New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) With similar temperaments, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister, was an undisguised admirer of Indira Gandhi, another woman politician known for her toughness.
Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, came to know well Indira Gandhi — who was prime minister for 16 years, both as Britain’s opposition leader and later as prime minister.
“Very early on, we struck up a close rapport, for we both felt the loneliness of high office and it was good to be able to talk to someone who understood,” Thatcher said during a 1995 visit to India.
Thatcher, who ruled Britain from 1979 to 1990, admitted that she and Gandhi “had very different ideas about politics.
“But I found in her qualities which seem to me essential in a statesman. She was passionately proud of her own country, always courageous and very practical.”
In 1984, Gandhi was among the first to message Thatcher when she narrowly survived when the Irish Republican Army bombed the Conservative party meet at a hotel in Brighton. The attack killed many of her colleagues.
Weeks later, Thatcher “learned the terrible news of her (Gandhi’s) own assassination. The unthinkable had happened”.
Thatcher added: “Gandhi’s death by terrorism is forever linked in my mind with my own survival of it.”
Years later, when Indira Gandhi’s son and successor Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, Thatcher again felt outraged — “personally bereaved and angry that it should have happened”.
Earlier, in 1982, when Britain hosted the Festival of India, Thatcher gave a warm welcome to Indira Gandhi, calling her a “distinguished leader of a great country”.
She recalled how well she was treated during her India trip, how she got garlanded and swathed in silk, and how her husband Denis “was made to look every inch the rajput warrior”!
Thatcher introduced Gandhi as the “prime minister of the world’s largest democracy”.
She remarked in a lighter vein: “Prime Minister, you have, I am told, one and a half million constituents.
“I have only fifty-five and a half thousand.
“Which leads me to ask: How do you do it?”