About Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, a prominent figure in the history of
Indian politics, the Iron Lady, was the third Prime Minister of India. Jawaharlal Nehru was her father, who was the first Prime Minister of India and an aide of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle. Indira Gandhi was an iconic figure of the Indian National Congress and the first and the only woman Prime Minister of the country. She was the second such Prime Minister to have served the post for a longer time, first from 1966 to 1977 and second time from 1980 till her assassination in the year 1984. From 1947 to 1964 she remained the Chief of Staff of Jawaharlal Nehru’s administration, which was highly centralized. In 1959 she was elected as the Congress President. She succeeded Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966 as the Prime Minister of India.
Indira Gandhi as a Prime Minister was considered fierce, cutthroat and remarkable with centralization of power. 1975 to 1977 saw her impose emergency on the country to crush political opposition. India achieved preeminence in South Asia with substantial economic, military and political developments during her leadership.The India Today magazine conducted a poll in 2001 that voted Indira Gandhi as the Greatest Prime Minister. In 1999, the BBC named her as the “Woman of the Millennium”.
Indira Gandhi life history
Indira Gandhi was born on 19 November 1917 to Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and Smt. Kamala Nehru in Allahabad, India. Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the prominent players for India’s struggle for freedom from the British Raj. He later became the first Prime Minister of independent India. Indira Gandhi was the only child of her parents and grew up at her family estate in Allahabad called Anand Bhavan. Her childhood days were quite lonely, with her father staying away due to his commitments for the political activities or confined at prison. Her mother fell ill frequently and had to be bed-ridden from time to time; she finally died at an early age suffering from tuberculosis. Letters were her only mode of contact with her father.
She attended school intermittently until matriculation in 1934, and was more often taught at home. She also studied at the Viswa Bharati University in Shantiniketan. She, however, left the university and moved to Europe to attend to her ailing mother. She attended the Badminton School for a brief period after her mother passed away. Thereafter in 1937 she enrolled at Somerville College to pursue History. She was suffering from ill-health and had to be attended to by doctors constantly. Her studies got disrupted as she had to make repeated trips to Switzerland for recovery. Due to her ill health and other disruptions, she had to return to India without being able to complete her studies at the Oxford. However the Oxford University later conferred her with an honorary degree. In 2010 she was further honoured by the University of Oxford as one of the 10 illustrious graduates of Asia, the Oxasians.
She married Feroze Gandhi her husband, who was a Parsi from Gujarat. They knew each other from Allahabad and later met in the UK when he was studying at the London School of Economics. She chose her younger son Sanjay Gandhi as her heir in politics but after his sudden death in June 1980 in a flying accident, Indira Gandhi persuaded her elder son Rajiv Gandhi to join politics. Rajiv Gandhi at that time was a pilot who reluctantly quit his job to join politics in February 1981.
Political Journey and achievements of Indira Gandhi
- From 1947 to 1964 she remained the Chief of Staff of Jawaharlal Nehru’s administration that was highly centralized.
- In 1964 she was elected as member of the Rajya Sabha. She served as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting under the government led by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri.
- After the untimely death of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, in January 1966 Indira Gandhi was selected as the Prime Minister of India.
- She served the post till 1977. During this tenure she displayed exceptional political skills.
This term also experienced internal dissent in the party, leading to a split in 1969.
- As a Prime Minister, she implemented radical changes in the political, economic, national and international policies of the country.
- Nationalisation of 14 major commercial banks was one of the crucial economic decisions taken at that period. This move proved extremely fruitful, with geographical coverage of banks shooting up from 8,200 to 62,000, which resulted in increased savings from the household sector and investment in agricultural sector and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
- Her next move was to nationalise several industries like steel, copper, coal, cotton textiles, refining and insurance industries, with the aim to protect employment and interest of the organised labour. Private-sector industries were brought under strict regulatory control.
- During oil crisis of 1971 after the war against Pakistan, Indira Gandhi nationalized oil companies, which saw the formation of oil companies like Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL).
- The Green Revolution under her leadership made remarkable advances in the agricultural produce of the country. As a result, the degree of self-sufficiency increased.
- During the Pakistan Civil War in 1971, Indira Gandhi supported East Pakistan, which led to the formation of Bangladesh.
- Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab were declared as states under her administrative policy.
- Indira Gandhi tried to normalise relations with Pakistan and reopen diplomatic establishments, which was appreciated by Pakistan’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but the rise of General Zia-ul-Haq to power in 1978 marred all efforts for a better relation.
- She made social reforms by bringing clauses of equal pay for work done for both men and women in the Indian Constitution.
- The opposition parties blamed her of using unfair means after the 1971 elections. A case was filed against her in the Allahabad High Court, which found her guilty of employing state machinery for campaigning in election.
- On June 1975 the court declared the elections as null and void and she was unseated from the Lok Sabha and banned from contesting elections for the next six years.
- During this time the country was under turmoil, recuperating from war against Pakistan, facing strikes, political protests and disorder. To restrain the situation, she advised Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the then President of India, to declare a state of emergency that lasted for 21 months, from June 1975 to March 1977. It gave her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and all other civil rights. The whole nation came under the rule of the central government.
- The aftermath of this move was reflected in the next elections when the Congress party was defeated by a substantial margin, with both Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi losing their seats.
- The next term of her tenure as Prime Minister from 1980 was mostly spent on resolving the political issues of Punjab. Jarnail Singh Bindranwale and his troops initiated a secessionist movement in 1983 and based themselves at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, a place of worship for the Sikhs which is considered as most sacred.
- Indira Gandhi commenced Operation Blue Star to control and curb the terrorist situation. The operation, although successfully subdued Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale and other terrorists, also saw loss of life of several civilians and damage of the shrine. This resulted in outrage among the Sikh community who condemned her and declared Jarnail Singh Bindrawale a martyr of the 21st century.
Indira Gandhi Assassination
On 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was shot by her two bodyguards in the garden of her official residence of Prime Minister at 1, Safdarjung Road at New Delhi while she was passing the wicket gate guarded by them. The bodyguard Beant Singh shot her thrice while Satwant Singh fired almost thirty rounds, after which they dropped their weapons and surrendered. The other guards took the two to a closed room where Beant Singh was shot to death. Later Kehar Singh was arrested for his involvement in the conspiracy. Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh were given death sentence and hanged in Tihar Jail at Delhi.
Indira Gandhi was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at 9:30 a.m. The doctors did their best but declared her dead at 2:20 p.m. On 3 November she was cremated near Raj Ghat, an event that was covered live by the media both nationally and internationally. The spot of cremation is now called Shakti Sthala.
Programmes, Institutions and Awards named after Indira Gandhi
- A low-cost housing programme initiated by the central government for the rural poor was named the Indira Awaas Yojana.
- The Delhi International Airport is named after her as Indira Gandhi International Airport.
- The largest university, the Indira Gandhi National Open University, was named after her.
- In 1985 the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration, an annual award ceremony held on her death anniversary, was established by the Congress party.
- The Indira Gandhi Prize, given annually, was established by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
Last Updated on June 22, 2020