‘Only Brajesh Mishra comes close to Haksar in administrative acumen’

P.N. Haksar, Principal Secretary to the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi between 1967-73, was arguably the most powerful bureaucrat in post-Independence India, according to the former Union Minister and Congress MP, Jairam Ramesh.

Only Brajesh Mishra, Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser from 1998 to 2004 to the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, comes close to Mr Haksar’s administrative qualities, Mr. Ramesh said during a conversation on his latest book,
Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi,
at the Takshashila Institution here on Thursday.

Speaking on the relationship between Mr. Haksar and Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Ramesh said that Mr. Haksar’s most outstanding contribution was in the 1971 war which liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan.

“Though Ms. Gandhi got the credit for the 1971 victory, the
sootradhar
was Mr. Haksar. Ms. Gandhi, who was Empress after her victory in the 1971 General Elections, earned the epithet of Goddess Durga after the 1971 War (December) against Pakistan,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Noting that “Ms. Gandhi of 1966 was like P.V. Narasimha Rao of 1991”, Mr. Ramesh said that the Congress bagged 282 Lok Sabha seats in the 1967 elections and suffered massive defeats in major States in the Hindi-speaking belt. Opposing the World Bank’s conditions and aid after the devaluation of currency in 1966, she went ahead with her plan and nationalised the banks, he said. However, S.N. Nijalingappa, who was AICC president in late 1960s, opposed nationalisation, Mr. Ramesh said.

Mr. Haksar, a Kashmiri Pandit, was an ideological mentor to Ms. Gandhi. However, he opposed Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti car project and interference in the administration, he added.

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