Arun Nehru, columnist, psephologist, former union minister and a cousin of Rajiv Gandhi who was also his master strategist but later joined hands with the opposition, died on Thursday night after prolonged illness.
Nehru, 69, had been undergoing treatment at a Gurgaon hospital for the past few weeks. Shedding differences of the past, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka had visited the hospital recently to wish him a speedy recovery.
Nehru, who had crafted a career for himself as a political commentator and an avid watcher of elections in recent years, was among the key political figures of the Rajiv Gandhi era. As minister for internal security, he created for himself an image of a no-nonsense politician. His political acumen was demonstrated in his advice to Rajiv Gandhi to field popular personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Sunil Dutt and Madhav Rao Scindia in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections.
However, Nehru split with Rajiv in subsequent years to join hands with V P Singh to form the Jan Morcha. Rajiv hit back with a CBI case against him in 1988 for allegedly causing a Rs-25 lakh loss to the government in a pistol purchase deal from erstwhile Czechoslovakia. Nehru then left on a long holiday to the US to be with his daughters, who were studying there. He returned in 1991, after Rajiv’s assassination.
There is an anecdote about how he got into politics. Sanjay Gandhi was at the breakfast table discussing possible Lok Sabha candidates and Nehru ambled in — to be chosen as the next candidate from Rae Bareli. Until then, he had been considered a corporate wizard, having become president of the Jenson and Nicholson group of companies at a very young age.