I have had the opportunity of closely observing Rajiv Gandhi during his political career. He was a gentleman, the most courteous man one could ever hope to meet. He was humble even after winning a historic mandate of 400 plus seats in his first parliamentary election as the Congress President in 1984. He had no airs about becoming the youngest prime minister of India at the age of 41.
Rajiv was vilified by his political opponents in the run up to the 1989 parliamentary elections in an ugly no-holds-barred campaign. Yet he never uttered a word of abuse or disrespect against his rivals. He was as gracious after his electoral defeat in 1989. The Congress Party had then emerged as the single largest party. The then President R Venkataraman invited Rajiv Gandhi first to form the government. But he declined the offer, pleading that the mandate was morally against him. No other politician would arguably have done what Rajiv Gandhi did at that time. There are no prizes for guessing what Mr Modi would do in a similar situation. He would jump at such an offer and use every dirty trick to remain in power.
Rajiv Gandhi was not just a gentleman politician. India owes its computer revolution to Rajiv’s vision. Once into power, Rajiv was obsessed with the idea of taking India into the 21st century as a modern, progressive and self-confident nation. He soon realised that the computer would play a key role in the 21st century and then on he devoted his energy to make India accept the utility of this instrument, which soon changed everyone’s life across the globe. Rajiv paid heavily both politically and personally for the changes that he brought about in Indian life through computer. But he refused to bow to his jeering critics who nick named him ‘computer boy’ because he knew what he was doing for the nation.
Rajiv Gandhi was an innocent man who blindly trusted one and all. Many of his ‘friends’ stabbed him in the back. But he never even grumbled against any one. He was a different sort of a person who cared for his friends but never complained if they deserted him.
Let me inform NH readers that Rajiv Gandhi was even aware that he could be assassinated. Before his death, no less a person than Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who headed the Palestinian state, sent his ambassador in India Dr. Khalid Al Sheikh to inform Rajiv that the LTTE assassins had reached India to fulfil their mission. Rajiv’s request to the then government for adequate security fell on deaf ears. Ultimately, this gentleman politician died at the hands of LTTE assassins in the prime of his political career,