Indira Gandhi, 3rd Prime Minister of India

Indira Gandhi Biography

Indira Gandhi Biography

Known For: Her prominent role as a stateswoman in Indian politics, serving as the first female democratically elected leader of a country.

Indira Gandhi, originally named Indira Priyadarshini Nehru, was was born on 19 November 1917, in Allahabad, British India, to Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru would later become independent India’s first prime minister. Indira was the only child to her parents as her younger brother died in infancy.

Unlike others, her childhood wasn’t a happy one. Her father was mostly away from home due to his political commitments and her mother frequently suffered from bouts of illness.

She received her preliminary education at home after which she briefly attended school to complete her matriculation.

She was enrolled at the ‘Vishwa Bharati’ in Santiniketan but had to drop out a year later due to the ailing health of her mother in Europe.

Post the death of her mother, Indira attended the ‘University of Oxford’ in Britain, where she studied history, political science, and economics. However, due to her constant ill-health, she returned to India without a degree.

Indira was conferred with the Honorary Degree of Doctor at the ‘University of the South Pacific’ in Fiji on 26 September 1981.

Having been born into a politically influential family and growing up in an intense political environment, Indira Gandhi learned the ropes of the trade at an early age.

Her authoritarian personality and her central role in the Indian National Congress party after her father’s death made her a central figure in Indian politics. She was known for her political ruthlessness and the extraordinary centralization of power during her tenure.

Indira Gandhi, (3rd Prime Minister of India) popularly known as the “Iron Lady of India,” was a renowned stateswoman who gained worldwide recognition for her exceptional political acumen.

She rose to a prominent position in Indian politics, ultimately becoming the first democratically elected female leader of a country. To date, she remains the only woman to have held this prestigious office in India.

During her premiership, India achieved the status of a regional power in South Asia, with significant political, economic, and military clout. She oversaw a state of emergency and introduced considerable changes to the Indian Constitution.

She used the military to resolve numerous internal disputes and fostered a culture of sycophancy and nepotism, which irked many Indians.

Gandhi’s decision to initiate “Operation Blue Star” garnered her a controversial reputation and ultimately led to her assassination.

Indira Gandhi Biography

  • Full Name: Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (also known as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru)
  • Born: 19 November 1917
  • Birthplace: Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Hometown: Allahabad, India
  • Mother: Kamala Nehru
  • Father: Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Spouse: Feroze Gandhi (married 1942-1960)
  • Children: Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi
  • Date of Death: October 31, 1984
  • Cause of Death: Assassination
  • Place of Death: New Delhi, India

After her father’s death in 1964, Indira Gandhi was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha. She also served as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s cabinet.

Following Shastri’s untimely death, the Congress party was unable to come to a consensus on his successor. As a compromise candidate, Indira Gandhi was chosen and sworn in as the Prime Minister of India in January 1966.

Indira Gandhi remained in office as the Prime Minister until 1977. During her tenure, she displayed exceptional political skills, driving out many senior Congress members from the party and power.

This caused internal dissent within the party, eventually leading to a split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.

As Prime Minister

During her tenure as India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi implemented radical changes in the country’s economic, political, and international policies. She oversaw the successful implementation of more than three five-year-plans, which helped the nation achieve targeted growth.

Gandhi made several significant decisions, such as nationalizing 14 major commercial banks, which improved their geographical coverage and increased household savings.

Additionally, she nationalized the coal, steel, copper, refining, cotton textiles, and insurance industries, to protect employment and the interest of the organized labor.

Gandhi even nationalized the oil companies after the 1971 war against Pakistan, which led to the formation of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).

She also played a crucial role in bringing about the Green Revolution in India, transforming the country from an import-dependent nation to a self-reliant one.

Gandhi supported East Pakistan in the Pakistan Civil War, leading to the formation of Bangladesh, which helped India bring the Himalayan states under its influence.

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During her tenure, several Indian states were given statehood, while Chandigarh and Arunachal Pradesh were declared union territories.

Although Gandhi had close ties with the Soviet Union, her relationship with the US was strained. She maintained close ties with Bangladesh until the assassination of its Prime Minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which soured relations.

She also worked hard to normalize relations with Pakistan but was unsuccessful due to the rise of General Zia-ul-Haq.

Gandhi introduced social reforms by introducing clauses related to wages in the Indian Constitution, ensuring equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

In 1971, Indira Gandhi was accused of using unlawful methods and electoral fraud to win the elections.

A case was filed in the Allahabad High Court, which found her guilty of using state machinery for election campaign.

The court declared the elections null and void in June 1975 and unseated Indira Gandhi from the ‘Lok Sabha.’

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She was also banned from contesting for the next six years. These were difficult times for India as the country was still recovering from the war against Pakistan and facing drought and oil crises.

Strikes and political protests affected the economy and created disorder across the country. To curb this, Gandhi advised President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of emergency.

The state of emergency in India lasted for 21 months, from June 1975 until March 1977. It gave Gandhi the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and all civil liberties.

The entire country came under the rule of the central government. During the emergency, all publications were subjected to censorship by the ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and no one could raise their voice against the government.

Gandhi extended the state of emergency twice before the elections of March 1977. The Janata Party, led by Moraji Desai and Jai Prakash Narayan, appealed to the people, saying it was the last chance to choose between democracy and dictatorship.

The election results were not surprising, as the Congress Party was defeated convincingly, winning just 153 seats. Both Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi lost their respective positions.

The Janata Party ordered the arrest of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi on charges of planning to kill opposition leaders during the emergency.

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However, none of the charges were proved, and Indira Gandhi gained sympathy from the people. The Janata Party leaders had little in common except their united hatred towards Indira Gandhi.

The division in the Janata Party resulted in Desai stepping down and Charan Singh’s appointment as the new prime minister.

However, this also did not work for long, and the Parliament was dissolved in the winter session of 1979, and elections were announced in 1980.

During her second term as Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi dedicated much of her time to resolving the political issues in Punjab, where a secessionist movement led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had initiated campaigns against the government, moderate Sikhs, and Hindus.

To prevent Bhindranwale from gaining power, Gandhi launched “Operation Blue Star,” which successfully subdued the terrorists but resulted in the loss of several innocent lives and extensive damage to the Golden Temple.

Gandhi’s personal life included a marriage to Feroze Gandhi, with whom she had two sons, Rajiv and Sanjay. Tragically, her involvement in “Operation Blue Star” ultimately led to her assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards, who were seeking revenge for the insult to their community.

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In honor of her legacy, the Indian government launched the “Indira Awaas Yojana” program to provide low-cost housing for rural communities.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport and the Indira Gandhi National Open University were also named after her, as well as the annual “Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.”

Gandhi was recognized as the greatest Indian Prime Minister in a poll organized by “India Today” and named “Woman of the Millennium” by the BBC in 1999.

Notably, Gandhi imposed a “State of Emergency” in India in 1975, which lasted for 21 months and granted her rule by decree, effectively bringing the entire country under the central government’s control.

The initiation of “Operation Blue Star” to rid the Golden Temple of terrorists ultimately led to her assassination.

  • Indira Gandhi formed a ‘Monkey Brigade’ as a young girl, which spied on police and distributed flags to support India’s struggle for freedom.
  • She was imprisoned for 13 months in 1942 for her involvement in nationalist political demonstrations against British rule.
  • Despite opposition from her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira bravely married Feroze Gandhi.
  • Indira Gandhi was not related to Mahatma Gandhi, contrary to popular perception.
  • According to Katherine Frank’s book, ‘The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi,’ Indira had several love affairs throughout her lifetime, including with her German teacher, M.O. Mathai, Dhirendra Brahmachari (her yoga teacher), and Dinesh Singh (a Congress leader who later became Foreign Minister of India).
  • She was elected Congress president in 1959, when her father was the prime minister.
  • Indira Gandhi was the second female head of government in the world, after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka.
  • The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was known to have friendly relations with Indira Gandhi and cried at her funeral.
  • Bollywood stars Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, and Amitabh Bachchan attended Indira Gandhi’s last rites.
  • In 2011, Indira Gandhi was posthumously honored with the highest award in Bangladesh, the ‘Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona’ (Bangladesh Freedom Honor).

Reference: Wikipedia

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