Makhan Lal Fotedar, Veteran Congress leader, passed away in Gurugram on Thursday. He was a former Member of Parliament and a permanent invitee to Congress Working Committee. Top Congress leaders including party president Sonia Gandhi expressed condolences on his death. “Our condolences on the passing of M L Fotedar Ji. Our thoughts go out to his family at this time,” Congress tweeted from its official handle.
In her condolence message, Sonia said, “In his long and active political career spanning over five decades, he tirelessly fought for the rights of people and served them with utmost integrity.” The Congress president further said Fotedar was one of the guiding lights for the Congress. The void left behind by him can never filled.
Hailing from Kashmir, Fotedar was ushered into politics by Jawaharlal Nehru in early 1950s and he gradually strengthened his position in the Congress to become one of the most powerful persons in the party. Fotedar was also a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and represented the Pahalgam constituency from 1967 to 1977. He was a two-time Rajya Sabha member and a former union minister.
Fotedar was considered as the ‘Chanakya’ of Congress, who helped the party consolidate its position in many parts of the country. A close associate of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he served as her political secretary from 1980 to 1984. Fotedar also served as Rajiv Gandhi’s political secretary for three years, before joining his Cabinet.
The late Congress leader also authored a book called ‘The Chinar Leaves’. Fotedar, however, distanced himself from active politics after the new leadership under Sonia and Rahul Gandhi took control of the Grand Old Party.
Rahul Gandhi’s leadereship
In his book, Fotedar had expressed his views against Rahul and his mother Sonia. The late Congress leader had questioned the leadership credentials of Rahul Gandhi. He had claimed Rahul’s leadership would be “unacceptable”. Fotedar then believed that a challenge to the top throne of Congress would emerge from within the party. He had also said that Rahul was a “reluctant politician”.
In the book, Fotedar claimed that Indira had seen Rahul’s sister Priyanka as her successor. However, this was surprising as Priyanka had herself said once that Rahul was Indira’s “favourite.”
On Indira Gandhi’s death
Ahead of the release of his book in October 2015, Fotedar has said late Indira Gandhi had intuitions about her death. In the book, Fotedar recalled Indira Gandhi’s last visit to Kashmir. “Mrs. Gandhi used to visit Kashmir often for three to four days and also to Sharika Devi temple and a dargah there. During her last visit, a pooja was organized at Sharika Devi temple for two hours. After the pooja ceremony when she got the prasad, I don’t know why but she looked very worried,” Fotedar said.
Fotedar recalled that the prasad fell on the floor when the priest was trying to give it to her. “The moment she tasted the prasad at the temple in Kashmir, Indira ji got a feeling that she won’t be alive for a long time. In fact, the prasad fell on the floor when the priest was trying to give it to her,” he said.
Fotedar had said that an astrologer had warned Indira to be careful that year (1984). “He (astrologer) told her that if she crosses November 19 then she will have no problem for the next ten years. Then in the car she told me that something wrong is waiting to happen. She told me that she has to look after the country and that’s why she wants to visit Odisha the next day,” he told ANI. (With agency inputs)