Indira Gandhi’s marriage life and controversies


Jinke apne ghar shishe ke hote hai wo dusro pe patthar nahi fenka karte jaani!

This dialogue should be known to Congress leaders. When Narendra Modi accepted that yes, Jashoda(bahen) is his wife. Congress leaders including Digvijay Sinh jumped to taunt and blame Modi for ignoring his wife. However truth is that Narendra Modi not only left his wife but also his family to become ‘Pracharak’ of Rashtriya Swayamasewak Sangh (RSS). Jashodabahen was persuaded by Modi to continue her education which she had given up after marriage. Just look at age of marriage! Modi was just 19 years old and Jashodabahen was 17! And Jashodabahen has till date no complain against Modi! Rather she worships him as god and prays that he become prime minister! For this wish, she doesn’t eat rice and doesn’t wear chappals! She is really modern age Urmila of Ramayan.

Now it is very ridiculous that Congress leaders like Digvijay Sinh has jumped after Modi accepted Jashodabahen as his wife. If Modi had previously denied in filling up form for candidacy and Digvijay Sinh had speaken up, we can understand. But previously in all assembly elections Modi fought, Modi had left column of marital status empty. Even arch rival like Shankar Sinh Vaghela didn’t feel it proper to blame Modi and to raise personal issue like this. One congress female leader even talked that Modi has deprived Jashodabahen from her rights. She could not understand what kind of relationship Modi and Jashodabahen have. Either/Both could have got divorce easily if they wanted. But no, they didn’t choose that path. And as per Rajasthan High Court ruling, separation of more than 40 years could easily grant divorce to both. But Jashodabahen and Modi both are devotee of Maa Amba and Bahuchara. They had their own way of worship. One worships god and other Bharat Maa (mother India). But in comparison to Modi, personality of Jashodabahen is less (zero) controversial.

Let’s turn to Congress. Present party of Congress is known as Indian National Congress but it is actually Congress (I). And do you know what ‘I’ stands for? It is Indira Gandhi. In 60s Congress was divided and those who stayed in favour of Indira formed Congress (I) and others like Morarji Desai formed Congress (O) or Sanstha congress. So, the accusations which are made by Congress leaders can be given back to them. First, they say, Narendra Modi is autocratic. Was not Indira autocratic? Is not Sonia Gandhi autocratic? Second, Narendra Modi has sidelined senior leaders like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Congress leaders forget about Indira Gandhi’s implementation about Kamraj Plan and then split wide open for Congress. Senior leaders of Congress didn’t like Indira Gandhi and they often called her ‘Gungi Gudia’.  (However, there are many similarities found by some analysts between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi.)

If you look at Indira Gandhi’s life, you will think that giving royal treatment to son in law in Nehru-Gandhi family was tradition. (So don’t surprise that Robert Vadra getting richer with so called land scams!) Feroze Gandhi, husband of Indira Nehru or Indira Gandhi was made managing director of newspaper The Natioanal Herald started by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of Bharat. He also became first chairman of
Indian Oil Corporation Limited.

Indira Gandhi with Feroze Gandhi

According to wikipedia, Feroze Gandhi didn’t sit silent as they say in many Bhartiya languages. He got elected from Rae Barelli and became member of parliament. In the years after independence, many Indian business houses had become close to the political leaders, and now some of them started various financial irregularities. In a case exposed by Gandhi in December 1955, he revealed how Ram Kishan Dalmia or Ram Krishna Dalmia, as chairman of a bank and an insurance company, used these companies to fund his takeover of Bennett and Coleman and started transferring money illegally from publicly held companies for personal benefit. In 1957, he was re-elected from Rae Bareli. In the parliament in 1958, he raised the Haridas Mundhra scandal involving the government controlled LIC insurance company. This was a huge embarrassment to the clean image of Nehru’s government and eventually led to the resignation of the Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari. His rift with Indira had also become public knowledge by then, and added to the media interest in the matter.

Feroze also initiated a number of nationalization drives, starting with the Life Insurance Corporation. At one point he also suggested that Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO) be nationalized since they were charging nearly double the price of a Japanese railway engine. This raised a stir in the Parsi community since the Tatas were also Parsi. He continued challenging the government on a number of other issues, and emerged as a parliamentarian well-respected on both sides of the bench.

According to biography written by American author Katherine Frank, Indira Gandhi had many affairs. Indira Gandhi admitted to Pupul Jayakar that while a student at Shantiniketan she’d fallen in love with a German named Frank Oberdorf who taught her French.

Even after marriage with Feroze Gandhi, Indira Gandhi continued relationship with Frank Oberdorf. According to Pupul Jayakar, who wrote biography of Indira Gandhi, “In reply to a letter from Frank Oberdorf in early 1946, after a silence of nine years, she wrote: “In March of 1942 I got married. Unlike you I have not been able to have any domestic life. Now I have a small son and he will soon be two years old…We are still leading very busy lives – with a great deal of travelling all over the country. All of us never seem to be in the same town at the same time. As you see from the above address, I am now living in my father’s house.”

However, there were rumours about Feroze Gandhi’s character also. According to Pupul Jayakar, “In Lucknow, separated from Indira, Feroze soon became entangled with a woman from one of Lucknow’ s prominent Muslim landed families. Rumours of Feroze seeking solace elsewhere reached Indira while she was with her father.” According to Khushwant Singh, Feroze Gandhi flirted with Indira’s cousins, had an affair with Tarakeshwari Sinha, Mehmuna Sultana, Subhadra Joshi and others.

Acoording to Katherine Frank, one affair of Indira was with Jawaharlal Nehru’s assistant M.O. Mathai. Mathai claimed to be lover of Indira for 12 years and also made Indira pregnant. Mathai lost out to Indira’s yoga teacher Dhirendra Brahmachari and later Dinesh Singh who was a minister of her cabinet.

Indira Gandhi and Dhirendra Brahmachari

My 12 years of sex life with Indira Gandhi came to an end after I saw her with another man behind the curtain: M.O Mathai

But some persons like former journalist P. D. Tandon who was associated with three generations of the Nehru family won’t buy this version given by Katherine Frank and dismiss it as just trick to sell book. According to Tandon, Mathai had become very influential and rude. So many people felt jealous. This attitude of his led to downfall and after dismissal he turned bitter against Nehru and tried to malign Indira Gandhi.

However, well known jouranlist and author Khushwant Singh had once wrote, “The historian S. Gopal believes Mathai’s relationship with Indira had crossed permissible limits; B.K. Nehru supports him: “It is more fact than fiction,” he told Frank.I knew the three men. Mathai was a singularly unattractive man with little to say for himself. But people under public gaze cannot afford to have liaisons with persons of their choice. The body has its own compulsions and finds outlets easily available. Mathai was a live-in secretary-stenographer.”  I am willing to believe that for some years Mathai was Indira’s lover. Dhirendra Brahmachari was a tall, handsome Bihari who had an hour with Indira behind closed doors every morning. Yoga lessons may have ended up with lessons from the Kamasutra. As for Dinesh Singh, it was he himself who allowed gossip about his relations with the prime minister to spread. At many late night dinners in the homes of diplomats, he arranged for messages to be sent that Indira would like him to drop in on her on his way home.

But on other side, in conversation with Pupul Jayakar Indira presented her different side : Indira told Pupul, “A part of the problem is that I do not behave like a woman. The lack of sex in me partly accounts for this. When I think of how other women behave, I realise that it is a lack of sex and with it a lack of woman’s wiles, on which most men base their views of me.”

According to journalist P. D. Tandon, When Feroze Gandhi died in 1960, Indira wrote to family friend Mohd Yunus: “I feel so utterly desolate. You know more than anyone else how much Feroze and I disagreed and quarrelled over the years, yet instead of separating or slackening the bond of friendship, we were closer than before. We had a wonderful holiday together, a month in a houseboat in Srinagar, and made plans for the future. The boys are of an age when they need a father more than a mother. I feel lost and empty and dead. Yet life must go on.”

Here are some more facests of Indira Gandhi extracted from Katherine Frank’s book:

The only person on record who made derogatory references to Indira’s looks and intelligence was her aunt Vijayalakshmi Pandit. Indira never forgave her or her daughters for slighting her. She never forgave anyone who said anything against her.

She (Indira) was equally touchy about her health. While still a girl she was suspected of having tuberculosis (her mother had died of the disease). She had regular medical check-ups. Most doctors who examined her advised her against having children. “If it had been up to me, I would have had eleven…this diagnosis provoked me, it infuriated me.” It was her husband, Feroze Gandhi, who wanted only two.

Amongst the many men who were bowled over by her (Indira’s) looks was President Lyndon Johnson of the United States. Just before a dinner hosted by the Indian ambassador B.K. Nehru and his wife Fori for Indira at which vice-president Hubert Humphrey was to be the guest of honour, Lyndon Johnson stayed on tossing glass after glass of bourbon on the rocks while talking to Indira. He readily agreed to stay on for dinner to which he had not been invited. At a reception at White House, Lyndon Johnson asked Indira to dance with him. She refused on the grounds that it would hurt her image in India. The President understood. He wanted to see “no harm comes to the girl”. He sanctioned three million tons of wheat and nine million dollars aid to India.

According to Khushwant Singh who knew Indira Gandhi very closely-personally, Indira Gandhi sidelined Morarji Desai and others like Kamaraj. She really ruled a bit like a dictator. People would say the Cabinet has only one man (Indira Gandhi) and that the rest are all hijras (eunuchs), but the fact is she reduced them to that level.

She (Indira) was incapable of tolerating any criticism and she picked up an aversion to some persons because she thought they were challenging her. During her reign, corruption increased to enormous levels. She was really very tolerant of corruption, which was another negative mark against her. She knew perfectly well that some of her ministers were extremely corrupt, yet she took no steps against them till it suited her.
If she knew someone was corrupt, she tolerated him but if it suited her, she used the same corruption charge to get rid of him. She really had no strong views on corruption, which went sky high during her time.

Also, she felt uncomfortable with educated, sophisticated people. So you have the rise of people like Yashpal Kapoor, R K Dhawan, who was a stenographer who worked in her office, Mohammad Yunus, who just hung around her.

Khushwant Singh said in an interview, “I believe this was because she had no real education. She went to Shanti Niketan, then she went to Badminton School abroad, then to Oxford. Nowhere did she pass an exam or acquire a degree.I think that bred a sort of inferiority complex of not being recognised as an educated person. She would pretend to have read a lot of books. She spoke French, which she picked up when she accompanied her ailing mother Kamala to Switzerland, which went in her favour. There were pros and cons but there was this sense of insecurity when it came to highly intelligent people and people with clear records. She felt more comfortable with second-rate people.

In her insecurity, she destroyed the institutions of democracy. She packed parliament with her supporters with loyalty being more important than ability; she superseded judges; she corrupted the civil service. Favouritism became a great sport with her.

She also knew how to use people against each other and was quite a master of that. She would patronise somebody and when she thought he was getting too big, instead of appointing him to a senior post, she would appoint his close associate, knowing this would create a rift between them.

The best example is of V P Singh. It was his elder brother (Santa Bux Singh) who believed he would be made minister but instead she picked V P Singh, the lesser qualified of the two brothers, which only created enmity between the brothers. She would do this with calculated skill and in the bargain cause enmity between brothers, split up families.

In the long run it was not good for the country to play such games as she did.”

According to Pupul Jayakar who wrote biography of Indira Gandhi, “Half-a-century later, I asked Vijayalakshmi Pandit of Nehru’s relationship with Padmaja Naidu. “Didn’t you know, Pupul?” she replied. “They lived together for years – for years.” Questioned further as to why he had not married Padmaja, she replied: “He felt that Indu had been hurt enough. He did not want to hurt her further.”…”

Jaswant Pandya