MADURAI: A very senior political observer of Tamil Nadu politics and a Tamil Nadu former Health Minister 96-year-old Dr.H.V.Hande had raised a few questions on ‘The Unravelled Mystery of former Prime Minister of India Mr.Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination that took place near Chennai on 21st May 1991’. In an exclusive communication, he wrote an article raising some clarifications on the former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. (ARTICLE WRITTEN by Dr.H.V.Hande FOR ‘COVERPOINT’ English magazine).
THE UNRAVELLED MYSTERY OF RAJIV GANDHI’S ASSASSINATION
(article By Dr. H.V. Hande, Ex T.N Health Minister)
Even though several commissions of enquiry like the one by Justice Milap Chand Jain, Justic J.S. Verma and others had given their reports years ago, still no one knows the real culprit behind the ghastly tragedy of the assassination of the late lamented Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi on 21 st May 1991. Almost all the Enquiry Commissions have blamed the L.T.T.E headed by Mr. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Organisation fighting for a separate Tamil Eelam (Country) in Sri Lanka. Ultimately the Indian Courts convicted seven persons, who are languishing in the Jail for nearly 30years; one of them namely, Mr. Perarivalan has recently come out on bail. Though it is out of bounds, to criticize the
findings of the Enquiry Commissions or the judgement of Courts, I still feel that several facts of the issue remain unravelled. In this connection it would be a worthwhile exercise to go into the very origin of how Indian Govt involved itself into the problem of Sri Lanka vis a vis L.T.T.E. During the beginning of 1987, the L.T.T.E was pushed to the
corner of Jaffna (Yazhpanam) by the Sri Lankan army ; and consequently the Indian army dropped massive relief materials to help the L.T.T.E.
However, it was felt both by the L.T.T.E Chief and the Sri Lankan Govt, that India should play a more active role in bringing about peace between the warring groups of L.T.T.E and the Sri Lankan establishment. This took place in July 1987 through an accord between Mr. Rajiv Gandhi the Indian Prime Minister and Sri Lankan President Mr. J.R. Jayavardane. Initially, this move was welcomed by the L.T.T.E. But still, an instance would show that the entry of IPKF into Sri Lanka was not to the liking of the Sri Lankan Military. When the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi had gone to Colombo to sign the Indo-Sri Lankan accord and was given a Guard of Honour by the Sri Lankan Naval Ratings, one of them tried to hit P.M Rajiv Gandhi with the butt end of his gun. Luckily, Rajiv Gandhi ducked and saved himself. The entry of Indian Army into Sri Lanka was not to the liking of Sri Lankans, as the IPKF was considered to
be outsiders and also, soft towards the L.T.T.E especially during the early stages.
As days went by, the relationship between the IPKF & the L.T.T.E also soured because of the mishandling of a sensitive
situation by the incompetent Mr. J.N. Dixit, Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. Within about a year, things became bad to worse, and finally even the L.T.T.E began to consider the IPKF as its enemy. In the meantime,in India, during the 1989 General Elections, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi lost, Mr. V.P. Singh’s United Front, riding on the crest of BOFORS scandal
and with the help of the outside support of BJP, formed the Govt, and Mr. V.P. Singh became the Prime Minister. The IPKF’s unpopularity with both the L.T.T.E and Sri Lankan Army grew worse. Consequently an accord was signed between the Indian P.M V.P Singh and the President of Sri Lanka Ranasinghe Premadasa in March 1990, to withdraw the entire Indian Peace Keeping Force from Sri Lanka. At this point of time the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu was Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi.
A few months after the entire exercise of the withdrawal of the I.P.K.F, was over, Mr. V.P. Singh’s Govt at the Centre collapsed and Mr. Chandrasekar became the Prime Minister of India with the outside support of the Congress Party. A few weeks after his coming to power, the DMK Govt was dismissed on the pretext that the DMK used to have regular and secret understanding with the L.T.T.E. President’s rule was imposed in Tamilnadu under the Governorship of Mr.Bhishma Narain Singh who was a Congress man. Thereafter, if things had moved smoothly, the General
Elections would have come only in the year 1994. Due to the ill luck of Rajiv Gandhi who was heading the Congress Party, Mr. Chandrasekar’s Govt was pulled down by the Congress on a flimsy ground that under P.M.
Chandrasekar’s orders, ‘a couple of Haryana Policemen were keeping a secret watch on Rajiv Gandhi’s residence’. General Elections were announced with Mr. Chandrasekar acting as the ‘Caretaker Prime Minster
and Mr. B.N. Singh functioning with full powers as Governor (as there was no Chief Minister to aid and advise him) in Tamilnadu. This was thescenario when Rajiv Gandhi had come to canvass for the Sriperumbudur L.S Candidate Mrs. Margatham Chandrasekar and was assassinated on the night of 21 st May 1991, by the explosion of a ‘Human bomb’ alleged to have been remotely controlled by the L.T.T.E cadres.
At this point of time, the DMK was not in power, having been dismissed a few months ago. Let us take a quick look at the series of events that took place, after the ghastly tragedy of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. On that very night and
for a couple of days thereafter, several DMK election offices were ransacked on the assumption (in my view misconceived assumption) that the DMK party had a hand in L.T.T.E’s action. While the first phase of election had taken place on 20-05-1991 a day before the assassination, the 2 nd and 3 rd phases were postponed to 12 th June and 15 th June respectively.
Despite the fact, the sympathy wave due to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, had helped the Congress considerably during the second and third phase, the Congress fell short of the half mark, by more than 20 seats because of its very poor performance in the first phase. The BJP secured 119 seats while the Janata Dal ended up with 59, both of which were mostly during the first phase before the assassination. Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao managed to become the Congress Prime Minister on 21 st June 1991, though the Congress was short of more than 20 seats.
A few months after coming to power, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao appointed a commission of enquiry headed by Justice Milap Chand Jain, to go into all aspects including the political angle connected with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. After taking six and a half years, the Jain Commission gave the interim report on 28.08.1997,when Mr. I.K. Gujral (after the fall of Deve Gowda Govt) was the Prime Minister. Three DMK members were in the Cabinet of I.K
Gujral’s Govt which survived only with the support of the Congress Party.
In the interim report, Justice Milap Chand Jain had blamed the D.M.K for abetting/aiding the L.T.T.E. Consequently soon after the contents of the Jain Commission had come out, the Congress Party asked Prime Minister I.K Gujral to drop the DMK members from his Cabinet. On his refusal to oblige, the Congress Party withdrew its support and toppled the Govt of Mr.I.K. Gujral.
In this context, two distinctly separate scenarios need to be brought into focus and analysed. Firstly, a dissection of the elections results before and after the ghastly assassination needs to be made, if need be with the help of Psephologists. As mentioned earlier, 1991 General Elections took place in three phases. The first phase was on 20.05.1991, a day before the assassination. Soon after the assassination, the 2nd and 3rd phases were postponed to 12 th and 15 th June 1991, respectively.
‘The India To-day Marg’ says ‘The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi resulted in a distinct swing in favour of the Cong (I). It is also possible to estimate the total number of seats the Congress (I) would have won, if the entire elections had taken place after the assassination, by applying the post assassination swings to Phase (1) constituencies. This will show that the Conge (I) would have roughly secured 265 seats in a total post assassination scenario. In act, the final result of 225 seats for the Cong (I) was a combination of two distinct elections, namely the projection of 190 seats if the assassination had not taken place and 265 seats, if the assassination had taken place before the 1 st phase”.
Though the perpetrators of the ghastly assassination had helped the Cong (I) to come to power (under P.V. Narasimha Rao). Congress (I) was still short of the half way mark by more than 20 seats, because the assassination had taken place after the first phase on 20 May. At the national level, the party that was very badly hit as a result of the assassination was the B.J.P. Ninety percent of the 119 seats it secured were before the first phase. If the assassination had not taken place, BJP would have emerged as the single largest party in 1991 elections instead of the Cong (I). Similarly, at the State level, because the tragedy took place particularly in Tamilnadu, the party that was badly affected was the DMK,
as the elections in Tamil Nadu took place soon after the assassination.
While the Congress (I) and AIADMK alliance secured all the Tamilnadu Lok Sabha seats, the alliance secured 221 out of 234, at the State Assembly level with an over all vote share of 59.8%. the DMK alliance secured 7 MLA
seats with a vote share of 30%. Therefore, to blame the D.M.K directly or indirectly, for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi would be meaningless, unless one would imagine the DMK was bent upon doing a Harakiri.
The needle of suspicion could only point towards some mysterious force that was keen on the BJP not coming to power at the Centre. The other scenario that needs to be examined, is regarding the quick succession of the two Prime Ministers each one of whom had a stint of less than a year. Soon after the expiry of Mr. P.V. Narasimha
Rao’s period, General Elections were held in 1996. Congress party fared badly.
It secured only 136 seats while the BJP came out as the single largest party with 161 seats. However, the Janata Dal with just 46 seats, suddenly projected Mr. Deve Gowda as the Prime Minister on 01.06.1996 with the help of 41 seats of the leftists and the outside support of Congress (I). There was also a change of guard in the Cong (I) leadership. Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao was replaced by Seetharam Kesari as the Cong (I) President. The fact that the latter was completely under the control of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi of 10 Janpath in New Delhi would be relevant at a later stage. Things
were going on smoothly, for Mr. Deve Gowda, till an unexpected situation cropped up. Hardly before nine months in office, Prime Minister Deve Gowda had to face the phantom of ‘Ottovio Quotrochi!’.
It may be recalled that, the downfall of Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, was because of the ‘BOFORS SCANDAL’ of Howitzar guns purchased from a Swedish firm during the former’s period. The villain of the episode was Ottovio Quotrochi the
Italian broker who was closely related to Mrs. Sonia Rajiv Gandhi . It was by exploiting this connection between the two that Mr. V.P. Singh managed to dethrone Rajiv Gandhi who had started with a support of over 400 MPS
in 1985, the maximum number any Prime Minister ever had in the history of India. After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the Bofors problem took a low profile during the period of Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao. He turned a blind
eye, to the quiet disappearance of Ottovio Quotrochi from India to Kaula Lumpur of Malaysia.
Unlike Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao who knew the ropes, Mr. Deve Gowda was too naive. When he was needled by the leftist MPS in the Lok Sabha as to why no action was being taken against the culprits of BOFORS
SCANDAL?, Prime Minister Deve Gowda yielded and sent the CBI Chief to Kaula Lumpur to extradite Mr. Quotrochi to India, without consulting either the Cong (I) President Mr. Siaram Kesari or the lady who was controlling him from 10 Janpat Street namely, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. That very forenoon, the CBI Cheif Mr. Joginder Singh was dispatched to Kaula
Lumpur; Cong (I) President rushed to Rashtrapati Bhavan and handed over a letter to the President of India Hon Dr. S.D. Sharma, withdrawing the support of Cong (I) to the Govt of Deve Gowda. The same day, the news of
Deve Gowda’s dismissal was flashed at 02:00PM from all the stations of All India Radio.
Even without knowing, how and from where he was hit, Mr. Deve Gowda lost his Prime Ministership and Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral (I.K.Gujral) who was the Minister of Foreign affairs in the former’s Cabinet,
became the Prime Minister on 21.04.1997. Mr. I.K. Gujral seems to have had some idea of the cause of the debacle of his predecessor. As mentioned by Mr. L.K. Advani in his book (My Country My Life page 484). “The first
thing that Prime Minister I.K. Gujral did as soon as he became the Prime Minister was to remove Mr. Joginder Singh from the Directorship of the CBI since he was proving problematic for the Congress Party in the
investigation of the Bofors Scandal……”. Though Mr. I.K. Gujral succeeded in buying peace from the Cong (I) for a few months, his Govt had to face a new ‘phantom’. As mentioned earlier, the ‘Jain Commission’ Report was
ready, six and a half years after it was constituted by the ex Prime Minister Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao. On 28.08.1997, Justice Milap Chand Jain submitted his Interim Report to Mr. Indrajit Gupta the Home Minister in
Mr. I.K. Gujral’s cabinet . As the report contained accusations against the DMK for its proximity to the LTTE, the Congress Party sought the sacking of the 3 DMK Ministers from Mr. I.K. Gujral’s Cabinet. On his refusal to
oblige, P.M I.K. Gujral was toppled by the the Congress Party. Soon, General Elections were held, and the NDA under the leadership of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister with Mr. L.K. Advani as Deputy Prime
Minister & Home Minister took office on 19th March 1998. The final report of the Jain Commission was submitted to the Union Govt when the NDA was in power and Mr. L.K. Advani was the Home Minister. He has the following to say about this in his book ‘My Country My Life’ (pp 486-488) “One of my first decisions, was to table the
Commission’s final report on 31 st July 1998, along with the ‘Action Taken Report’ (ATR) on the findings. I said that the assassination of the former Prime Minister was a National tragedy and I gave a categorical assurance
that our Government was determined to go into the depth of it, to unravel the whole truth including the domestic and foreign dimensions of the ‘wider conspiracy behind it”.
“When P. Shiv Shanker, the Deputy Leader of the Congress in the House, said that the ATR was not acceptable to his party, I suggested that an executive body with statutory powers will be entrusted to follow up the
report of the Jain Commission. This suggestion found acceptance from the Congress Party and accordingly, our Govt constituted a Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) under the CBI, to bring those accused in the
case, including ABSCONDERS, to trial. What surprised me was that, in a veiled criticism of former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, Shiv Shankar said that the Govt at the Centre after 1991, did not want the ‘Jain
Commission’ to find out the truth. Certain forces within the Congress, as well as outside it, were against Rajiv Gandhi since the day he became the Prime Minister and that they wanted to replace them. He insisted that the
role of certain bureaucrats, politicians, the alleged links of ‘godman’ Chandraswamy, with the C.I.A and ‘Mossad’ (the National Intelligence agency of Israel) and efforts by some people to wind up the Jain
Commission, should be proved further. “Then, on 19 th August 1998, a delegation of Congress leaders,
including Dr.Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukerjee, Mani Shankar Iyer and others, met me in my North Block Office. They said they were not happy with the ATR (Action Taken Report), Especially as
regards the probe into the role of Dr. Karunanidhi and others. They submitted to me a seven page letter which detailed several areas of concern and one emphatic demand, namely; The Congress insists that the
agency be directed by the Govt to investigate all matters relating to Karunanidhi as adverted by the Commission and proceed against him in a Court of Law, if warrented, by evidence which will be uncovered’. The
delegation certainly could not have put forward this demand without the concurrence of Sonia Gandhi, just as the decision to pull down Gujral’s Govt on the DMK issue could not have taken place without her approval”.
Mr. L.K. Advani added “The most intriguing aspect of the letter given to me by the high powered Congress delegation was that it had been written after the Jain Commission had submitted its final report to the Govt”.
Therefore, it was ridiculous on the part of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to have said in 2004 in Chennai (when she had come to the DMK party office to clinch an alliance with Kalaignar Karunanidhi)
“There is nothing wrong in our alliance with the DMK, because the final report of the Jain Commission had exonarted Mr. Karunanidhi”. In a way, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s utter contempt for public memory is ‘justified’ because, people
had forgotten the hysterical heights to which the Cong (I) delegation went, when they met Mr. L.K. Advani on 19 th August 1998, compelling him to take severe action against Karunanidhi even after tbe final report by
Justice Milapchand Jain had come out.
The entire episode of ‘clinching the alliance’, has been concisely expressed by Mr. S. Gurumoorthy a senior political commentator in an article in the Indian Express on 8 th May 2004 (soon after Mrs. Sonia Gandhi struck the electoral alliance). He said “ She cliniched the Congress DMK alliance, by burying the Rajiv assassination issue”
If the Congress was seriously concerned in finding out the real facts behind the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, they should have, as soon as the UPA came to power in 2004, expedited the work of the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) which was constituted by the previous NDA regime. In fact, between UPA I & UPA II, headed by Prime Minister
Dr. Manmohan Singh, remotely controlled by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi (wife of the victim of the assassination), had a full decade of 10 years at their disposal to go into the root cause of the assassination. With the help of
MDMA or any other agency conceived by the UPA, it could have unravelled the mystery. But nothing like that happened. Rajiv Gandhi’s family, nor any Congress party leader ever raised this subject. The report of
Justice Milap Chand Jain was summarily swept into the ‘dustbin’ of history, by UPA I & UPA II. What a shame !
Now, let us come to the ground realities.
Even if the L.T.T.E had presumably committed the crime, there are two factors which need to be taken into consideration. Firstly as a result of the assassination, the L.T.T.E would not gain anything. Even if they had hated the IPKF, it had been completely packed off from Sri Lanka in 1987 itself, during Mr. V.P. Singh’s Prime Ministership. Secondly, the entire logistics of assassinating a well protected leader of the stature of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, would cost
enormous money. It is a well known fact, that the L.T.T.E was always short of funds. Justic Milap Chand Jain himself had mentioned in his report that the Tamilnadu Chief Minister MGR had helped the leader of the L.T.T.E in
1986, with an amount of Rs. 5 crores. The DMK, too, cannot be blamed because as mentioned earlier, it was the DMK which lost heavily in the 1991 General Elections as a result of the assassination.
The party that was benefited most was the Congress which edged out the BJP after the two
stages of elections which took place post assassination. In conculsion the sudden disinterestedness of the family of Rajiv Gandhi, the victim, and the Congress leaders (who had raised a hysterical noise during the NDA regime) in pursuing & expediting the work of M.D.M.A to its logical end, during the ten long years of UPA rule, and the
presence of the real beneficiaries namely the Congress Party as a result of the assassination, raise a few important questions.
1) Who was the real culprit behind the remote controller who detonated
the HUMAN BOMB that cost the life of India’s leader, Rajiv Gandhi?
2) What would have been the actual political scenario, if the
assassination had take place (as per the suspected original
plan) before the 1 st phase of election ? Who would have
formed the Union Govt then ?
3) Why did the Congress Party display its resistance to go after
the villain of ‘Bofors’ case, namely Ottovio Quotrochi ? What
their actual problem in doing so ?
4) Why was the Congress afraid to pursue vigorously during the
ten year UPA rule, in finding out the actual culprit behind
Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
5) Why did Rajiv Gandhi’s (the victim) daughter Mrs. Priyanka
Gandhi have a secret meeting in Vellore Jail, with the most
important accused in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case?
If these five important questions are not unravelled, it only
means, that the whole Country of 1.4 billion people has been
taken for a ride by a mysterious force.