Today marks the 29th death anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi at the age of 40 became the youngest Prime Minister of the country. He took over as the sixth Prime Minister after his mother Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984.
Born on August 20 in 1944, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber during an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.
However, during his tenure at Prime Minister of India, Rajiv was accused of making decisions that did not benefit the country in the long run. While people have argued that ‘he was a good man, who was misled’, people will only remember him as the decision-maker and not the people who influenced him to make that decision.
Here are 7 incidents that showcase the mistakes made by Rajiv Gandhi while he was a politician
The 1984 Sikh genocide: Soon after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, following her decision to execute Operation Blue Star in Amritsar, Congress workers went up in arms and began massacring Sikhs in the national capital. Some of the names that have cropped up in the list of Congress leaders involved include former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, and Jagdish Tytler amongst others. While Rajiv didn’t order for the riots, his silence about the massacre has raised many questions.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Thousands of people were killed after the methyl isocyanide (MIC) leak at the Union Carbide plant in December 1984, two months after Rajiv Gandhi assumed oath as prime minister. Four days after the leak, Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson was arrested by the CBI and placed under house arrest. However, after a few hours, he posted bail and left India never to return to face trial. Reports have suggested that Rajiv Gandhi was pressurized by the US government to let Anderson go. Moti Singh, the then Bhopal collector, even alleged that Anderson managed to get away by using a phone in his room to contact people in the United States.
Shah Bano case
In 1978, Shah Bano, a Muslim woman and mother of five children was divorced by her husband. She filed a criminal suit in the apex court demanding maintenance. In 1985, in a historic judgement, the Supreme Court ruled in her favour and the court ordered that alimony be paid. Muslims thought that the Supreme Court is interfering in their personal laws and took massive processions against the judgement. To calm down the Muslim community, Rajiv overturned the verdict.
Later, the Congress government enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. According to the act, a Muslim woman gets the right to maintenance for the period of only three months after the divorce. The responsibility of maintaining her was shifted to her relatives of the Wakf Board. Hence, taking away basic rights of Muslim women.
Rajiv Gandhi was blamed for indulging in minority appeasement. To restore the damage, Rajiv ordered to remove the locks from Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and allow religious rites inside the structure. This decision triggered a movement by the ABVP to break free the ‘Lord from captivity’. Stones were carried from different parts of the country to lay the foundation of the temple. And this resulted in the worst massive riots across North India.
Allegations of using Navy warships to go on joyrides
During the 2019 election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged that Rajiv Gandhi used naval warships as his personal tour boat. An Indian Naval officer even claimed that he witnessed it. Commander V K Jaitly, who was posted on INS Viraat at that time, backed PM Modi’s claim, saying that the warship was used by Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi to ‘celebrate their holidays’. “Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi used INS Viraat for travel to celebrate their holidays at Bangaram island. Indian Navy resources were used extensively. I am a witness. I was posted on INS Viraat that time,” Jaitly tweeted.
However, former Navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas defended late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Ramdas, who was the Southern Navy Commander then and was also onboard the INS Viraat, in a statement, said “no foreigners visited INS Viraat and that the prime minister and his wife were onboard the aircraft carrier” following all official protocol.
India’s interference in Sri Lanka
People have speculated that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination came because he sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka, which led to atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils. This did not go down well with LTTE chief Prabhakaran, who called for Rajiv Gandhi’s execution.
Banning marijuana in India
In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi buckled under United States pressure to ban marijuana in the country. Before that, it was even known as the penicillin of the Ayurveda industry. This was the second case where India buckled under US Pressure.
The Bofors scandal was a major weapons-contract political scandal that occurred between India and Sweden during the 1980s and 1990s, initiated by Indian National Congress (Congress party) politicians and implicating the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and several other members of the Indian and Swedish governments who were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB, a bank principally financed by the Wallenberg family's Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, for winning a bid to supply to India their 155 mm field howitzer.