The CIA, the American intelligence agency, did not ever consider Rajiv Gandhi a probable candidate to take over the role of India’s Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi. According to a secret report declassified by the US agency, CIA considered the elder son of Indira Gandhi as “politically immature” who was unable to “excite either the party or the public”.
The Central Investigation Agency also noted in the same report dated January 14, 1983, that if such a condition ever arose in the upcoming years, the party would tend to become weaker.
Interestingly, Indira Gandhi was assassinated about 2 years later, after which she was succeeded by Rajiv. Rajiv Gandhi was then re-elected within a few months in an unprecedented mandate.
Extending over 30 pages, the document discussed India’s prospects in the mid-80s, with a keen eye on specifically the political scenario of the country. It discussed the various possibilities of the re-election of Indira Gandhi as the prime minister in the general elections of 1985 with a slim majority and the consequences on the event of her sudden death.
In a secret report declassified in December, the CIA noted:
In the event of (Indira) Gandhi’s sudden death, Raiiv Gandhi, working closely with President Zail Singh, would be one of the major figures involved in the selection of a successor. His own chances of being elevated to the office right now are uncertain, in part because of his political immaturity and because of his still junior status.
Talking about Rajiv Gandhi’s prospective as the prime minister, the report further said:
Raiiv’s prospects would probably improve the longer Indira Gandhi remained in office. However, even if he were to become prime minister, his hold on the reins of power could be short lived unless he unexpectedly emerges as a superb political strategist like his mother or develops a party organisation.
According to the CIA, the other prospective prime ministers were:
Other possible candidates which party factional leaders might consider are such cabinet-level statesmen-politicians as Defence Minister R Venkataraman, Foreign Minister P V Narasimha Rao, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Industry Minister Narain Dutt Tiwari.