The elections were held in 1984 in the wake of the brutal assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which led to public anger, widespread violence and tragedy. The nation was in turmoil for a whole year due to which election results could not be declared until 1985. Congress party won a historic mandate winning as many as 450 seats. In his first victory speech Rajiv Gandhi began by vowing to protect the values of secularism and specifically addressed the Sikh community and assured safety. He spoke of unity and harmony, which was which was paramount since the nation had just seen violent communal clashes. He also laid out the vision he had to take India to the 21st century with dignity and confidence. The speech closes with him saying that he would be sharing his dreams and hopes, but more than that, he would listen to people. A stark difference with the one way loudspeaker we have today in the name of leadership.
Excerpts from Rajiv Gandhi Election Victory Speech in 1985
Secularism is the basis of our unity. Communalism and all other narrow loyalties are incompatible with unity. It is my first duty to safeguard the life property and legitimate rights of citizens belonging to every faith. We must go beyond the prevention and suppression of violence and cure the minds where hatred and prejudice arise. An ideological battle against communalism, fanaticism must be waged in our schools and universities, workplaces and media. The Sikhs are as much a part of our community they have fought a heroic role defending our freedom. I wish to assure them that their life and property would be protected in all parts of the country.
The Dream for India
In a few months we shall begin the 7th plan. The war against our old enemies ‘poverty’ ‘unemployment’ ‘disease’ ‘ignorance’ continues. In the weeks ahead we shall review our existing policies and programmes to ensure that our basic objectives of growth with justice are realised within the stipulated timetable.
The public sector will continue to be a major tool of development. Deficiencies in performance wherever they exist will be quickly overcome. Far reaching proposals for change have been formulated and are under consideration. Improvement in productivity, absorption of modern technology and fuller utilization of capacity must acquire the status of a national campaign.
I have asked the Ministries Of Science And Technology And Industries to prepare a specific proposal achieve these objectives.
I’ve reviewed the foreign trade policies and directed that concrete step should be taken in the next weeks to give a fresh impetus to our exports. The 20 point program for the weaker sections is being restructured to be more effective.
Continuing deforestation has brought us face to face with a major ecological and socio economic crisis. I propose immediately to set up a National Wasteland Development Board with the object of bringing 5,000,000 hectares of land every year under fuel wood and fodder plantations. We shall develop a people’s movement for afforestation. Ganga is the symbol of Indian culture, the source of our legend, and poetry the sustainer of millions. Today it is one of the most polluted rivers. We will restore the pristine purity of the Ganga. A central Ganga authority will be set up to implement an action plan to prevent pollution of the Ganga and its tributaries. Measures will be taken to ensure cleaner air and water in all parts of the country.
Administrative reform is crucial for social and economic transformation. It is for this reason that I decided to take under my own charge, the Department Of Personnel And Administrative Reforms. A full scale review of administrative organization policies and procedures is in progress. I have asked that the decision making process should be decentralised along with enforcement of accountability. Rules and procedures will be drastically simplified to speed up decision making. Results will take precedence over procedures.
I have directed all concerned agencies to ensure that citizens get prompt and courteous service from government departments and agencies. A department of public grievances will be set up in offices and departments with large public dealings. Action will be taken to raise the morale of public servants. We should prevent extraneous interference in the normal functioning of public services. We must create a new administrative culture for service of the masses. Training of civil servants of all categories will be restructured to develop competence and commitment to the basic values of our society.
Education must promote national cohesion and the work ethic. The grandeur of our freedom struggle and its significance for national integration have to be brought home to every student. Our schools and colleges should acquaint the younger generations with India ancient heritage and culture. The curriculum and textbooks should curb parochial and communal interpretations of our composite culture.
I’ve looked at some of the policies and programmes in this field. I have asked that a new national education policy be drafted. We are formulating programs to use, on a large scale, the new communication technology in our school system. Steps are being taken to establish an Open University to bring higher education within easy reach of all. Central schools organization will be expanded, these schools will function as centres of excellence in every district of our country. I would strongly emphasize education’s organic link with the productive forces of society. We shall reorganise vocational education to align it with industry agriculture communications and other productive sectors of our economy.
We have inherited a well-tested and consistent foreign policy which serves the national interests. Our policy is to be friends with all countries on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit. Our commitment to non-alignment, a new world economic order based on justice equality and mutual cooperation is unshakable. This means total dedication to the twin causes of peace and development. We also believe in safeguarding the independence of States and upholding the principles of non-interference and non-intervention. One aspect of our foreign policy needs special attention, we have deep historical and cultural links with our immediate neighbours in South Asia. We share the same memories of foreign rule and look forward to the same prospects of development and a better future for our people. I believe firmly that we can work together to realise these common goals.
India has a role to play because of its history his geography and its faith in peaceful coexistence. In trying to live up to our responsibilities this government will scrupulously follow the basic approach and principles bequeathed to us by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Like them we shall be dynamic in our responses to the changing context.
In the last few weeks it was my privilege to have travelled overall parts of our beloved and beautiful country, I met millions of our people and what stood out was India’s unity. It is a privilege to be born in India. We have so much to secure for our own people and so much to give to the world. Your cooperation is vital for achieving the national goals. I shall share with you my ideas, my hopes, my struggles, but even more I want to listen to you. Your difficulties, your ideas, your hopes. Together we shall share the burden and the ecstasy of building our India.