Country Jolted Indira killed

31st October 1984 a black day in Indian history. She was killed in the courtyard of her residence. She was shot dead while listening to the grievances of the people. Elder daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi came out running and she was shocked to see Indira Gandhi lying in a pool of blood. She rushed her mother-in-law to the hospital and brought back the body home after she was declared dead. Rajiv was away in Kolkata and Indira's younger daughter-in-law, Maneka Gandhi had already walked out of the house, long back.

To ensure that there is no administrative vacuum; search began for Indira Gandhi's successor. Rajiv Gandhi was unanimously chosen as next Prime Minister. We were preparing to go to the oath taking ceremony while Indira's body was still at her residence. Sonia Gandhi was in a dilemma on the issue of Rajiv joining active politics. President Gyani Zail Singh was waiting to administer Oath. "We have already lost Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. I am not prepared to lose any more members of the family. We don't want politics. We don't want any position or power," Sonia pleaded with Rajiv. When Congress leaders were waiting to accompany Rajiv for the oath-taking ceremony, Sonia took him inside a room and made a last ditch effort to dissuade him from entering politics. It was a strange situation for Rajiv. On one side, Congress leaders were persuading him on the grounds of national duty, on the other side, his wife was pleading him not to go. I was witness to these developments. Cabinet Principal Secretary Alexander also came and requested Sonia to not dissuade Rajiv. Finally, Rajiv convinced Sonia and proceeded to take Oath.

Oath taking procedures were held amidst grief. A brief Cabinet meeting held after oath taking ceremony, condemned Indira Gandhi's brutal killing. Riots broke out in many parts of the country. After the situation came under control, many leaders from different countries came for Indira's last rites. People from all over the world mourned her death. Atal Bihari Vajpayee also offered heartfelt condolences to India's Iron Lady. Situation in Delhi was still tense and curfew was clamped in various parts of the city. Rajiv led the funeral procession of his mother and I was also part of it.

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