Former defence ministry bureaucrat recalls his moments in the 1980’s India, Indira Gandhi’s PM regime, and her two sons

It was in the early 1980s, under Indira Gandhi’s regime as the PM, that her son Rajiv Gandhi once sat with his parents-in-law, explaining them the features of a new navy ship. In what was an extended chit-chat session for the Gandhis, Ashok Pandey, the defence ministry bureaucrat present there got nervous and thought that he might be late for an official event that night.

Mr Pandey was the then special assistant to the Minister of State for defence Shivraj Patil, and he must have breathed a sigh of relief after Rajiv Gandhi finished his briefing, because of which he and the Gandhis were able to attend the dinner with naval officers.

Mr Pandey had served in Assam and Meghalaya as a young IAS officer when he started his career, and then proceeded to handle crucial responsibilities at the Centre and in Bihar. He has now come out with a book, called From Inside the Steel Frame, and the book recounts his insights into how India grew and changed when he was in service, along with snippets of memories from his service in various districts, state capitals and the national capital.

The book has been published by Palimpsest, and contains several of such incidents that Mr Pandey recalls, the one mentioned being from a trip to Bombay that he took with PM Indira Gandhi when India had launched a new ship on the Navy Day, along with Rajiv Gandhi.

The book emphasises on the importance of India’s steel frame, as the name suggests.

He also mentions the temperamental, biased and whimsical Sanjay Gandhi, who got many government officials fired because of his special interest in the affairs of the civil aviation ministry.

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