Sonia says Indira was mentor to her, takes veiled dig at rivals

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Praising the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for mentoring her, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday took a veiled dig at political rivals, saying there are now leaders “willing to undermine the very foundations of national character in quest for shortcuts to greatness”.

Speaking at the Indira Gandhi centenary celebrations at the Vigyan Bhavan here, she said the former Prime Minister was not only her mother-in-law but also a mother, mentor and a guide to her.

“Indira Gandhi was not a figure of history for me — she was my mother-in-law. We lived under the same roof, shared joys and sorrows. It is from her that I learned about India, its culture and its values,” Sonia Gandhi said.

“It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons. She was the Prime Minister of India, but to me she was a mother, a mentor and a friend. It was in my arms that she drew her last breath,” the Congress leader recalled.

“Before her (Indira Gandhi’s) death, she declared, and I quote: ‘Every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation’. And indeed it did,” Sonia Gandhi said.

“Her sacrifice in preserving a united, diverse and egalitarian India will be remembered. All the more so at a time when, in the quest for shortcuts to greatness, we find leaders willing to undermine the very foundations of our national character,” she added.

The Congress leader said: “Some dismissed her as weak and incapable. Others called her a tyrant. But with the trust of her countrymen, painstakingly won, and with her dedication to their cause, she went on to serve her people, sacrificing her very life.”

She said Indira Gandhi was an institution, a leader with the courage of conviction and nerves of steel, unflinching in the face of duty, resolute against all that was unjust.

“She led our nation through the tumultuous battles of the 60s and 70s, never faltering in her dedication to the masses who gave her their complete trust,” Sonia Gandhi said.

“She faced economic crises, and prevailed. She managed the greatest refugee crisis in human history (in 1971). She refused to compromise on India’s noble humanitarian traditions,” she added.

Sonia Gandhi said the then Prime Minister faced war with courage and determination, and her victory saw the triumph of democracy and the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh.

“When powers that be abroad attempted to dictate terms to India, she stood up for what was right and was vindicated by history,” the Congress President said.

Sonia said her mother-in-law had a vision for India in the world of the 21st century.

“But it was not a soulless vision that came at the cost of our pluralist diversity. She saw an India that will not follow blindly the path laid by the West. She saw it crafting its own future guided by its democratic and cultural ideals,” she added.

“Where others failed, she (Indira) wanted India to show the world the way. It made her mission doubly challenging, but Indira Gandhi was not a woman daunted by challenge,” the Congress chief said.