After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi revealed that he was being asked to take over as prime minister, Sonia Gandhi sobbed, “They’ll kill you, they’ll kill you!…”
This may not be exactly what happened. But Spanish author Javier Moro’s version of the Congress president’s life, “The Red Sari”, is finally in Indian bookstores for readers to decide. The author calls it a “dramatized biography” as the dialogues are imagined, even if it is based on facts.
The book, first released in Spain seven years ago, was not available in India till now as no publisher invested in its English translation, apparently reluctant to take on the Congress, which was in power for 10 years till May last year. Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had threatened a lawsuit against the author.
Mr Moro, who had no access to the Gandhi family, writes that Rajiv Gandhi’s announcement that he would be prime minister was like a “death sentence” for Sonia Gandhi.
“Rajiv took her hands in his as he continued whispering the reasons that were forcing him to accept the post. ‘Oh no! Oh my God, no!’ Sonia sobbed in a flood of tears…Her whole body contracted as if she had received an electric shock, and from the depths of her soul, a harsh, guttural cry arose.”
“Seven years after the conversation she had had with Rajiv in the hospital where Indira lay dying, in which she begged him not to accept the post that his mother had left vacant, her grim fear was finally realized,” the author writes.
After Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991, the book says, “Priyanka ran to her mother’s room and searched feverishly for her inhaler and antihistamines. When she came back into the living room, she saw Sonia sitting on an armchair with her eyes almost turned up, her mouth open and her head thrown back, trying to get air. She thought she was dying.”