Indira Gandhi foresees Priyanka as her political legatee
New Delhi: Indira
Gandhi had a premonition about her death just days before she was assassinated
and confided to her close associate ML Fotedar that she saw the possibility of
Priyanka Gandhi emerging as her political legatee over time — a suggestion that
did not seem to go down well with Sonia Gandhi.
Revealing the dramatic
circumstances of Indira's last days, Fotedar said she had visited Kashmir in
late October 1984, drawn by a fondness of the change of season scenery and a
desire to visit a Hindu and a Muslim shrine that the late leader reposed
particular faith in. She was assassinated in Delhi on October 31, 1984.
The old time Gandhi
loyalist's recollections are due to be made public soon in the form of a book
'Chinar Leaves' that will be released on October 30 in the Capital. Fotedar
seems to support former minister Natwar Singh's claim that family pressure
rather than an "inner voice" was the reason for Sonia declining the
prime minister's post in 2004.
“She saw a sign at the
Hindu shrine that made her feel that her life was coming to an end. On the way
back to the rest house in a car, she said as much. Then, in a thoughtful mood,
she said Priyanka might be cut out for politics... that she might be successful
and be in power for a long time," Fotedar said.
The “sign” Indira saw
and which she interpreted to mean impending death was a shriveled tree at the
Hindu shrine. Fotedar said he too read a similar portent. “I think she realized
that I had noticed it too and reached similar conclusions. She revealed her
mind on the way to the rest house,” Fotedar said.
Much later, Fotedar
wrote a detailed letter to Sonia putting down Indira's thoughts on Priyanka
after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 during campaigning for the Lok
Sabha election. Apparently, the contents of the letter were not well received. “I
did write to Sonia describing whatever transpired on that visit to Kashmir,”
In another interesting
claim, Fotedar said the late Madhavrao Scindia lobbied former Samajwadi Party
leader Amar Singh against supporting the Congress's claim to forming a
government in 1999 after the Vajpayee government lost a confidence motion by
one vote. Scindia, according to Fotedar, was miffed at the possibility of Sonia
nominating Manmohan Singh as the prime minister and worked to prevent such an
While Fotedar's account
has the Manmohan Singh angle, the accounts of the period have Sonia as having
made the claim to have the support of 272 MPs to the then President KR
indicate a cooling of relations between him and Sonia as he wryly recalled the
late Congress leader Sitaram Kesri warning him that he will get nothing from
the current Congress president. “Yes, that happened. We used to talk very
freely. It was my job to tell him that he had to make way for Sonia. He was
upset and said I would get nothing for all my troubles,” Fotedar said.
Kesri's prophesy seems
to have come true to a large extent as Fotedar was passed over for even a Rajya
Sabha membership while other members of the Congress (T) - the splinter formed
by Sonia loyalists to oppose PV Narasimha Rao - like Arjun Singh, ND Tiwari and
Sheila Dikshit, did much better.
Fotedar recalled that
he felt Rajiv Gandhi's rift with his cousin Arun Nehru was handled badly and
suggests that Sonia and Satish Sharma had a role in Nehru's ouster. “I did tell
Rajiv that the episode could rebound on him as Arun Nehru would seek revenge.
That is what happened when the Bofors story surfaced,” he said.
The veteran also said
that after the VP Singh government fell in 1990, the then President R
Venkataraman was dead opposed to swearing in Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister,
preferring Pranab Mukherjee instead. Rajiv was taken aback by Venkataraman's
The senior Congress
leader could never get along with Narasimha Rao and this spills out in his
claim that he had warned the then prime minister about the possibility of RSS
conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid. (With inputs from agencies)