Remembering Sanjay Gandhi On His Death Anniversary: Congress Leader Who Died Young

Thursday marks the 42nd death anniversary of Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi, considered to be the heir apparent to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who died in a plane crash in Delhi on June 23, 1980. Sanjay Gandhi was an MP and was believed to succeed his mother Indira Gandhi as the head of the Indian National Congress. However, following his death, his elder brother Rajiv Gandhi was chosen as the political heir.

Gandhi was born on December 14, 1946. He did his schooling at St. Columba’s School, Delhi, Welham’s Boys’ School, Dehradun, Doon School, Dehradun, and at the Ecole D’Humanité, an international boarding school in Switzerland. Gandhi pursued automotive engineering and underwent an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe, England. He even obtained a pilot’s license in 1976.

While Gandhi did some good work for the community, his name is also attached to some controversies. It is believed that Sanjay Gandhi had a big role in imposing Emergency on the country, empowering then PM Indira Gandhi to do whatever she considered best for the country for at least six months.

IK Gujral, former PM of India, had resigned from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting repotedly citing Sanjay’s interference in ministerial matters. Sanjay Gandhi is also best known for a compulsory sterilisation programme that he launched in September 1976 to check population growth.

In June 1971, Maruti Motors Limited, present day Maruti Suzuki, was incorporated and Sanjay Gandhi became its managing director. However, during his lifetime, Maruti could not manufacture any car.

In 1977, Gandhi had a close encounter with death when he escaped an assassination attempt. An unknown gunman fired at his car during an election campaign but Gandhi managed to escape. Wikileaks had claimed that there were three assassination attempts on Sanjay Gandhi.

In May 1980, just a month before his death, he was appointed as the secretary-general of the Congress Party.

Gandhi was flying a new aircraft at the Delhi Flying Club when he lost control and it crashed. He received severe head wounds and died instantly.

While Gandhi was a proficient pilot, he often engaged himself in some daredevilry stunts and low-flying. Before getting on to the aircraft, he was seen wearing a kurta-pajama and Kolhapur chappals and not the usual pilot uniform.