Rajiv Gandhi Death Anniversary: Why was he assassinated? Major controversies and their impact on his political career

Rajiv Gandhi Death Anniversary: Why was he assassinated? Major controversies and their impact on his political career

It’s been three decades to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, but his name still crops up every now and then in Indian politics.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, May 20, 2023, 12:27 PM IST
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Rajiv Gandhi Death Anniversary: Why was he assassinated? Major controversies and their impact on his political career |

It’s been three decades to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, but his name is still unforgotten in Indian politics and leadership. Along with his noteworthy contributions for India, he also gained popularity for bad reasons and doings.

Earlier in the years, BJP MP Nalin Kateel pointed out that Gandhi’s assassination by Nathuram Godse had killed ‘one person’ but Rajiv Gandhi had killed thousands. However, the two-time parliamentarian from Karnataka deleted his words from Twitter a while after it sparked outrage.

Brief about the former PM of India on his death anniversary i.e. May 21

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.

Why was he assassinated?

His death is believed to be a reflection of anger and hatred from people who killed him with a bomb. A suicide bomber attacked the leader and assassinated him during an election rally in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991. Reports state that Rajiv Gandhi was put to death because of personal animosity by the LTTE chief Prabhakaran arising from his sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the IPKF atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils.

Controversies that adversely 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.

Ayodhya Case

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.

Bofors Scam

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.

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