What Minoo Masani’s wife thought of Sonia G

These are quite extraordinary times we are living in. The floodgates have opened, indeed the floodgates have been prised open. And what till not long ago used to be taboo topics—the wheeling-dealing of Robert Vadra, the business acumen of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the status of Priyanka‘s marriage, etc—is now meat and drink.


Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

In Zareer Masani’s recent memoir of his parents, And All is Said, he quotes a letter written to him by his mother in 1968.

“Yesterday we went to Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his wife,” wrote Shakuntala Masani, adding, “I can’t tell you how dim she is, and she comes from a working-class family. I really don’t know what he saw in her.”

And All is Said was widely reviewed when it was published, but no reviewer seems to have picked up on this comment. Shakuntala Masani was the daughter of Sir J.P. Srivastava, once one of the most influential men in India, an industrialist with wide business interests and a member of the viceroy’s executive council besides.

Shakuntala’s husband, Minoo Masani, was a well-educated Parsi from a family of successful professionals, who was himself a leading politician and writer. By upbringing and marriage Shakuntala Masani was a paid-up member of the Indian elite. Hence the condescending remarks about the working-class Italian whom Rajiv Gandhi had chosen as his wife.

Read the full article: Family romance

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’ Bofors—II?

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17 Responses to “What Minoo Masani’s wife thought of Sonia G”

  1. harkol Says:

    Wonder what’s the relevance of a one rich person’s opinion of a lady who,as the world knows, was indeed from a working class family. She perhaps was indeed coming across as ‘dim’ for someone who was crazily rich. She perhaps continues to be ‘dim’.

    The question that’s of relevant to us is how decisions in govt. is arrived at. If everyone defers to one person in the end? and most importantly why is congress so indebted to a family that it can’t find a mass leader to lead them.

  2. harkol Says:

    Oh, Forgot to add. If Congress paid for Gandhi acquisition of Herald, then I don’t see how congress or Gandhis can escape some punishment.

    1. What congress did was money laundering for their first family.

    2. What Gandhis, Oscar Fernades & Motilal Vohra did was to acquire an asset (shares in section-25 company are treated as movable property), by cheating on many laws. Primary one is the transfer from public trust (political party) to a private asset.

    But, then as their own in-law has popularly claimed – we live in a Banana Republic. Who will punish the Queen & her prince?

  3. Melanie Says:

    Minoo Masani’s wife, Shakuntala, sounds like a snob with no respect for the working class or their right to make it big. Guha’s analysis is bang on. If Sonia would only take the hint and change! But like all Indian doting mothers and wives, her weakness is undoubtedly her family. Even Nehru was guilty of sidelining Vijaylakshmi Pandit, in favour of his daughter. Sonia will never permit any of the Young Turks in the Congress a position of importance that may jeopardise the chances of her Prince of Wales, who has been anointed Heir-in-waiting!!

  4. Goldstar Says:

    Priyanka’s marriage? Now whats the dope on that?

  5. vaidya Says:

    Was surprised Guha had written those 2 paras. Of course, in the article he then goes ahead and praises her for leading them to victory twice, and her patriotism and leadership qualities. Surprisingly towards the end his is critical of her dynastic ways. Surprised that a well-known Congress stooge is getting critical of the mother-ship.

  6. Deepak Says:

    Yep!! Working class dim dumbo marries into first family and then becomes shrewd power hungry money hungry prima donna!!!!

  7. chidu22 Says:

    Looks like class/IQ is no exception for good governance. while Guha was right in criticising the snobbish behaviour of Mrs Masani, he should have also picked on the corruption that is rampant under Sonia G. Just singing praise about her management of Goondas and binding them under the cartel called congress is not good enough.

  8. Prasanna Says:

    No wonder how Rahul became such a wiz kid! ಪೂರ್ತಿ ಅಮ್ಮನ ಮೇಲೇ ಹೋಗಿದಾನೆ ರಾಜ್ಕುಮಾರ..

    BTW, I stumbled upon this explanation by Drs Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of Harvard (authors of the bestseller and thoroughly researched book “Why Nations Fail”).

    They categorically deny the existence of meaningful democracy in India. Specifically they say that “We go to pains in the book to emphasize that electoral democracy isn’t the same as inclusive political institutions. This becomes particularly binding when it comes to India. India has been democratic since its independence, but in the same way that regular elections since 1929 don’t make Mexico under PRI control an inclusive society, Congress-dominated democratic politics of India doesn’t make India inclusive. Perhaps it’s then no surprise that major economic reforms in India started when the Congress Party faced serious political competition. In fact, the quality of democracy in India remains very low. Politics has not only been dominated by the Congress party but continues to be highly patrimonial, and as we have been discussing recently, this sort of patrimonialism militates against the provision of public goods. Recent research by Toke Aidt, Miriam Golden and Devesh Tiwari (“Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature”) shows there are other very problematic aspects of the Indian democratic system: a quarter of the members of the Lok Sabha, the Indian legislature, have faced criminal charges, but alarmingly, such politicians are more likely to be re-elected than those without criminal charges, reflecting the fact that Indian democracy is far from being an inclusive ideal.”

    Hope our country awakens at the right time. Let there be some substitutes for these Amma-Maga duopoly, supported by their power-hungry vassals.

  9. Shree kar Says:

    The working class dim woman, a commoner, married a prince and became queen. The queen in due course gave birth to a princess who went on to marry a commoner !

  10. Sanjeeva Says:

    Indira Gandhi was also called ‘Goongi Gudiya’, who was later hailed as Durga! Working class is not something to be looked down. A sizeable population of India consists of ‘working class’, ‘middle class’.

  11. Nastika Says:

    Anti-Simple (aka Deepak) is back !

    BTW, thanks Churumuri for letting me know about few people who have their last name as ‘Masani’


  12. Deepak Says:

    And Congress IT cell lead Nastika a.k.a Simple a.k.a Anonymous is back!!

  13. Guru Says:

    Time to eat Halwa now.

  14. Suresh Panje Says:

    At the outset, I wish to offer my views on the comment that the Nehru family sacrificed everything for the nation. In fact, it is bunkum since Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal Nehru was an advocate and all of you know what the legal profession is. It was not out of any patriotism but own wealth.

    As for reviving National Herald, I do appreciate the initiatives of the great grand son and widow of grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru , but it should not have been at the pea nuts cost of rupees 50 lakhs for a huge mansion on the prime location of Bahadurshah Zafar Marg.

    But such moves are not out of any sentimental value but to capitalise on prevaling t rends to reap it RICH. Yes, RICHIE THE, THE RICH, for the rest of the nation to feel the itch, not the seven years but every five year!!!.

  15. Jay Vachani Says:

    Wonder what Churumuri and Ramachandra Guha have to say about this article by Arun Shourie September 13, 1999

    The day I entered Indiraji’s household I became an Indian, the rest is just technical — that is Sonia Gandhi’s latest explanation for not having acquired Indian citizenship till fourteen years after her marriage to Rajiv Gandhi.

    First the facts. Surya Prakash, the Consulting Editor of The Pioneer, has documented these in detail. Sonia married Rajiv on 25 February, 1968. Under section 5(c) of the Indian Citizenship Act she became eligible to register herself as a citizen ofIndiaon 25 February, 1973. She chose to continue as a citizen ofItaly. She applied for Indian citizenship only ten years later, on 7 April, 1983.

    A foreigner seeking Indian citizenship has to state on oath that he or she has relinquished his or her citizenship of the original country. This requirement was all the more necessary in the case of an Italian citizen: under Italian law, an Italian taking citizenship of another country continues to retain his or her Italian citizenship. Sonia Gandhi’s application did not have the requisite statement, nor did it have any official document from the appropriate authorities inItaly. The omission was made up in a curious way: the Ambassador of Italy stepped in, and wrote to the Government saying that Sonia Gandhi had indeed given up her citizenship ofItaly. He did so on 27 April, 1983. Sonia got her citizenship forthwith — on 30 April, 1983.

    Another nugget Surya Prakash has unearthed is that while Sonia became a citizen on 30 April, 1983, her name made its way to the electoral rolls as of 1 January, 1980! In response to an objection, it had to be deleted in late 1982. But sure enough, it was put back on the electoral roll as of 1 January, 1983. She hadn’t even applied for citizenship till then.

    All technicalities! If any ordinary person were to proceed in the same way, he would be up for stern prosecution.

    Maruti was one of the most odious scandals connected with Mrs Indira Gandhi and her family. The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice A C Gupta recorded that, though she was at the time a foreigner, Sonia Gandhi secured shares in two of their family concerns: Maruti Technical Services Pvt. Ltd. (in 1970 and again in 1974), and Maruti Heavy Vehicles (in 1974). The acquisition of these shares was in contravention of the very Act that Mrs Gandhi used to such diabolic effect in persecuting her political opponents, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. Just another technicality!

    But the Mother of Technicalities, so to say, is to be found in the way Sonia Gandhi, without having any known sources of income, has become the controller of one of the largest empires of property and patronage inDelhi. The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Library and Museum is one of the principal institutions for research on contemporary Indian history. It is situated in and controls real estate which, because of its historical importance, cannot even be valued. The institution runs entirely on grants from the Government of India. Sonia Gandhi has absolutely no qualification that could by any stretch of imagination entitle her to head the institution: has she secured even an elementary university degree, to say nothing of having done anything that would even suggest some specialization in subjects which the institution has been set up to study. But by mysterious technicalities she is today the head of this institution. So much so that she even decides which scholar may have access to papers — even official papers — of Pandit Nehru and others of that family, including, if I may stretch the term, Lady Mountbatten.

    Real estate, only slightly less valuable, has been acquired on Raisina Road. The land was meant to house offices of the Congress. A large, ultra-modern building was built — the finance being provided by another bunch of technical devices which remain a mystery. The building had but to get completed, and Sonia appropriated it for the other Foundation she completely controls — the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The Congress(I) did not just oblige by keeping silent about the takeover of its building, in the very first budget its Government presented upon returning to power, it provided Rs 100 crores to this Foundation. The furore that give-away caused was so great that the largesse had to be canceled. No problem. Business house after business house, even public sector enterprises incurring huge losses, coughed up crores.

    The Foundation has performed two principal functions. The projection of Sonia Gandhi. And enticing an array of leaders, intellectuals, journalists etc. into nets of patronage and pelf.

    But the audacity with which the land and building were usurped and funds raised for this Foundation falls into the second order of smalls when they are set alongside what has been done in regard to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

    This Centre was set up as a trust in 1987 by a resolution of the Cabinet. The Government of India gave Rs. 50 crores out of the Consolidated Fund of India as a corpus fund to this Centre. It transferred 23 acres of land along what is surely one of the costliest sites in the world –Central Vista, the stretch that runs between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate — to this Trust. Furthermore, it granted another Rs. 84 crores for the Trust to construct its building.

    The land was government land. The funds were government funds. Accordingly, care was taken to ensure that the Trust would remain under the overall control of the Government of India. Therefore, the Deed of the Trust provided, inter alia,
    •Every ten years two-thirds of the trustees would retire. One half of the vacancies caused would be filled by the Government. One half would be filled by nominations made by the retiring trustees.
    •The Member Secretary of the Trust would be nominated by the Government on such terms and conditions as the Government may decide.
    •The President of India would appoint a committee from time to time to review the working of the Trust, and the recommendations of the committee would be binding on the Trust.
    •No changes would be made in the deed of the Trust except by prior written sanction of the Government, and even then the changes may be adopted only by three-quarters of the Trustees agreeing to them at a meeting specially convened for the purpose.

    Now, just see what technical wonders were performed one fine afternoon.

    A meeting like any other meeting of the trustees was convened on 18 May, 1995. The minutes of this meeting which I have before me list all the subjects which were discussed — the minutes were circulated officially by Dr Kapila Vatsyayan in her capacity as the Director of the Centre with the observation, “The Minutes of this meeting have been approved by Smt Sonia Gandhi, President of the IGNCA Trust.”

    What did the assembled personages discuss and approve? Even if the topics seem mundane, do read them carefully — for they contain a vital clue, the Sherlock Holmes clue so to say, about what did not happen.

    The minutes report that the following subjects were discussed:

    1: Indira Gandhi Memorial Fellowship Scheme and the Research Grant Scheme.
    2: Commemoration volume in the memory of Stella Kramrisch.
    3: Sale of publications of the IGNCA.
    4: Manuscripts on music and dance belonging to the former ruling house of Raigarh in M P
    5: Report on the 10th and 11th meetings of the Executive Committee.
    6: Approval and adoption of the Annual Report and Annual Accounts, 1993-94.
    7: Bilateral and multilateral programmes of IGNCA, and aid from U N agencies, Ford Foundation, Japan Foundation, etc.
    8: Brief report on implementation of programmes from April 1994 to March 1995.
    9: Brief of initiatives taken by IGNCA to strengthen dialogue between Indian and Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China.
    10: Documentation of cultural heritage of Indo-Christian, Indo-Islamic and Indo-Zoroastrian communities.
    11: Gita Govinda project.
    12: IGNCA newsletter.
    13: Annual Action Plan, 1995-96.
    14: Calendar of events. 15: Publications of IGNCA.
    15: Matters relating to building project.
    16: Allocations/release of funds for the IGNCA building project.

    There is not one word in the minutes that the deed of the Trust was even mentioned.

    This meeting took place on 18 May, 1995. On 30 May, 1995 Sonia Gandhi performed one of technical miracles. She wrote a letter to the Minister of Human Resources informing him of what she said were alterations in the Trust Deed which the trustees had unanimously approved. Pronto, the Minister wrote back, on 2 June, 1995: “I have great pleasure in communicating to you the Government of India’s approval to the alterations.”

    The Minister? The ever-helpful, Madhav Rao Scindia. And wonder of wonders, in his other capacity he had attended the meeting on 18 May as a trustee of the IGNCA, the meeting which had not, according to the minutes approved by Sonia Gandhi, even discussed, far less “unanimously approved” changes in the Trust Deed.

    And what were the changes that Sonia Gandhi managed to get through by this collusive exchange of two letters?
    •She became President for life.
    •The other trustees — two-thirds of whom were to retire every ten years — became trustees for life. The power of the Government to fill half the vacancies was snuffed out.
    •The power of the Government to appoint the Member Secretary of the Trust was snuffed out; henceforth the Trust would appoint its own Member Secretary.
    •The power of the President of India to appoint a committee to periodically review the functioning of the Trust was snuffed out; neither he nor Government would have any power to inquire into the working of the Trust.

    A Government Trust, a Trust which had received over Rs. 134 crores of the tax-payers’ money, a Trust which had received twenty three acres of invaluable land was, by a simple collusive exchange of a letter each between Sonia Gandhi and one of her gilded attendants became property within her total control.

    The usurpation was an absolute fraud. The Trust Deed itself provided that no amendment to it could come into force — on any reasonable reading could not even be initiated and adopted — without prior written permission of the Government. Far from any permission being taken, even information to the effect that changes were being contemplated was not sent to Government. An ex post “approval” was obtained from an obliging trustee.

    That “approval” was in itself wholly without warrant. Such sanctions are governed by Rule 4 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961. This Rule prescribes that when a subject concerns more than one department, “no order be issued until all such departments have concurred, or failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet.” Other departments were manifestly concerned, concurrence from them was not even sought. The Cabinet was never apprised.

    The rule proceeds to provide, “Unless the case is fully covered by powers to sanction expenditure or to appropriate or re-appropriate funds, conferred by any general or special orders made by the Ministry of Finance, no department shall, without the previous concurrence of the Ministry of Finance, issue any orders which may… (b) involve any grant of land or assignment of revenue or concession, grant… (d) otherwise have a financial bearing whether involving expenditure or not…”

    And yet, just as concurrence of other departments had been dispensed with, no approval was taken from the Finance Ministry.

    The Indian Express and other papers published details about the fraud by which what was a Government Trust had been converted into a private fief. Two members of Parliament — Justice Ghuman Mal Lodha and Mr. E. Balanandan — began seeking details, and raising objections.

    For a full two and a half years, governments — of the Congress(I), and the two that were kept alive by the Congress(I), those of Mr. Deve Gowda and of Mr. I. K. Gujral — made sure that full facts would not be disclosed to the MPs, and that the concerned file would keep shuttling between the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Law.

    As a result, Sonia Gandhi continues to have complete control over governmental assets of incalculable value — through technicalities collusively arranged.

    A latter-day Dalhousie — annexation of Indian principalities through technicalities!


  16. kfi365 Says:

    check out the articles written by Subramanian Swamy on his website. He has a series on Sonia G! Neither Sonia, nor her party have filed any sort of defamation suit against these bizzare articles, which forces us to believe what Swamy says is right!

    check out http://www.janataparty.org .

    Very interesting episodes happen daily on Subramanian swamy’s twitter page. The national media has totally ignored his complaint to the election commission. Most of them are madly covering Obama’s re-election… As if it would make any difference to the real India.

  17. harkol Says:

    Jay Vachani: Nice, Long, detailed comment on the prima donna. Our country has become a ‘donna’cracy in past 20yrs, even when BJP ruled us – she still enjoyed the special status.

    All I can say is – If people (especially dispossessed), continuously feel that they can’t get justice and powerful/rich can get away from any crime, and can commit crime with impunity, they’ll start figuring – the only way they’ll get justice is to deliver it themselves.

    In french revolution, too many people were put to guillotine, because people were enraged with their feudal class.

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