Sanjay Gandhi was Indira Gandhi’s son, the one she always dreamt to carry on her legacy. While his rebellious and destructive behaviour during Emergency cost Indira an election. But after three years, in 1980, she was back in power. The kurta-clad member of the Congress family was appointed as the general secretary of the National Congress Party. The joy of the victory was short-lived. Unfortunately, five months after Indira was back in power, Sanjay lost his life in an air crash near Safdarjung airport in New Delhi. On June 23, 1980, Sanjay took his new Pitts S-2A plane for a joyride, lost control while doing aerobatics and crashed. Both he and the flying instructor Captain Subhash Saxena, who looking at Sanjay’s flying inexperience initially refused to accompany him, was also killed.
Indira was devastated. The loss of her son made her bitter and this led to some of the decisions that resulted in conflicts in many parts of the country. Not to forget the Operation Blue Star (1984), Indian military operation ordered by Indira to remove militants’ religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the Golden Temple in Amritsar hidden there. This led to her assassination on October 31, 1984.
In 2003, Simi Garewal in her talk show ‘Rendezvous with Simi Garewal’ got Maneka Gandhi, the current Union Women and Child Development Minister and wife of Sanjay Gandhi, speak about the Gandhi family and more. In the Rendezvous, Maneka broke her long silence on the love and the turbulence that has marked her life. What caught our attention was the part where Maneka reveals the depth of Indira Gandhi’s loss when Sanjay lost his life in a plane crash on June 23, 1980. In the interview, Maneka speaks on her life as Sanjay Gandhi’s wife, Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, a young widow and more.
In the interview Maneka revealed, a year before Sanjay’s death, both Indira and Maneka had a premonition that Sanjay was going to die. Maneka took to prayers while Indira took to keeping fasts on Tuesday as it is the day of Hanuman, the son of wind god Vayu.
Here’s how Maneka Gandhi narrated the incident:
“The evening before he (Sanjay) died, we went for a ride on the same plane. It was the first time he was going in it.”
“In the plane, I screamed and screamed for I think two hours and, when we came down, I ran home and told my mother-in-law: ‘Ma, I never asked you for anything in my life and I need you now to tell Sanjay not to fly ‘this’ plane. He can fly any plane he wants but not this one. And so she said to Sanjay in front of me, Dhirendra Brahmachari was also there ‘Maneka’s never been so strong about something. If she’s saying na jao (don’t go), toh na jao tum (then don’t go)’.”
“She said, ‘I’m afraid I have to put my foot down.”
“Then Dhawan (Indira Gandhi’s personal secretary and confidante) came in and started saying, ‘Arre yeh toh mardon ka jahaz hai. Manekaji aise bol rahi hai kyonki woh aurat hain.’ (This is a man’s plane. Manekaji is saying this because she’s a woman).” And my mother-in-law asked, “Sanjay, is it safe?”
“And I said, ‘No, it isn’t; it’s a horrible plane. Believe me, it is a horrible plane.”
“Then Sanjay said, ‘Do teen din mein theek ho jayega (It will be fine in two or three days), she’ll get used to it.”
“The next morning, he was dead. Because he was half of me I had to know.”
Watch the interview here. The ‘premonition’ part starts from 23:00 minute.