When New York Times reported there was bad blood between PN Haksar and Sanjay Gandhi

[Book extract] The reporter had apparently not done his homework.

 |  3-minute read |   22-06-2018
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On 4 April 1976, when Haksar was in the USSR, the New York Times Sunday Magazine carried a long article titled “India is as Indira Does”.

It was written by J Anthony Lukas and described the situation prevailing in India 10 months after the Emergency had been imposed. Lukas spoke of the rise of Sanjay Gandhi and how Haksar was Sanjay’s “particular rival”.

He wrote:

There has been bad blood between the two men for years, dating from the days when Haksar had to get Sanjay out of several youthful scrapes involving drink, cars and women. Most recently, Sanjay blamed Haksar for hostility to the Maruti project and for refusal to backdate a letter which would have legalised one of his mother’s disputed election practices.

So after the Emergency was declared, Sanjay and his associates decided to “send Haksar a message”. The message was delivered by way of Haksar’s uncle, Pandit Haksar who owns Pandit Brothers, a well-known New Delhi dry goods firm. One day, government inspectors descended on the store’s branch in Connaught Circus and conducted rigorous searches for improperly priced goods. When they failed to find anything, they moved on the store’s branch in the Chandni Chowk district and there, on the balcony, discovered some bed sheets with no price markings. On this technical violation alone, they promptly arrested 85-year-old Pandit Haksar and his partner. Only after strenuous protests from their friends, did Mrs Gandhi herself get the pair released on bail. But PN Haksar got the message.

Haksar was outraged when he saw this article that was sent to him by Rikhi Jaipal, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York. He sent a long rejoinder taking great umbrage that Lukas had not spoken to him for his article.

haksar_062218030259.jpgIntertwined Lives — PN Haksar and Indira Gandhi; Simon & Schuster, Price: RS 799

The rejoinder was published on 16 May 1976:

J Anthony Lukas has reported that the judgment delivered by the Allahabad High Court against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi might have been different if a certain document had been backdated and that I refused to do so.There was never any question of doing this. I was myself a witness in the case and there was never any doubt about the validity of the resignation of the employee in question. Mr Lukas might do well to study the judgment of the Hon Mr Justice Beg of the Supreme Court, who went into the facts of the case in detail.

There is another piece of gossip which Mr Lukas details when he mentions the alleged escapades of the Prime Minister’s son [Sanjay] and my alleged involvement in getting him out of situation. I am amazed at such fictional writing without any substratum of truth.

Mr Lukas also refers to the case of my uncle [who was arrested on a minor technical violation]. That matter was dealt with under the due process of law. And in one matter the Supreme Court itself gave a judgment in his favour; the counsel for the Government conceding the case in his favour. There was never any question of sending me a “message”. I continue to perform my duties as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission without any fear whatsoever of the Prime Minister as its Chairman.

During the long period of my service under both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs Indira Gandhi, I have always had, and continue to have, the privilege of expressing my views with utmost freedom. So no “message” was sent and none has been received.

Lukas responded to Haksar’s reply:

"Given the exigencies of life in India’s new dictatorship, Mr Haksar’s denials do not surprise me. He could scarcely do otherwise if he wants to hold on to his job. I stand by the facts as reported in my story."

Lukas had obviously not done his homework on Haksar properly. Haksar had to be coaxed into taking the Planning Commission job and his public silence on the Emergency had nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to “hold on to his job”. Whatever Haksar had to say to Indira Gandhi, he would say to her face and he had been doing that for years.

(Excerpted with permission of Simon & Schuster from Intertwined Lives — PN Haksar and Indira Gandhi by Jairam Ramesh.)

Also read: Beware of the rise of Hindu supremacists in America


Jairam Ramesh Jairam Ramesh

The writer is an MP (Rajya Sabha) from Andhra Pradesh, politician (Indian National Congress) economist, policy expert,

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