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'Sanjay Gandhi was shot at three times during emergency'

After naming the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as a middleman during the 1970s when he was an Indian Airlines pilot earlier, the WikiLeaks has now come up with another revelation. According to the cable, the younger Gandhi was shot at thrice by an unknown assailant.

In late August 1976, when India was under an Emergency that gave his mother Indira Gandhi absolute powers, Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi was shot at thrice by an “unknown assailant,” according to a cable sent by US diplomats to Washington. It was the third attempt to assassinate him, they reported.


Like mother, like son: Sanjay Gandhi was being seen as the prime mover behind the Congress’ revitalisation and was billed in the party as a national leader second only to his mother Indira Gandhi. File Pic/Getty Images

Sanjay, then 30, was visiting Uttar Pradesh when the “well-planned assassination attempt” was made, the cable noted, and said he was “not critically injured”. It credited the information to a clandestine source and said a high-powered rifle was used in the attack.

The cable, sent about a week later on September 6, 1976, is part of the latest WikiLeaks release and one among many despatches devoted to Gandhis, then looked upon as the “heir apparent” of Congress chief and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The cable quoted Indian intelligence to say that this was the third attempt on Gandhi’s life. Information on the attack, it said, was being tightly controlled and said it would eventually be blamed on “revolutionary elements sponsored by outside powers.”

Sanjay Gandhi’s political graph was on the rise then. Other cables from that year said Sanjay was being seen as the prime mover behind the Congress’ revitalisation and was billed in the party as a national leader second only to his mother.
But electoral defeat and some years of ignominy were round the corner.

Five months after this reported attack, Indira Gandhi announced elections, to be held in March 1977. The Janata Party highlighted the suppression of civil liberties during the months of Emergency and vanquished the Congress.

Indira Gandhi said the Congress would be back in power by May 1980. But the very next month, on June 23, Sanjay died in a plane crash. His elder brother Rajiv, who had kept well away from politics, had to reluctantly step in. It was he who eventually succeeded Gandhi both as Congress chief and as the Prime Minister.
 

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