She was james bond in khadi. She was India’s first political supremo. Indira’s politics is what has shaped India’s current wave of leadership style says author and journalist Sagarika Ghose. In her book, Indira Gandhi: India’s most powerful Prime Minister she presents a nuanced portrait of the first woman Prime Minister of our country.

Sagarika articulates that Indira was the first political leader to carve a leadership style that put herself in the centre. “Indira Gandhi started dynasty rule! Original Bahubali of politics,” she says in conversation with Shaili Chopra at the latest edition of SheThePeople Bookclub held at SodaBottleOpenerWala in Gurgaon. 

In a cosy and focused conversation with fellow book lovers, Sagarika regaled the audience with details of Indira’s sarees, her love for food, the timid behind the terror.

Her insights about Mrs Gandhi’s childhood, which shaped her personality, are particularly intriguing. The book not only talks about the supremo of politics but also about Indira the woman in flesh-and-blood. Indira Gandhi was a single female child in her family and lived with a life-long complex about being a woman, this made her relationship with gender ambiguous. She had a kind of toughness which very few politicians have.

Indira Gandhi started dynasty rule! Original Bahubali of politics.

Sagarika says, “There was a paradox in her personality. She was both a man and a woman, both politician and mother, who loved beauty but created ugliness in politics.”

She goes on to call her the first Dabangg or the Bahubali neta of Indian politics. Who always wanted her family to keep ruling. She refers to Indra Gandhi’s tenure as a leader as ‘Indirafication of Indian politics’. The author believes Indira Gandhi had a kind of grit and toughness which very few politicians today would have.

Constitutional democracy was not her game.

Talking about her legacy, Sagarika said, “Her legacy is quite controversial. She was not a Democrat. Constitutional democracy was not her game.  Indira Gandhi ruled with an iron hand, a ruthless politician, who was determined to gain power for herself. She was someone who was determined that India would remain within the Nehru-Gandhi family. She had no doubts about that her family will rule India.”

Read Also: Remembering Indira Gandhi: The Leadership and the Pitfalls

Sagarika draws a parallel between erstwhile Indira’s Government and the present day led by Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi’s style of politics.

She says, “There is a lot of similarity between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi. Narendra Modi is Indira Gandhi’s greatest Bhakt. He deserves to be the true heir in terms of being supreme in the party, supreme in the government, one-man show, collision with the media, collision with the judiciary.”

“The BJP Government today doesn’t say a single word against Indira Gandhi. She is the heroine of Bangladesh war and an iron leader. That’s a Dabang leadership and she embodies all of that.”

Love books? Join the SheThePeople Book Club. Click Here

Read Also: Sepia Stories: Indira Gandhi as a leader