Recollecting his association with the Nehru-Gandhi family, Congress veteran M L Fotedar recalled how former prime minister Indira Gandhi had invited him to Delhi to work with her.
“After pandit ji, I came in contact with Indira ji. She used to come to Kashmir. She used to visit Pahalgam. She used to stay there also. But generally she used to stay in Srinagar guest house, a place where generally leaders from Delhi would come and stay. Chinar leaves would fall on the grass. Indira ji asked me when that season would start. She would come to Kashmir during that season,” he told ANI in an exclusive interview ahead of the release of his book ‘Chinar Leaves’.
“In 1980 when Indira ji became the Prime Minister, I was working in her constituency. In two elections, I worked there for three-four months. She brought me to Delhi. She said ‘you work here’. I said yes. The next day I told her that I would like to go to Kashmir and bring my things with me. So, I brought my family also. I left Srinagar permanently. From ’80s, we are staying here. For four years I stayed with Indira ji. I would not call it as political secretary, but just like a secretary. But it was a political work that I used to do. She asked me to stay in Delhi and I stayed in Delhi till she was alive,” he added.
The Congress veteran said Indira Gandhi used to take his advice on key decisions.
“I cannot say that I made people ministers. I did what Indira ji asked me to do. She asked me to see who should be the minister from which state and why. If a minister has to be made for Delhi then who should it be and why. I had to see this completely. I used to give a list to Indira ji and she used to make them ministers. This is what Indira ji did,” he added.
Fotedar further said that one cannot compare Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv.
“First, he (Rajiv Gandhi) wasn’t ready to become the Prime Minister or a MP. But I made him ready. He became an MP and learnt how the Parliament operates. And after that he became the Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, he did great work. He solved many issues,” said Fotedar.
“I worked with Rajiv ji for six months and after that he said he did not want me to work in his office. He wanted me to become an MP and then a minister. I told him that I wanted to sit at home. But he refused and made me the MP and then a minister,” he said
Recalling his conversations with Rajiv Gandhi, Fotedar said the former prime minister did not want to appoint him as the political secretary because he considered him to be his ‘guru’.
“You become a minister in my government and I am making you an MP also. I think in 1987 I became a minister and an MP. I remained that for about 11 and a half years and I served the people and then I shifted to Gurgaon,” he added.
Fotedar said that he persuaded Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take over as the party chief post Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
“After Rajiv ji, we were worried as to who will lead. We could not see anyone in the Congress Party who could become the leader. We had great leaders at the state-level, but we did not have an all-India leader. Then my eyes fell on Sonia ji and after a lot of persuasion she agreed to become the president of the Congress Party,” Fotedar said.
“We thought of making her the Prime Minister but she did not agree. She did stay Member of the Parliament but did not become the Prime Minister. She wanted someone else to become the Prime Minister. This is the story of 1998. Sonia ji became the leader of the parliamentary party, but she made Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister for ten years,” he added.