INDIRA GANDHI: In the Crucible of Leadership by Mary C. Carras

INDIRA GANDHI: In the Crucible of Leadership

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An academic discourse on Indira Gandhi's 1975 state-of-emergency declaration ""as a product of certain situational factors. . . in dynamic interaction with her personality."" In plain English, Professor Carras (Political Science, Rutgers) is out to explain why Gandhi abandoned democratic for authoritarian methods--and intent on discrediting the ""simplistic"" grab-for-power thesis. Her conclusions, reiterated ad infinitum, can be summed up in a very few sentences. From childhood, Gandhi exhibited an aggressive response to being thwarted, aggravated by an ambivalence toward her father, Nehru; pressed by her mostly-elderly opponents in '75, ""her stubborn streak emerged,"" and she asserted her authority. The near-anarchic situation, Carras believes, warranted drastic measures--but she blames Gandhi's ""grave failings of leadership"" for letting it develop: Gandhi was insufficiently ""revolutionary"" in dealing with India's economic and political ills; ""she had no clear conception of socialism."" The psychological interpretation, though much inflated, is not implausible; the political analysis devolves from a highly detailed but one-sided account of developments--which would have Gandhi retreating, in 1974, from her earlier progressive economic policy (contra the judgment of other respectable analysts). And it stems from Carras' own bias, rejected by Gandhi, for unadulterated socialism. Actually, Carras feels kindly toward Gandhi and wishes mostly to remonstrate with her. Otherwise, the book is a pedantic elaboration on very little: no responsible observer sees the 1975-77 period of Emergency Rule--in itself, untreated here--as a mere exercise of naked power.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1979
Publisher: Beacon