Rajiv Gandhi – A man with no aspirations to enter politics who went on to become India’s Prime Minister at the age of 40. Although only a five-year tenure at the office, Rajiv Gandhi’s achievements and controversies continued to make the headlines every now and then.
Rajiv Gandhi Achievements and Controversies
- IT Policy 1984
Touted as The Telecommunications Man, Rajiv Gandhi’s IT Policy 1984 transformed ‘software’ into the business category and enabled software technicians for bank loans. Later, Rajiv Gandhi set up MTNL for Delhi and Mumbai telephone connectivity along with VSNL for international communication.
- National Policy for Education (NPE)
Building upon Indira Gandhi’s 1968 policy, Rajiv Gandhi introduced a new NPE. Under this, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was established in New Delhi to promote distance education for adults. For primary students, Operation Blackboard facilitated new equipment and teaching material in various schools across the country.
- Improved International Relations
Rajiv Gandhi’s constant efforts to build military ties with the US and improve on the Indian foreign policy outlook earned him national applause. Furthermore, he sanctioned 1,600 paratroopers in 1988 to save the President of Maldives from a coup and helped to restore order in his government.
However, Rajiv Gandhi was infamous for the controversies.
- Bofors Scam
Rajiv’s image was destroyed when the news of million-dollar payments by his government to Bofors, a Swedish arms manufacturer, for Field Howitzer guns broke out. The charges were never proved, but they lost him the 1989 elections.
- Shah Bano Case
Rajiv Gandhi was accused of dirty communal politics when he used his parliamentary powers to overturn a Supreme Court ruling in the Shah Bano case that concerned with post-divorce maintenance from her husband. Ideally, a prime minister respects the apex court’s ruling, but his interference sparked a row across the country.
- 1984 statement
“When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Rajiv Gandhi made this statement on his mother’s assassination by her Sikh guards – sparking yet another communal incident.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) forces on May 21, 1991.