socialist. He could also be impatient with people and had favourites. Manmohan has a free and extremely good mind. He can't be accused of nepotism. Nehru could, Indira could. No one would say that of Manmohan Singh.”
Khushwant also praises Indira Gandhi for her patriotism and for being staunchly secular. He writes, “She had been foolish and bungled badly in Punjab. She had made enemies. But she did not deserve the kind of death she had. It was a sad day. You can't doubt Mrs Gandhi's patriotism. And I can vouch that there was nothing anti-Sikh about her. On Blue Star she was misled by her advisers, one of them a Mona sardar.”
The writer adds, “In the study in my cottage in Kasauli, I have two pictures of the people I admire most: Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. I admire Bapu Gandhi more than any other man. Whenever I feel unsure of anything, I try to imagine what Gandhi would have done and that is what I do.