Dreaming a bad dream

As someone who believes Indira Gandhi was India's worst Prime Minister it shocks me when I meet people who think she was the best. Mostly these are illiterate villagers who sometimes think she is still alive because they have just received a house under the Indira Awas Yojana. Or some other sop under another scheme named for her. She was a clever politician,

Mrs Gandhi, and it was in her time that schemes paid for with taxpayers money were named after her or her Daddy. Congress governments have continued the practice because it is a clever way of using our money to pay for their propaganda. Simple, rural people can be forgiven for being fooled but what are we to make of educated young voters who vote online to declare Mrs Gandhi as their Dream Prime Minister?

A poll conducted last week by an English daily found that 13 per cent of those polled said Mrs Gandhi was their Dream Prime Minister. Sardar Patel polled the same number of votes but since he never had the job there is nothing to discuss. As a responsible political pundit who has written about Indian politics since the month in which Mrs Gandhi declared the Emergency I believe it is my duty to explain to young first time voters why it's time they started reading their history books with a more investigative eye.

Let us examine her political 'achievements'. Her admirers admire her most for winning the Bangladesh war. Congress Party chamchas rave about how this was the first war India won in many centuries. But, from a retrospective viewpoint all it has done for India is create an endless supply of desperately poor refugees who have come in such large numbers that they have altered the demography of whole districts and in Assam virtually the whole state. If this were not enough of a problem we now have Bangladesh turning into a centre for the jihad with established links to the worldwide web of Islamist terrorists who hate Hindu India.

Domestically Mrs Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister served mostly to create huge problems in Punjab and Kashmir without solving those that already existed in the Northeastern states. When Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister one of the first things he did was to try to bring peace in these troubled states. Had he been wise and allowed a free election in Jammu & Kashmir in 1986 we may not have had a Kashmir problem today. But, he was young and Mummy's old advisers told him to force an alliance with the National Conference, which turned into a political suicide pact for both parties.

If during this time of terrible political instability dear Dream Prime Minister had been building up the Indian economy through wise policies and through simply paying attention to the changes taking place in Southeast Asia we may still have been alright. But, even as our old enemy China opened its moribund communist economy to foreign investment and capitalist ideas,

Mrs Gandhi kept India's wrapped in red tape, state controls and central planning. It was such a bizarre time that industrialists who produced more than the quotas allotted to them were treated like criminals. Her devoted daughter-in-law recently said bank nationalisation was the reason why India had not been affected by the international financial meltdown. This is nonsense. Bank nationalisation kept Indian banks in a prolonged dark age until foreign banks arrived to show them how much they needed to change.

The poor found it just as hard to get loans from nationalised banks as from private ones. Only governments benefited and they borrowed and spent recklessly. Mrs Gandhi's family continues to speak of the 'the poor' as if they were the only ones who cared for them. The truth is that if Rahul Gandhi were truly in touch with life in the real India he would not need to spend the night in a Dalit hut to find out how bad things are.

His little sister, Priyanka, is proud that she looks like Dadi and has recently taken to wearing her saris to establish continuity. She would do better to sit with her brother and try and analyse why India remained such a horribly poor country despite nearly forty years of being ruled by their immediate family.

As for you who complain daily about the collapse of democratic institutions and the need for judicial and administrative reform please remember that if there is a single individual who can be blamed that individual would be Indira Gandhi. The two decades in which her 'towering personality' loomed over the Indian political landscape were a time of wasted opportunities, corruption and cynicism. A time when Mrs Gandhi's stenographers were more powerful than Cabinet ministers. She was a bad Leader. It was a bad time.

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