What is Indira Gandhi’s legacy?
What was her legacy?
She was associated with events like the Emergency, which briefly made Gerald Ford head of the largest democracy in the world, and decades of militancy in Punjab.
Her policy of nationalising banks was mentioned as a reason why the Indian banking sector weathered the global financial crisis.
She also won a famous military victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan and ordered the Pokhran I nuclear tests three years later.
Going by columns and television discussions around her anniversary, it is safe to say it was contentious.
Over her career and beyond she was compared to a dumb doll, the goddess ‘Durga’, a lioness and Napolean.
Some called her, like Margaret Thatcher, the only man in her cabinet.
Richard Nixon described her as an “old witch”.
She herself played at being Joan of Arc as a child.
The more enthusiastic of her partymen coined the phrase “India is Indira and Indira is India”.
Its cadence has had a longer shelf life, if not the idea itself.
Twenty five years after her assassination, the Congress party in the ascendant, one news channel recounted her as India’s Indira.
Would it be accepted the other way around now?
Indira’s India is not an incredible idea given she was the second longest serving prime minister we had.
She was Prime Minister or minister for eighteen of her sixty six years. Not counting her other political roles.
I was four when she died and my memory of her is from Doordarshan films showing her unfurling the tricolour.
Much clearer is the memory as a seven-year-old, of waiting for hours behind wood barrricades with my mother to watch Rajiv Gandhi pass by.
What I remember is my mother’s patience and my disappointment when I couldn’t glimpse him as his convoy zipped by.
It was a Gandhi who was passing through that day and that seemed to be enough reason to wait however long, for a fleeting moment.
Was dynasty and its mystique, which she was accused of building, the most lasting contribution of Indira Gandhi?
Or is it too soon to assess her legacy?