New Delhi, July 9: If Rajiv Gandhi toppled Chandra Shekhar, Sonia Gandhi’s Congress-led government is paying tribute to him.
The UPA government has unanimously voted to change the rules and allocate land for a memorial to the former Prime Minister and socialist leader who died on Sunday.
In a signal to the Thakur lobby otherwise likely to be predisposed to vote for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the presidential election, the government decided last evening to overturn a law passed by the previous BJP regime on awarding government land for memorials to political leaders.
Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was not that lucky. When he died just under two years ago, the UPA government persuaded Rao’s family to shift the state funeral to Hyderabad.
However, for Shekhar — whose government was dumped by the Congress in 1991 on charges that policemen were sent to spy on Rajiv Gandhi — a samadhi will come up on the breathtaking green stretch on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road.
The zone begins with Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat, followed by memorials to Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Thousands visit these sites every day to pay homage and, over the years, a subtle hierarchy of state cremations has begun to emerge.
On Sunday, as the cabinet met in the wake of Shekhar’s death, the late leader’s family was offered land in Gurgaon to build a memorial. But Pankaj Singh, Shekhar’s eldest son, felt that it would be out of place and turned down the offer.
The cabinet then unanimously decided that Shekhar deserved a place among the greats on the Yamuna’s banks.
The former Prime Minister was today cremated at Ekta Sthal, near the samadhis of former Presidents Giani Zail Singh, Shankar Dayal Sharma and K.R. Narayanan.
Political analysts said the UPA’s mood on Sunday had a lot to do with the impending presidential election, in which the Thakur lobby could play a key role.
It is well known that Shekhar and Shekhawat were personal friends. But sources in the former Prime Minister’s family told The Telegraph that when Sonia requested Shekhar sometime ago for support to the UPA’s presidential candidate, he had agreed.