Rajiv Gandhi: The leader who humanised politics

On his 77th birth anniversary, let’s take a look at how Rajiv Gandhi made India the “modern” nation that we boast of today

Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi

Garima Sadhwani

While former Prime Minister and Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi is mostly remembered for spearheading the IT Revolution and the Panchayati Raj system in India, there’s a lot more he did for the country.

On his 77th birth anniversary, let’s take a look at how he made India the “modern” nation that we boast of today.

Rajiv Gandhi is the one to credit for changing the face of Delhi’s skyline during the Asian Games of 1982. He spearheaded projects like the 60,000-seater Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, the Games Village, the Siri Fort auditorium and the Karni Singh shooting range. The then Member of Parliament not only was the mastermind behind these, but supervised the construction of these buildings very closely.

For the 1982 Games, he also oversaw the construction of seven flyovers, roads, hotels and nearly 12,000 new phone lines. It was especially for the Games that colour television was brought to India for the first time.

An article in the Scroll quoted Krishnan Datta saying, “Till the 1982 Games the historic Siri Fort area was a forgotten wilderness and the place where the imposing Nehru Stadium now stands would be rendered a swampy waste during the rainy months. Delhi underwent an unbelievable transformation thanks to the 1982 Asian Games.”

A sportsperson himself, he pushed the youth to take up sports and provided them with the avenues for them as well.

Besides this, the Congress leader strongly believed in the power of the youth, and the reforms he brought are a testament to this. He initiated youth members in the Congress, and gave them the power to make decisions, the likes of which had only been concentrated with the older politicians until then. Not only that, he reduced the voting age to 18 years from 21 years.

Rajiv Gandhi made a statement when he signed peace accords with students in Punjab and Assam, but that is just how much he believed in their power and cared for their future. He also made education accessible to people by founding the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya System and providing distance learning as an option in the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Something very unique and radical for the India of the 1980s, the former PM introduced a 5-day work week for government employees. The intent behind this decision was to imbibe a sense of spending quality/leisure time with one’s family, while also cutting down on the costs of overtime in the offices.

While Rajiv Gandhi introduced the concept of weekends, he himself would travel to rural areas to get a sense of the real problems that people faced and meet them.

The list of Rajiv Gandhi’s contributions to modern India is a long one, but the few that stand out are his Anti-Defection Law, the hard stance against corruption he took, and his undying support for the farmers.

A dreamer and visionary, he paved the path for India’s development and met the standards that he had envisioned for the country on a global level.

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