Indira Gandhi headed into the 1980 elections strong and confident as ever. Demonstrating that she clearly had her
finger on the pulse of the nation, she predicted a rousing victory. This was evident in an interaction I had with her on the choice of party candidates for election. While I was all for choosing core and loyal Congressmen to contest, Indira Gandhi advised me to ‘choose people who could run the government’—so confident was she of electoral success. And her confidence was well-founded.
She had strongly advised me against contesting the Lok Sabha election in 1980, but gave in at my insistence. I contested the election from the Bolpur constituency, and was defeated by a margin of 68,629 votes….
My wife, Geeta, had already left for Delhi when the results came out. She called me on the same day and said I should return to Delhi immediately as Indira Gandhi wanted to meet me. I returned to Delhi by the evening flight and went straight to 12 Willingdon Crescent to meet Indira Gandhi. It would not be an understatement to say that she was unhappy about my insis
tence to contest the election. Sanjay Gandhi told me she had been upset ever since she had heard of my defeat, and she made her displeasure evident when I met her. I was unambiguously chastised. It was about 9 p.m. and Indira Gandhi was sitting in the dining room at one end of the longdiningtable. She had a bad cold and was soaking her feet in a tub of warm water. Standing at the other end of the dining table, I received a vociferous dressing-down for what seemed to be an interminable span of time. I was rebuked for taking the ill-advised decision of contesting from Bolpur, against her advice, and was told that such imprudent decisions nullified all my other hard work. Having recognized my folly, I could do nothing but stand there till she calmed down. She then sent me home with a basket of fruit….
On 11 and 12 January, I was mostly at my residence.