NEW DELHI: Reactions to Raj Thapar’s book ‘All These Years which has been excerpted in the April 30 issue of India Today have been varied. The book which has made searing comments about Indira Gandhi and all the Prime Minister’s men has neither minced words nor spared any effort to portray personalities as Raj Thapar saw them. Both Raj and her husband Romesh were part of Indira Gandhi’s “Kitchen Cabinet” and occasionally doubled as advisers and thus were well-placed to observe the events of those halcyon days. Both died in 1987.

P.N.Haksar a close adviser to the same Prime Minister and now vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University has been described by Raj as being one of the pawns on Indira Gandhi’s chess board. She says Haksar was often cornered by the late Prime Minister Gandhi into pulling up Foreign Minister Dinesh Singh who has also come in for some disparaging remarks. When asked how he reacted to Raj’s contention Haksar said: “People are entitled to their opinion and say whatever they like. No comments.”

Yashpal Kapoor who was one Indira Gandhi’s better political aides springs to her defence. Although Kapoor has quit the Congress to fight the impending polls constituency on a JD(S) ticket he appeared as loyal to his former employer a5 ever. After going through the excerpts Kapoor made no presence of his displeasure: “Why are they publishing this thing now? Mrs Gandhi is dead and gone years ago and she can’t reply to Raj’s allegations that she grew increasingly short-tempered and dictatorial. Mrs Gandhi was essentially a gentle person.” Narrating instances to prove his contention he added: “Mrs Gandhi was a product of her times. Her senior Cabinet colleagues never bothered to advice in any matter but preferred to cringe and grovel. They did not have the guts to tell her anything which might have encouraged her to stick to more democratic tracks. “Kapoor holds her Cabinet colleagues squarely responsible for those turbulent events which culminated in the proclamation of Emergency. “Mrs Gandhi was all alone her supine friends political or otherwise praised her ceaselessly when criticism was called for.” Kapoor contended.

When asked to explain why he thought Raj wrote what she had written Kapoor felt it was because the Thapars’ association with Indira Gandhi and her family ended. He maintains the author’s “acrimony” was expressed in the form of a book.

Ansar Harvani author and former MP who served three terms in the Lok Sabha from the Fatehpur and Badayun constituencies on the Congress ticket expressed appreciation for Raj’s book terming it as a deep and authentic insight” into the Nehru family. “Nehru put up a facade of being a democrat but Mrs. Gandhi made it apparent that she was a dictator in the mould of the worst of their kind” he said. He contended he had closely watched both the father and daughter and was aware of their ways He said when the going got tough Indira Gandhi got tougher. Shedding democratic pretensions and preferring to heed son Sanjay rather than the “sage advice” senior partymen sought to offer. Harvani said the extracts of the book had “justifiably” brought out the “skeletons that had been locked up in the Nehru family cupboard” and the nation had the right to know the truth.

He also agrees with Raj’s assessment of Dinesh Singh. According to him Singh was a junior officer in the ministry who superseded many talented officials he had wormed his way into Indira Gandhi’s inner circle. This was how he “manipulated” the External Affairs portfolio but proved to be a “total misfit” he added.

Former Forward Block MP Samar Guha described Indira Gandhi as a “split personality” who appeared to be a “balanced blend of ruthlessness and tenderness”.

Having gone through the extracts Guha said the he only partially agreed with Raj’s assessment of Indira. He said he remembered an incident when at a dinner meeting Indira had fed an elderly scion of an erstwhile royal family who had taken to politics. The old man Was So overcome by her gesture that he wept. For those who saw she in such a mood it was a pleasant surprise Guha contended. But he also agreed that the former Prime Minister could be dictatorial if she wanted to be and there were incidents to prove this contention.

P.N.Bajpai Nehru’s Press attaché in 1947-48 proved to be tightlipped although he did not deny incidents mentioned in the book. Bajpai left his job with Nehru after merely three months but was reinstated 1956. Although he has read the extracts of the books. Bajpai preferred silence. “Why drag me into the controversy? Whatever has been said in the book involves the likes of Mrs. Gandhi Dinesh Singh Karan Singh and others. I refuse to say anything” he said However Bajpai regretted that “such books” were being published when the “Prime target” was dead.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1991