The other side of Azad’s book

An explanation of why Azad was close to Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi is presented in the book

An explanation of why Azad was close to Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi is presented in the book
An explanation of why Azad was close to Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi is presented in the book

A storm has erupted since the release of the book

Veteran politician and former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s autobiography, Azaad, has created quite a storm since its release. His criticism of the Congress party’s high command, especially Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, for the party’s downfall since 2014, has led to a barrage of personal attacks on him by Congress spokespersons.

It would appear from these reactions, and analyses of the book in the media and television debates, that the book is largely about Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The fact is, they appear only in a few pages in Azaad. While the focus of the media on them is understandable, given that Azad only months ago quit the Congress, accusing the high command of failure to revive and democratize the party and let talent migrate to other parties, notably the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there are several anecdotes in the book that may not be necessary be ‘political’ in nature, but explain Azad’s proximity to senior leaders such as Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. It’s these bonds that make a political worker go the extra mile to toil for the party.

Azad narrates one such incident that happened days before her assassination in 1984. He was told by Indira Gandhi’s office that the Prime Minister wanted to see him at her Safdarjung Road residence. On arrival, he was taken into the drawing room. He writes, “After a while Indira Ji entered. She was dressed casually, and little black droplets dripped down her forehead. I brought it to her notice as diplomatically as I could. Smiling [Smilingly], she said that she had just dyed her hair… With a motherly touch, she continued, ‘Tum to bachon ki tarah ho (You are like a child), else I would not have come out in this state.’”

He recollects another, which shows the lighter and naughtier side of Indira Gandhi. He had accompanied her on a trip to a remote island in Andaman & Nicobar, generally out of bounds for the public because it was inhabited by a rare tribal community and the government did not want to disturb their ways by opening the place for tourism. The incident relates to a time when Azad was the Indian Youth Congress national president. He writes, “Both men and women of the tribal group wore no clothes. It was a natural way of living for them, but I was deeply embarrassed, more so in the presence of a woman [Prime Minister Indira Gandhi].” As they watched a tribal dance performance, some women came to the stage and requested the Prime Minister to join them in the dance. She obliged. “I had kept my eyes fixed on the ground most of the time! After a while, the PM came to me, dragged me down to the dais, brought me into the midst of the tribal men and women, and made me dance with them. You can imagine how red I must have gone in the face!”

Azad gives another example, this time involving Rajiv Gandhi. It was sometime in November-December 1990, and Rajiv was holding a series of meetings at 10, Janpath with political leaders of Punjab to seek a way forward in the militancy-enveloped state. Azad attended those meetings although he had been struck by a severe attack of bleeding ulcer and black motions. He writes, “…I looked visibly pale and exhausted. When Rajiv enquired about my condition, I told him about my ailment. He was greatly agitated and also angry at the manner I had neglected my health. He cancelled all the meetings and directed me to return home and consult a doctor.”

The book is full of nuggets of similar other interesting information. Sometime in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi and a few others accompanied Azad on a visit to Kargil and Leh. Rajiv was excited at the prospect of photographing wild horses and visiting Chushul and Pangong Lake. While on an overnight stay in Chushul, Azad developed a high fever and his body began to shiver—the outside temperature had dipped to minus 10. Rajiv attended to him in the night. The next day, helicopters came and airlifted the group to Leh, and then they proceeded to Srinagar. “Miraculously, I had begun to feel much better by the time we reached Leh. From there we took a commercial flight to Srinagar. I had completely recovered… Rajiv grumbled that I had ruined the last leg of our journey” — only recovering after the damage had been done!

There is also an incident involving Sanjay Gandhi, which shows the close personal Azad shared with him. Sanjay Gandhi spent a full three days in Jammu & Srinagar for Azad’s wedding, attending all the ceremonies. There was a hilarious moment when Sanjay and his group, along with Azad, landed at Srinagar airport on the wedding day. Azad writes, “CM Sheikh Abdullah had dispatched two senior government officials to the airport to receive Sanjay and inform him he would be a state guest during his stay in Srinagar. Sanjay asked them whether that courtesy was also extended to me. On reaching a negative response, he bluntly told them…that he would stay with me… The two officials continued to remain on the tarmac, confused over what they should do next. Suddenly, Sanjay turned to them and said sternly, ‘May I ask what you people are doing here? You are wasting your time. Don’t you have work to do in your offices?’”

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2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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Rajesh Singh is a Delhi-based senior political commentator and public affairs analyst
Rajesh Singh


  1. Gossip value. This man has NO real worth. He is lived & grown under shadow of others, now claiming his shadow is bigger than Statue of Liberty !! Such things can only happen when sunset is happening !!

    Anyone / Everyone can talk fondly of past endlessly, which has no value for 85% of the people might have died & no evidence or cannot recall & is of least interest to everyone / anyone.

    Men living in shadow cannot survive on their own physical weight


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