Meeting the Gandhis...
And all in a sudden, while I think I am going to read about a love story, I find myself engulfed in The Red Saree, a book by by Javier Moro!
I panicked a bit at the beginning, as the novel begins on very soapy tone with the love story of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi.
But rather quickly it engages on the political history of India since Independence through the private and political life of its main characters (namely the Nehru-Gandhi family).
Basically, it all started with Nehru, Member of the Congress Party and first Prime Minister of independent India and thus until 1964, date of his death (of a heart attack).
Then his daughter...
(Click on Lire la suite to read more)
...Indira Gandhi after being President of Congress became Prime Minister from 1966 to 1984 (an almost uninterrupted reign of 18 years). A rather “ballsy” woman who married a Parsi (Firoz Gandhi, nothing to do with the Mahatma) against the advice of his father, had two sons against the advice of the doctors (as a child, she had been very ill with tuberculosis), threw out of her house her (very irritating) daughter-in-law (Maneka Gandhi) etc. She was murdered by a Sikh, in retaliation for the siege of the Golden Temple she had ordered to try to put an end to the Sikh terrorism.
Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira, a man kind of crazy, extravagant and not very upright, was expected to succeed to his mother but he got killed in the crash of a plane he was piloting himself. So Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister the day following his mother’s death and kept his position for 5 years, until 1989.
Two years later, while he is campaigning to regain power, he was murdered in retaliation for India military intervention in Sri Lanka. This tragedy served well the Congress which won the elections in 1991. But the victory was short lived: the Party kind of collapsed from 1996 to 2004.
Meanwhile, in 1998, Sonia Gandhi, the widow of Rajiv, took the lead of the Congress. We have to say respect because one she is a woman and two she is a foreigner at the head of the largest party in India... Of Italian origin, she met Rajiv in England while studying – to learn more you about the romance you will have to read the book but I haven’t been able to find the English translation anywhere….
The novel explains very well (despite some lengthy melodramatic parts) and quite objectively (despite a fairly marked pro-gandhism) the political history of India and of the Nehru-Gandhi family. All this on a background of famines, armed conflicts with neighbours, religious terrorism, assassinations, etc.
To conclude, I will add a few words on the current political scene. Since 2004 the Congress has been ruling with Sonia Gandhi as a President of the party and Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.
And next year India will have elections (may 2014). The political squabble has already started...
With on one hand the Congress, its President Sonia Gandhi and its Vice-President Rahul Gandhi (son of the last – yes indeed, we can well speak of a dynasty) who is foreseen as next Prime Minister. He is perceived as a somewhat “daddy’s boy”, immature (kind of like his father before him) and the party has been shaken by a lot of scandals lately.
On the other hand we have the opposition party, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) which advocates Hindu nationalism and social conservatism and Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister. Modi has drastically improved his State economic situation but his image is sullied by his alleged involvement in the deadly religious riots in 2002 between Hindus and Muslims.
From left to right: Nehru, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka