Mother India – A Political Biography of Indira Gandhi by Pranay Gupte


About the Author

Pranay Gupte is a veteran journalist, author and columnist. He is currently the editor in chief of www.english.alarabiya.net, Al Araviyas English language website. Mr. Gupte has been a correspondent for the New York Times in Africa, the Middle East and India as well as an investigative reporter for Forbes and a columnist for Newsweek International. His articles have appeared in major publications globally including the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, Reader’s Digest, Harvard International Review and the Washington Post Book review. He launched and sustained the Earth Times, 1991-2003. He is frequently a guest commentator on TV and radio programmes on CNN, National Public Radio and the BBC and is an elected life member of the council on Foreign Relations in New York. Mr. Gupte, born in Mumbai, is a US National who lives in New York, Dubai and Delhi. 


Review

Mother India is a fascinating story of independent India’s most complex political figure – Indira Gandhi, the enigmatic and solitary daughter of the country’s first Prime Minister who rose to become Prime Minister herself. She became one of the great leaders of the twentieth century. Her ‘Garibi Hatao’ call and her efforts at bringing about a Green Revolution endeared her to the electorate but controversy and criticism marked her years in and out of office. From the time she engineered a split in the Congress Party to emerge as its undisputed leader in the 1960s, through the triumph aftermath of the 1971 war, the infamous emergency right up to Operation Bluestar which led to her brutal assassination on 31st October 1984. Her legacy is still being determined. 

This book is an eye opener. I think our History lessons in school focused a lot on independence and how we got it which is a spectacular tale in itself. But our growth after attaining Independence is equally important. Indira was a child during the fight for Independence. Her parents were in and out of jail and she communicated with her father mostly through letters. This struggle for independence influenced her childhood and shaped her as an adult. This book gives you an appreciation of how far we have come despite our war with Pakistan and China. Indira’s lifespan covered a very transitionary part of history. The Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, the Bengal famine and our fight for Independence and the problems that came after – Indo China relations, The Syndicate, Kashmir’s history, India Soviet relations, Indira and the Sikh issue, Bangladesh, imposition of emergency and the creation of the New Congress party. 

This book gave me a new found appreciation for our country. How far we have come and how, despite having such wide ranging cultures and people, we have still managed to get along, adjust and live in relative peace. With Indira’s reign came the birth of corruption, red tape and beauracracy that haunts us even now but it also came with industrialisation, progress and international relations which were beneficial. Indira was largely political and she ignored the economic aspects of running a country. Her decisions were purely based on political survival and that may have been her downfall as well but she is nevertheless an inspiring and strong woman – something our history books ought to teach us.