New York Times correspondent Gupte (Vengeance, 1985; The Crowded Earth, 1984, etc.) says here that Indira Gandhi is ""hard to read."" In fact, she is nearly invisible in this ""political biography"" that mostly reproduces, with all their organizational flaws, Gupte's previous articles on Gandhi--except perhaps for ten chapters depicting the slain Indian P.M. as selfish, inept, tyrannical, intellectually limited, and surrounded by sycophants. Born in 1917, daughter of Nehru, friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi grew up amidst economic privilege and political turmoil that marked her whole life. Married to a Parsi she met while studying at Oxford, Gandhi, mother of two children, began her political apprenticeship by helping her father after her mother's death; like most of her family, she spent time in jail for political opposition. Upon her father's death in 1964, she herself became India's P.M., winning the support of foreign ""Titans"" (the description here of her meeting with LBJ is charming)--but not native Indians. Rioting, urban and rural poverty, religious conflict, war with Pakistan, and corruption--of which she herself was convicted before she suspended the constitution and jailed the accusatory journalist--were, according to Gupte, symptoms of Gandhi's failure to carry on the Mahatma/Nehru vision of a secular, unified, democratic India. Her assassination in 1984, like her son's in 1991 (with which the book ends), seemed inevitable; and--as Gupte points out in a sad concluding note--there is now no Indian leader of sufficient stature to replace the Gandhis. A major flaw of this high-minded book is its composition, a lumpy mix of the author's opinions and earlier pieces, gossip, and memories of Gandhi's friends. Similarly, the exposition is confusing, structured around issues rather than its subject's life. A proper political biography of Gandhi is yet to be written.