Sanjay Gandhi

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"Forced sterilisation was by far the most calamitous exercise undertaken during the Emergency. The IMF and World Bank had periodically shared their fears with New Delhi about the uncontrolled rise in population levels. India’s democracy was a hurdle: no government could possibly enact laws limiting the number of children a couple could have without incurring punishment at the ballot box. But with democracy suspended, the IMF and World Bank encouraged Indira to pursue the programme with renewed vigour. Indira and Sanjay, the self-styled socialists, inflicting on Indians the humiliation of forced sterilisation in order to appease western loan sharks: the irony was lost on them. Socialism, like much else, had been reduced to a slogan."

David Frum, reviewing The Sanjay Story by Vinod Mehta [27]

Attempted assassination

Sanjay Gandhi escaped an assassination attempt in March 1977. [28] Unknown gunmen fired at his car about 300 miles south-east of New Delhi during his election campaign. [28]

Opposition years (1977–1980)

After losing the 1977 general election, the Congress party split again with Indira Gandhi floating her own Congress(I) faction. She won a by-election from the Chikmagalur Constituency to the Lok Sabha in November 1978 [29] [30] [31] However, the Janata government's Home Minister, Charan Singh, ordered her and Sanjay arrested on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira Gandhi was automatically expelled from Parliament.However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial gained her great sympathy from many people.

Kissa Kursi Ka case

Kissa Kursi Ka is a satirical film directed by Amrit Nahata that lampooned Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. The film was submitted to the Censor Board for certification in April 1975. The film had lampooned Sanjay Gandhi's car manufacturing plans, besides Congress supporters like Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, private secretary to Indira Gandhi R.K. Dhawan, and Rukhsana Sultana. The board sent the film to a seven-member revising committee, which further sent it to the Government. Subsequently, a show-cause notice raising 51 objections was sent to the producer by the Information and Broadcasting ministry. In his reply submitted on 11 July 1975, Nahata stated that the characters were "imaginary and do not refer to any political party or persons". By the time, the Emergency had already been declared. [32]

Subsequently, all the prints and the master-print of the film at Censor Board office were picked up, and brought to Maruti factory in Gurgaon where they were burned. The subsequent Shah Commission, established in 1977 by the Janata party led Government of India, to enquire into excesses committed in the Indian Emergency found Sanjay guilty of burning the negative, along with V. C. Shukla, Information and Broadcasting minister during the emergency. [32] [33] The legal case ran for 11 months, and the court gave its judgment on 27 February 1979. Both Sanjay Gandhi and Shukla were sentenced to a two-year plus a month prison sentence. Sanjay Gandhi was denied bail. In his judgment, District Judge, O. N. Vohra at Tis Hazari in Delhi, found the accused guilty of "criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, mischief by fire, dishonestly receiving criminal property, concealing stolen property and disappearance of evidence". [34] The verdict was later overturned. [32] [33]

Support for Charan Singh

The Janata coalition under prime minister Morarji Desai was only united by its hatred of Indira Gandhi.The party included right wing Hindu Nationalists, Socialists and former Congress party members. With little in common, the Morarji Desai government was bogged down by infighting. In 1979, the government started to unravel over the issue of dual loyalties of some members to Janata and the RSS. The ambitious Union Finance minister, Charan Singh, who as the Union Home Minister during the previous year had ordered arrest of Gandhi, took advantage of this and started courting different Congress factions including Congress (I). After a significant exodus from Janata party to Charan Singh faction, Morarji Desai resigned as prime minister in July 1979. Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister, by President Reddy, after Indira and Sanjay promised Singh that Congress(I) would support his government from outside on certain conditions. [35] [36] The conditions included dropping all charges against Indira and Sanjay. Since Charan Singh refused to drop the charges, Congress withdrew its support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in August 1979.

Before the 1980 elections Gandhi approached the then Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Abdullah Bukhari and entered into an agreement with him on the basis of 10-point programme to secure the support of the Muslim votes. [37] In the elections held in January, Congress returned to power with a landslide majority.[ citation needed ]

1980 Indian elections

The Congress(I) under Gandhi swept to power in January 1980. [38] Elections soon after to legislative assemblies in States ruled by opposition parties brought back Congress ministries to those states. Sanjay Gandhi at that time selected his own loyalists to head the governments in these states. [39]

Personal life

Gandhi married Maneka Anand, who was 10 years his junior, in New Delhi on 24 September 1974. [40] Their son, Varun, was born shortly before Gandhi's death. [20] Maneka and Varun represent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha.

A hitherto unknown chapter of his personal life was revealed in January 2017, when Priya Singh Paul claimed that Gandhi was her biological father, [41] and that she was given away by her biological family for adoption. In June 2017, she gave a legal notice in her capacity as his daughter to stop the release of a film on Gandhi. [42]


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 an aerobatic manoeuvre over his office, lost control and crashed. Gandhi was a novice pilot but given to flashy daredevilry and dangerous low-flying. His brother had repeatedly warned Gandhi to wear proper shoes and not Kolhapuri chappals in the cockpit but Gandhi chose to ignore his advice. He was clad in kurta-pajama and Kolhapuri chappals when he got into the advanced Pitts S-2A aircraft. He flew low and indulged in some reckless maneuvers before crashing. Gandhi died instantly. It took eight surgeons four hours to stitch up his mutilated body. [43]

The only passenger in the plane, Captain Subhash Saxena, also died in the crash. [20] WikiLeaks has revealed that three attempts were made on Sanjay's life before he died in the plane crash. [44]

According to his wife, Gandhi wanted to raise his children in the Zoroastrian faith of his family. [45]

The death of Gandhi impacted the political face of India. [46] Gandhi's death led his mother to induct her other son Rajiv into politics. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv succeeded her as Prime Minister of India. Gandhi's widow Maneka fell out with her in-laws soon after Gandhi's death and started her own party named Sanjay Vichar Manch in Hyderabad. Maneka served in a number of non-Congress opposition-led governments over the years. Currently, she and her son Varun are members of the BJP, which is the current ruling party in India. Maneka was appointed to the cabinet as Minister of Women and Child Development by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, she currently represents BJP from Sultanpur (Lok Sabha constituency) in Uttar Pradesh. Varun is a BJP member of Parliament from Pilibhit constituency in Uttar Pradesh. [47]


Sanjay Gandhi
Sanjay Gandhi cropped.jpg
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
In office
18 January 1980 (1980-01-18) 23 June 1980 (1980-06-23)

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