The Nehru-Gandhi Parivar has been at the forefront of politics. The rivalry between the daughters in law is no secret nor is Indira’s dislike for her younger daughter in law Maneka unknown. It is said that Indira was extremely unhappy with Sanjay’s marriage with Maneka. She maintained civil relations only until Sanjay Gandhi was alive. After his death in a plane crash, Indira wasted no time in throwing Maneka out of 1, Safdarjung.
On that day a spat took place between Indira and Maneka following which the latter was asked to leave the house. A detailed description of this incident can be found in close confidante of the Gandhi family, Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Truth, love and a little malice’. Let’s take a look at a small incident, from the several, mentioned in the book. This incident explains why Maneka shares a bitter relationship with her co-sister and in-laws.
On 23rd June 1980, Sanjay Gandhi and his co-pilot Captain Saxena died in a plane crash. At that time Maneka’s mother Amteshwar Anand and her sister Ambika Shukla were holidaying at England. They were flown back in a private plane that picked up Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi from Rome. It is believed that Indira disliked Maneka from the start but she loved as well as feared Sanjay Gandhi. Hence, she never openly confronted Maneka till the time Sanjay was alive.
A week after Sanjay’s death, Indira made Maneka her secretary. However, a few days later Dhirendra Bhramachari delivered the news to Maneka that she had been replaced by Sonia. He further stated that Sonia Gandhi had insisted on her appointment and threatened to leave for Italy if her demanded wasn’t acceded to. Indira was upset with Sanjay because he spent more time at his in-laws place where he was respected and adored. He gave preference to his in-laws over his mother and own family which Indira could not accept.
Undoubtedly Sonia was Indira’s favourite just like Sanjay was her favourite son. After his demise, she had no choice but to depend on Rajiv and Sonia. She held a grudge against Maneka’s mom due to the latter’s dominating nature. All these reasons converted Indira’s dislike for Maneka into intense hatred. She started finding faults with everything that Maneka did. In fact, during state reception accorded to Margaret Thatcher, while Sonia and Rajiv were made to sit with the state guests Maneka was given a place on the staff table. Indira reasoned that her younger daughter in-law had no etiquettes and table manners.
Indira Gandhi had sought assistance from Khushwant Singh to ask Maneka to behave better. Khushwant recalled how Maneka had called her mother in-law as ‘one old bag’. It is believed that Maneka spoke ill about Indira to her friends and the latter accused her of taking bribes. In short, the relation between the two deteriorated rapidly after Sanjay’s death and Indira was biding her time to fix Maneka.It was only a matter of time before Maneka was asked to leave. However, if Indira thought that she would have her way, as always, then she was certainly in for a rude shock.
Maneka Carefully chose the time to start the ‘Sanjay Vichar Manch’ in collaboration with Akbar Ahmed. At that time Indira was in London along with Sonia. This provided Maneka and her mother the opportunity to take away the documents they needed from the Prime Minister’s residence without being checked. The inaugural speech was sent to Indira and she was infuriated with the same. She saw this as a chance to get Maneka out of the house. After returning from London, she met Maneka and asked her to go back to her mother’s place. When Maneka refused, she was told that the vehicle was ready and she must leave.
Maneka called up Sanjay’s co-pilot K.D. Singh and asked him to spread the word that Mrs. Gandhi had asked her to leave the house. Later Maneka’s sister Ambika informed the press and arrived at the Gandhi residence. A verbal spat ensued between the sisters and Indira.
An ugly spat ensued with Indira breaking down and ordering that the things packed by the sisters be inspected. Refusing to let their things be searched, the sisters demanded that their things and dogs be sent ahead. They insisted that if at all an inspection was to be allowed it would take place in full view of the press. Since the situation went out of Indira’s hands, after another round of abuse and counter abuse, Rajiv and Arun Nehru took over. They too failed to convince the sisters to leave amicably. Neither force not discussions worked and at last Indira had no choice but accept her defeat. As was her wont she dictated a letter reasoning why Maneka had no right to remain at her residence and handed it over to the latter.
Late night, at around 11 PM, a teary-eyed Maneka came out of the residence only to be greeted by media flash bulbs. Before leaving Maneka replied to the letter and passed it on to the press. She had won this round and succeeded in humiliating the then PM.
Khushwant Singh then goes on to add how the relationship between him and both Anands as well as Gandhis went sour over the coming months. Her maltreatment at the hands of her in-laws and her rivalry with Sonia is the chief reason why she still harbours a grudge against the Gandhis and wants to see her son as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. That, in her opinion, would be the sweetest revenge.