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A Man of Ideas and a Woman with a Sense of Power

Intertwined Lives: P N Haksar and Indira Gandhi by Jairam Ramesh, New Delhi: Simon and Schuster, 2018; pp xvi + 518, ₹ 799.

 

Fifty years after the event, the split in the Congress party and the takeover of control of its apparatus and then of the country by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi continue to be of enduring interest to the historian and layperson alike. It led to a significant set of changes in the body politic that were fully in place by the time she consolidated her hold after sweeping victories in the Lok Sabha polls of March 1971, and then the state assembly elections held in the wake of the war to liberate Bangladesh.

It is uncanny that the core of this book in the Chapter titled “A Prime Minister’s Alter Ego” covers the period from Haksar joining as the Prime Minister’s secretary on 6 May 1967, till his eventual exit at the end of 1972. These 68 months saw a sharp shift in the balance of power at several levels, most clearly between the head of government and the leader of the Congress, the president of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). More than the split, it effectively saw a welding of the party and the union government in a way that was distinctly different from the early years after independence. Faced with electoral setbacks, strong pressures from the American administration at a time of heightened dependence on food imports, and political challenges from within her party and the increasingly emboldened opposition, the still shaky Prime Minister decided to strike back. In more ways than one, Haksar was a key player in this transformation and as this book shows, also an unwitting victim even before he exited office.

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Updated On : 28th Sep, 2019

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