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Absolute Khushwant


Jun 1, 2004
Absolute Khushwant


Indira Gandhi could be vengeful, even petty.

Rajiv Gandhi wasn't really a leader, just a boy scout.

Sanjay Gandhi had a conscience, was a man of action.

Manmohan Singh is the best Prime Minister India ever had.

And men like Varun Gandhi are dangerous for the very unity of the country.

Thus, Khushwant Singh writes in his latest book, "Absolute Khushwant".

The 95-year-old writer sharply criticises former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He writes, "She was dictatorial and, like her father, indulged in favouritism. She overlooked corruption and undermined democratic institutions. She manipulated and gagged the press. And she wanted dynastic succession. Power went to her head. This is why her public image changed from goddess to vindictive despot ... She could be vengeful, extremely critical and even petty."

The new book is written in association with journalist Humra Quraishi.

India's grand old man of letters was a supporter of the Emergency. Many regard the period (1975-77) as a blot on India's democratic register. But he maintains, "I have been criticized for supporting Sanjay and his mother and the Emergency she'd imposed. I don't deny that I supported them and I have no regrets."

He has words of praise for Sanjay Gandhi. "(Sanjay) was always true to his word. He had a conscience. And he was a man of action. He was a doer and was impatient to bring about changes. Many said he had the makings of a dictator - because of the demolition drives that razed slums to the ground overnight and the family planning methods he forced on people - but I feel that he was keen to bring about rapid changes. He had a vision and this was not really understood."

The writer also personally benefited from being in Sanjay's good books. Admits Khushwant, "He had been good to me. He put me in Parliament. Even The Hindustan Times - it was he who called up Birla and told him to give me the editor's job."

Khushwant Singh, also a journalist and historian, is sharply disapproving of Rajiv Gandhi.

In his eyes, Sanjay was "dynamic" and Rajiv "just a boy scout." Writes the author of ‘Train to Pakistan':

"[Rajiv] wasn't really a leader. And I don't think he was cut out for politics. He followed in his mother's footsteps and made many of the same mistakes ... His role in both the Shah Bano case and in the Babri Masjid incident cannot be denied. Both were big blunders that were irreversible and did long-term damage."

He is also critical of Maneka Gandhi and her son, Varun Gandhi. "Maneka and her family used and exploited me. I think she's no-good politician," he says in the book.

He further writes, "Varun should never have been allowed to contest in the recent elections. He should have been banned from contesting and people should have had the sense to keep him out. Such men are dangerous for the very unity of the country. His abusive language and the venom he spilled against Muslims showed his very poor upbringing."

He also believes that Manmohan (Singh) is the best Prime Minister India ever had.

"I would even rate him higher than Nehru. Nehru had vision and charisma, but he had his faults. He was instinctively anti-American and blindly pro-Soviet and socialist. He could also be impatient with people and had favourites. Manmohan has a free and extremely good mind. He can't be accused of nepotism. Nehru could, Indira could. No one would say that of Manmohan Singh."

August 23, 2010


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