Congress President Sonia Gandhi said her mother-in-law and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi felt “extremely uncomfortable” about the Emergency while emphasising there can be “absolutely” no comparison between her and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In an interview to India Today news channel, Sonia Gandhi also revealed that Indira Gandhi “did not want” to be in politics.
“I cannot say how she (Indira) would see Emergency today, but if she had not felt extremely uncomfortable, she would not have called for the (1977) elections,” she said about the 21-month-long-Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 because of prevailing “internal disturbance”.
She said her mother-in-law heard about people’s reaction to the move through her son (and later Prime Minister) Rajiv Gandhi.
“There were instances when Rajiv as a pilot, would meet people who would say this is happening. He would tell this to his mother. I could see that she heard him and would see her respond,” she said.
The 1977 elections saw the ruling Congress lose power at the Centre for the first time. The Janata Party — an alliance of parties opposed to the Emergency — came to power with Morarji Desai becoming the country’s first non-Congress Prime Minister.
Indira Gandhi, along with her son Sanjay, lost the polls. She, however, led the Congress back to power in the 1980 parliamentary polls.
On being asked about Modi being compared to Indira Gandhi who was reckoned to be a tough leader, Sonia Gandhi said she was clear that there is no comparison.
“It does not trouble me, I have very clear views, there is no comparison, absolutely not,” she said.
About Indira Gandhi as a politician, she said contrary to the popular view, her mother-in-law was not keen on joining politics.
“I think she herself did not want to be in politics, perhaps this is something that very few know. She was not terribly keen to join politics.
“I think, left to herself, she would have chosen to live a normal life. It was her deep sense of duty towards the country and the people that brought her to politics,” she said.
Reminiscing about the times spent with Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi said she first conversed with her in French and admitted being “terribly nervous” while meeting her for the first time in 1965.
She described her as a kind and intelligent mother-in-law and said she would not have been in politics had she not been Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law.
She said “secularism” was Indira Gandhi’s biggest contribution to Indian polity and singled out her loyalty and compassion for the people to be her strengths.
About her own stint in politics, Sonia Gandhi said: “I thought on my side it was a bit of coward to not join. At that time there was nothing else on mind but to uphold the ideals of not just my mother-in-law, my husband and the party.”
Admitting that people looked at the Gandhi family as a promoter of dynasty politics, she insisted that “politics was different from other professions” as one has to face elections every five years.
“I understand that people do look at it that way,” she said replying to a question.
“It is just like in a family of doctors, professors, business people one or another within the family will choose the path of the father. But, there is a difference, in politics you are elected and defeated democratically,” she said adding that Indira Gandhi never pushed any member of her family into politics.
On the issue of passing Congress’ reins to son and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, shesaid she was not the right person to “decide or reply” on the matter.
She also asserted of the Congress coming back to power again.
“We will keep fighting. Indira Gandhi was written off, she fought back, we will fight too.”
“It is absolutely possible. I think we will come up from 44 seats to gain the number of seats needed to get full majority in Parliament,” she said
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi along with Rahul and Priyanka attended the inauguration of a photo exhibition on Indira Gandhi’s life to mark her birth centenary celebrations in Allahabad.