One day, soon after M.L. Fotedar had joined Indira Gandhi as political secretary in July 1980, she told him to sit at 1 Akbar Road. This would enable him to meet the people who came to her with various requests. She suggested a small room to serve as his workspace. But it was one she was emotionally attached to - it was used by her son Sanjay, who had recently died in an air crash. For the rest of Indira Gandhi's final term in office, this room would be the nerve centre of Fotedar's work. Ordinary people and senior party leaders would come there for him to filter their requests and complaints. From assessing future leaders - be it V.P. Singh, Pranab Mukherjee or Ahmed Patel - with remarkable foresight, to straightening up those who were being difficult, he did it all. The Chinar Leaves paints a portrait of a six-decade-long political career that began in Kashmir and gives insights into the murky world of national politics. Here are the stories of many careers that were made and unmade in the Congress. Among these are the saga of Narasimha Rao's no-holds-barred effort to stay in power, Amitabh Bachchan's falling out of favour with the Gandhi family, the machinations of succession after Indira Gandhi's death, Giani Zail Singh's tiff with Rajiv, and many more. Fotedar, for long the voice of political wisdom in the party, also passes his verdict on the current crop of Congress leadership and searches Indira Gandhi's will, to which he was a signatory, for the true successor to her legacy. As a record of Indian politics at a time of momentous events, this is a frank and sometimes shocking look at recent history from the man who exercised immense influence from behind the scenes and whose impact continues to this day.
About the Author
MAKHAN LAL FOTEDAR was born in a middle-class Kashmiri Brahmin family in Mattan, Anantnag, and was initiated into politics by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s. He served as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's political secretary from 1980 to 1984 and was one of her closest confidants. He was also one of the two signatories to her will and advised her on various matters of political and national importance, as she had immense faith in his exceptional ability to understand statecraft. He played a major role in ensuring that Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother after her assassination. He served as Rajiv's political secretary for about three years before joining his Cabinet. He was also primarily responsible for getting Sonia Gandhi into active politics and later installing her as Congress president. He is a permanent invitee to the meetings of the Congress Working Committee, and is a member of the party's Central Election Committee. He occasionally advises the party leadership whenever his counsel is sought. He has three sons and two daughters and lives with his family in Gurgaon.