Sanjay Gandhi, born on 14 December 1946 and died on 23 June 1980, was an Indian politician and the younger son of Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. He was a member of parliament, Lok Sabha and the Nehru–Gandhi family. And on this day in 2023, take a moment to know more about his contributions to India, controversies, and the legacy he has left behind.
All you need to know about Sanjay Gandhi:
Like his elder brother Rajiv, Gandhi was educated at St. Columba's School, Delhi, Welham Boys' School, Dehra Dun and then at the Doon School. Gandhi was also educated at the Ecole D'Humanité, an international boarding school in Switzerland.
Gandhi did not attend university, but took up automotive engineering as a career and underwent an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe, England for three years. He was very interested in sports cars, and also obtained a pilot's licence in 1976. He was interested in aircraft acrobatics and won several prizes in that sport.
In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's cabinet proposed the production of a "People's car": an efficient indigenous car that middle-class Indians could afford. In June 1971, a company known as Maruti Motors Limited (now Maruti Suzuki) was incorporated under the Companies Act and Gandhi became its managing director.
While Gandhi had no previous experience, design proposals or links with any corporation, he was awarded the contract to build the car and the exclusive production licence. The criticism that followed this decision was mostly directed at Indira, but the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and grand victory over Pakistan muted the critical voices.
In the extremely hostile political environment just before and soon after the Emergency, Gandhi rose in importance as Indira's adviser. With the defections of former loyalists, Gandhi's influence with Indira and the government increased dramatically, although he was never in an official or elected position.
In one famous example, Inder Kumar Gujral resigned from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting when Sanjay attempted to direct the affairs of his ministry and give him orders. Gujral is reported to have angrily rebuked Sanjay and refused to take orders from an unelected person.
In September 1976, Sanjay Gandhi initiated a widespread compulsory sterilisation program to limit population growth. The exact extent of Sanjay Gandhi's role in the implementation of the program is somewhat disputed, with some writers holding Gandhi directly responsible for his authoritarianism, and other writers blaming the officials who implemented the program rather than Gandhi himself.
Sanjay Gandhi escaped an assassination attempt in March 1977. Unknown gunmen fired at his car about 300 miles south-east of New Delhi during his election campaign.
Gandhi died instantly from head wounds in an air crash at 8:10 a.m. on 23 June 1980, near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. He was flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying Club, and, while performing an aerobatic manoeuvre over his office, lost control and crashed. Gandhi was a novice pilot but given to flashy daredevilry and dangerous low-flying.
The death of Gandhi impacted the political face of India, Gandhi's death led his mother to induct her other son Rajiv into politics. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv succeeded her as Prime Minister of India.