Our late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had a very charming personality. While he was the president of the Congress party he visited and sometimes stayed at the Punjab Raj Bhawan. BD Pandey was then the Governor of Punjab. While in service BD Pandey (a former ICS officer) was the cabinet secretary with Indira Gandhi for four years and a close confidant of the family. He looked forward to Rajiv Gandhi’s visits and would talk to him for long hours.
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Sometimes the late PM would reach the Raj Bhawan unannounced in the afternoon or late evening. Invariably there would be a scramble. The staff would inform me on the phone or through a messenger about his visit. Rajiv Gandhi was a very informal person, on each of his visits he would tell me to not to disturb the governor by informing him about his visit. He insisted on meeting him later. However, I would have a long chatting session with him as he came alone leaving all the politicos being at the Punjab/Haryana Bhawan or wherever his last programme was.
In all my conversations with him, I realised that he was a fountain of knowledge. He spoke at length on any topic ranging from the army to airforce (I don’t remember him talking regarding the navy). He was well versed in issues regarding national, state, world politics, social network and society. He would break into a hearty talk on holiday excursions, trekking etc.
Rajiv Gandhi, the gentleman
On all these subjects he had something to add. And if someone made a factual error in discussions he would correct it without making you look foolish. While interacting with others he made sure that people didn’t get intimidated by his super charming persona. A broad smile and handshake did it all. While shaking his hand he would hold yours a little while longer and enquire “How have you been?” It made one feel good until you met him again.
During one of the sessions I had in his company, Rajiv Gandhi asked me about my background? When I told him that paternal grandfather Lt Harbaj Singh served in 7th cavalry and later was an MLA in Jind state, and my maternal grandfather Raj Bahadur CH Anurajmal was the Diwan of Bharatpur state and later a cabinet minister in Joint Punjab he asked, “What are you doing in the army? Why don’t you do some good work in the political field?” I told him, “I loved the army and was very happy to be there but maybe later I would…” Later when he became the Prime Minister I met him while I accompanied Arjun Singh for meetings.
He asked me, “How are you, Captain? Have you changed your mind?” To which I replied, “Not yet sir.” To this, he said, “Let me know when you