It’s been three decades to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, but his name still crops up every now and then in Indian politics. Talking about the recent examples, in May 2019, he was called ‘Corrupt Number 1’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP MP Nalin Kateel also said that Gandhi’s assassination Nathuram Godse had killed ‘one person’ but Rajiv Gandhi had killed thousands. Not to forget the fact that Rajiv Gandhi was India’s youngest Prime Minister at the age of 40 and someone who laid the foundation of modern India. He was the last member from the Gandhi family to hold the position. Before entering politics, Rajiv was a pilot and was never interested in joining politics. Circumstances, his brother Sanjay Gandhi’s death, made him join politics and the rest is history.
On Rajiv Gandhi’s 78th birth anniversary, here’s a look at his controversies and how it impacted his political career.
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.
After the Shah Bano Case, Rajiv 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.
1984 Anti-Sikh Riots
In 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination riots broke out. During the time, Rajiv was quoted saying, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” By the quote, he referred his mother as the tree and the earth as India. This quote did not go well with the people and the opposition.
The biggest stain on Rajiv Gandhi’s corruption-free image was Bofors scam and resulted in the defeat in the 1989 election. The scam involved millions of US dollars payoffs by the Swedish Bofors arms company ‘Bofors’ through Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, in exchange for Indian contracts. The case was blown into a full scale corruption case, but charges of taking a bribe against Rajiv was never proved.