for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84).
India wants to avoid a war at all costs but it is not a one-sided affair, you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.
You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.
My father was a statesman, I'm a political woman. My father was a saint. I'm not.
I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.
for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84). She was assassinated by Sikh extremists. Gandhi was the second female to hold the office of prime minister (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike
of Sri Lanka
) and she remains as the world's second longest serving female Prime Minister as of 2011.
Gandhi was the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru
, the first prime minister of independent India. She adhered to the quasi-socialist policies of industrial development that had been begun by her father. Gandhi established closer relations with the Soviet Union
, depending on that nation for support in India’s long-standing conflict with Pakistan
. She was also the only Indian Prime Minister to have declared a state of emergency in order to 'rule by decree' and the only Indian Prime Minister to have been imprisoned after holding that office.
Early life and careerIndira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 into the politically influential Nehru Family
. Indira Gandhi's father was Jawaharlal Nehru
and her mother was Kamla Nehru. Her grandfather, Motilal Nehru
, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru
, was a pivotal figure in the Indian independence moveer of Independent India.
In 1934–35, after finishing school
, Indira joined Shantiniketan, a school set up by Rabindranath Tagore
. Subsequently, she went to England and sat for the University of Oxford entrance examination, but she failed, and spent a few months at Badminton School
in Bristol, before passing the exam in 1937 and enrolling at Somerville College, Oxford
. During this time, she frequently met Feroz Gandhi, whom she knew from Allahabad, and who was studying at the London School of Economics
. Indira married Feroz in 1942. Nehru eventually accepted the marriage. But, for political gains, Indira manipulated the spelling of Feroze's last name from "Ghandhy" to Hindu-sounding "Gandhi" . She had no relation to Mohandas K. Gandhi, either by blood or marriage.
She returned to India in 1941. In the 1950s, she served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as the first Prime Minister of India
. After her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha
(upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri
's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
The then Congress Party
President K. Kamaraj
was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister after the sudden demise of Shastri. Gandhi soon showed an ability to win elections and outmaneuver opponents. She introduced more left-wing economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity. She led India
as Prime Minister during the decisive victory of East Pakistan
in 1971 war and creation of an independent Bangladesh
. She imposed a state of emergency in 1975. Congress Party and Indira Gandhi herself lost the next general election for the first time in 1977
. Indira Gandhi led the Congress back to victory in 1980 elections
and Gandhi resumed the office of the Prime Minister. In June 1984, under Gandhi's order, the Indian army forcefully entered the Golden Temple
, the most sacred Sikh
Gurdwara, to remove armed insurgents present inside the temple. She was killed on 31 October 1984 in retaliation for this operation
by her bodyguards.
Legislative careerWhen Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966, the Congress was split in two factions, the socialists led by Gandhi, and the conservatives
led by Morarji Desai
. Rammanohar Lohia called her Gungi Gudiya which means 'Dumb Doll'. The internal problems showed in the 1967 election where the Congress lost nearly 60 seats winning 297 seats in the 545 seat Lok Sabha
. She had to accommodate Desai as Deputy Prime Minister of India
and Minister of Finance. In 1969 after many disagreements with Desai, the Indian National Congress
split. She ruled with support from Socialist and Communist Parties for the next two years. In the same year, in July 1969 she nationalized banks.
War with Pakistan in 1971The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan.
An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. The United States under Richard Nixon
supported Pakistan, and mooted a UN resolution warning India against going to war. Nixon apparently disliked Indira personally, referring to her as a "witch" and "clever fox" in his private communication with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
(now released by the State Department
). Indira signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation
, resulting in political support and a Soviet veto at the UN. India was victorious in the 1971 war, and Bangladesh
Foreign policyGandhi invited the late Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
for a week-long summit. After the near-failure of the talks, the two national leaders eventually signed the Shimla Agreement, which bound the two countries to resolve the Kashmir
dispute by negotiations and peaceful means. Due to her antipathy for Nixon, relations with the United States grew distant, while relations with the Soviet Union
She was criticized by some for not making the Line of Control
(LoC) a permanent border while a few critics even believed that Pakistan-administered Kashmir
should have been extracted from Pakistan, whose 93,000 prisoners of war were under Indian control. But the agreement did remove immediate United Nations and third party interference, and greatly reduced the likelihood of Pakistan launching a major attack in the near future. By not demanding total capitulation on a sensitive issue from Bhutto, she had allowed Pakistan to stabilize and normalize. Trade relations were also normalized, though much contact remained frozen (sealed) for years.
Nuclear weapons programGandhi contributed and further carried out the vision of Jawarharalal Nehru, former Premier of India, to develop the program. Gandhi gave authorization of developing nuclear weapons in 1967, in response to the Test No. 6 by People's Republic of China. Gandhi saw this test as Chinese nuclear intimidation, therefore, Gandhi promoted the views of Nehru to establish India's stability and security interests as independent from those of the nuclear superpowers.
The program became fully mature in 1974, when dr. Raja Ramanna
reported to Gandhi that India has ability to test the first nuclear weapon. Gandhi gave verbal authorization of this test
, and preparations were made in a long-constructed army base, the Indian Army
Pokhran Test Range. In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, unofficially code named as "Smiling Buddha
", near the desert village of Pokhran
in Rajasthan. As the world was quiet by this test, a vehement protest came forward from Pakistan. Great ire was raised in Pakistan, Pakistan's Prime minister Zulfi Ali Bhutto
described this test as "Indian hegemony" to intimidate Pakistan. Gandhi directed a letter to Bhutto and, later to the world, describing the test as for peaceful purposes
and India's commitment as to develop its programme for industrial and scientific use.
Green RevolutionSpecial agricultural innovation programs and extra government support launched in the 1960s finally transformed India's chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk, the success mainly attributed to the hard working majority Sikh farmers of Punjab. Rather than relying on food aid from the United States – headed by a President whom Gandhi disliked considerably (the feeling was mutual: to Nixon, Indira was "the old witch"), the country became a food exporter. That achievement, along with the diversification of its commercial crop production, has become known as the "Green Revolution". At the same time, the White Revolution was an expansion in milk production which helped to combat malnutrition, especially amidst young children. 'Food security', as the program was called, was another source of support for Gandhi in the years leading up to 1975.
Established in the early 1960s, the Green Revolution was the unofficial name given to the Intense Agricultural District Program (IADP) which sought to insure abundant, inexpensive grain for urban dwellers upon whose support Gandhi—as indeed all Indian politicians—heavily depended. The program was based on four premises: 1) New varieties of seed(s), 2) Acceptance of the necessity of the chemicalization of Indian agriculture, i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, etc., 3) A commitment to national and international cooperative research to develop new and improved existing seed varieties, 4) The concept of developing a scientific, agricultural institutions in the form of land grant colleges.
1971 election victory and second termIndira's government faced major problems after her tremendous mandate of 1971. The internal structure of the Congress Party had withered following its numerous splits, leaving it entirely dependent on her leadership for its election fortunes. Garibi Hatao
(Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi's 1971 bid. The slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programs that came with it were designed to give Gandhi an independent national support, based on rural and urban poor. This would allow her to bypass the dominant rural castes both in and of state and local government; likewise the urban commercial class. And, for their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight.
The programs created through Garibi Hatao
, though carried out locally, were funded, developed, supervised, and staffed by New Delhi and the Indian National Congress
party. "These programs also provided the central political leadership with new and vast patronage resources to be disbursed... throughout the country." Scholars and historians now agree as to the extent of the failure of Garibi Hatao in alleviating poverty – only about 4% of all funds allocated for economic development went to the three main anti-poverty programs, and precious few of these ever reached the 'poorest of the poor' – and the empty sloganeering of the program was mainly used instead to engender populist support for Gandhi's re-election.
Corruption charges and verdict of electoral malpracticeOn 12 June 1975 the High Court of Allahabad
declared Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha
void on grounds of electoral malpractice. In an election petition filed by Raj Narain
(who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from Rae Bareily
), he had alleged several major as well as minor instances of using government resources for campaigning. The court thus ordered her to be removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running in elections for six years. The Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha
(Lower house in the Parliament of India
) or the Rajya Sabha
(the Higher house of the Parliament). Thus, this decision effectively removed her from office. Mrs Gandhi had asked one of India's best legal minds and also one of her colleagues in government, Mr Ashoke Kumar Sen
to defend her in court. It has been written that Mrs Gandhi was told she would only win if Mr Sen appeared for her.
But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha
at Allahabad High Court. It came almost four years after the case was brought by Raj Narain, the premier's defeated opponent in the 1971 parliamentary election. Gandhi, who gave evidence in her defence during the trial, was found guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for party purposes. The judge rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.
Indira insisted the conviction did not undermine her position, despite having been unseated from the lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, by order of the High Court. She said: "There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments". And she dismissed criticism of the way her Congress Party raised election campaign money, saying all parties used the same methods. The prime minister retained the support of her party, which issued a statement backing her. After news of the verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging their loyalty. Indian High Commissioner BK Nehru said Gandhi's conviction would not harm her political career. "Mrs Gandhi has still today overwhelming support in the country," he said. "I believe the prime minister of India will continue in office until the electorate of India decides otherwise".
State of Emergency (1975–1977)Gandhi moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the unrest. Her Cabinet and government then recommended that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
declare a state of emergency
, because of the disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court decision. Accordingly, Ahmed declared a State of Emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352 of the Constitution, on 26 June 1975.
Rule by decreeWithin a few months, President's Rule
was imposed on the two opposition party ruled states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu
thereby bringing the entire country under direct Central rule or by governments led by the ruling Congress party.
Police were granted powers to impose curfews and indefinitely detain citizens and all publications were subjected to substantial censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
. Inder Kumar Gujral
, a future prime minister himself, resigned as Minister for Information and Broadcasting to protest Sanjay Gandhi's interference in his work. Finally, impending legislative assembly elections were indefinitely postponed, with all opposition-controlled state governments being removed by virtue of the constitutional provision allowing for a dismissal of a state government on recommendation of the state's governor.
Indira Gandhi used the emergency provisions to grant herself extraordinary powers.
"Unlike her father Jawaharlal NehruJawaharlal NehruJawaharlal Nehru , often referred to with the epithet of Panditji, was an Indian statesman who became the first Prime Minister of independent India and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the...
, who preferred to deal with strong chief ministers in control of their legislative parties and state party organizations, Mrs. Gandhi set out to remove every Congress chief minister who had an independent base and to replace each of them with ministers personally loyal to her...Even so, stability could not be maintained in the states..."
It is alleged that she further moved President Ahmed to issue ordinances
that did not need to be debated in the Parliament
, allowing her to rule by decree
Simultaneously, Gandhi's government undertook a campaign to stamp out dissent including the arrest and detention of thousands of political activists; Sanjay was instrumental in initiating the clearing of slums around Delhi's Jama Masjid
under the supervision of Jag Mohan, later Lt. Governor of Delhi, which allegedly left thousands of people homeless and hundreds killed, and led to communal embitterment in those parts of the nation's capital; and the family planning program which forcibly imposed vasectomy
on thousands of fathers and was often poorly administered.
ElectionsAfter extending the state of emergency twice, in 1977 Indira Gandhi called for elections, to give the electorate a chance to vindicate her rule. Gandhi may have grossly misjudged her popularity by reading what the heavily censored press wrote about her. In any case, she was opposed by the Janata Party
. Janata, led by her long-time rival, Desai and with Jai Prakash Narayan as its spiritual guide, claimed the elections were the last chance for India to choose between "democracy and dictatorship." Indira's Congress party was crushed soundly in the elections which followed. Indira and Sanjay Gandhi
both lost their seats, and Congress was cut down to 153 seats (compared with 350 in the previous Lok Sabha), 92 of which were in the south.
Removal, arrest, and return
In 1977, Indira Gandhi and her party, Indian National Congress
, lost the election to the Janata Party, a coalition of virtually all of Indira opponents. After the elections, Gandhi found herself without work, income or residence. The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran Gandhi supporters like Jagjivan Ram
and her most loyal Bahuguna
and Nandini Satpathy
,the three were compelled to part ways and form a new political entity CFD (Congress for Democracy) primarily due to intra party politicking and also due to circumstances created by Sanjay Gandhi.The prevailing rumour was that Sanjay had intentions of dislodging Indira and the trio stood between that.
Once the Janata Party came into power, they aimed to return all Indian citizens the freedoms taken away when Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency. The leader of the Janata Party was Jayaprakash Narayan
who kept the party united. The other party leaders of the Janata Party were Morarji Desai
, Charan Singh, Raj Narain
and Atal Bihari Vajpayee
. Unable to govern owing to fractious coalition warfare, the Janata government's Home Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira was automatically expelled from Parliament. These allegations included that Indira Gandhi “‘had planned or thought of killing all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency’”. However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial, however, gained her great sympathy from many people who had feared her as a tyrant just two years earlier.The Janata coalition was only united by its hatred of Indira (or "that woman" as some called her). With so little in common, the government was bogged down by infighting and Gandhi was able to use the situation to her advantage. She began giving speeches again, tacitly apologizing for "mistakes" made during the Emergency. Jayaprakash Narayan died on 8 October 1979, which broke the unity of the Janata Party and Desai took his place. Desai resigned in June 1979, and Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister by Reddy after Gandhi promised that Congress would support his government from outside.
After a short interval, she withdrew her initial support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In elections held the following January, Congress was returned to power with a landslide majority.
Currency crisisDuring the early 1980s, Indira failed to arrest the 40 percent fall in the value of the Indian Rupee from 7 to 12 against the US Dollar. However, it is argued that the Reserve Bank of India had decided to devalue to rupee to make Indian exports more competitive.
Operation Blue Star and her deathIn July 1982, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the head of the Sikh religious institution the Damdami Taksal
based in the northern Indian state of Punjab, led a campaign for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution for greater rights to the Sikhs. In response to this, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army to shoot Bhindrawale. The State of Punjab was closed to international media, its phone and communication lines shut. To this day the events remain controversial with a disputed number of victims; Sikhs seeing the attack as unjustified and Bhindrawale being declared the greatest sikh martyr of the 21st century by Akal Takht
(Sikh Political Authority) in 2003.
On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh
and Beant Singh
, shot her with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister's residence at 1 Safdarjung Road, New Delhi as she was walking past a wicket gate guarded by Satwant and Beant. She was to be interviewed by the British actor Peter Ustinov
, who was filming a documentary for Irish television. According to information immediately following the incident, Beant Singh shot her three times using his side-arm, and Satwant Singh fired 30 rounds. Beant Singh and Satwant Singh dropped their weapons and surrendered. Afterwards they were taken away by other guards into a closed room where Beant Singh was shot dead. Kehar Singh was later arrested for conspiracy in the attack. Both Satwant and Kehar were sentenced to death and hanged in Tihar jail in Delhi.
Mrs Indira Gandhi was brought at 9.30 AM to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences
, where doctors operated on her.She was declared dead at 2.20PM. The postmortem examination was conducted by team of Doctors headed by Dr T D Dogra. He stated that as many as 30 bullets were sustained by Mrs Indira Gandhi, from two sources, a SLR and a Pistol.The assailants had fired 31 bullets at her, of which 30 had hit; 23 had passed through her body while seven were trapped inside.Dr T D Dogra extricated bullets to establish the identity of the weapons and to correlate each weapon with the bullets recovered by ballistic examination. The bullets were matched with respective weapons at CFSL Delhi. Subsequently Dr T D Dogra appeared in the court of Shri Mahesh Chandra as an expert witness (PW-5), the testimony lasted several sessions. The cross examination was conducted by Shri P N Lekhi, the defense counsel.
She was cremated on 3 November near Raj Ghat. Her funeral was televised live on domestic and international stations including the BBC
Following her funeral thousands of Sikhs were burnt alive (govt. estimates`5000) and millions rendered homeless. On a live TV show Rajiv Gandhi said about the carnage that 'when a big tree falls the earth shakes' with the tree being a reference to Indira.
Family and personal lifeInitially, her younger son Sanjay
had been her chosen heir; but after his death in a flying accident in June 1980, his mother persuaded a reluctant elder son Rajiv Gandhi
to quit his job as a pilot and enter politics in February 1981. Over a decade later, Rajiv Gandhi
Indira was known for her closeness with her personal yoga guru, Dhirendra Brahmachari
, who not only helped her in making certain decisions but also executed certain top level political tasks on her behalf, especially from 1975 to 1977 when Gandhi "dissolved Parliament, declared a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties."
LegacyThe Indira Awaas Yojana
, a central government low-cost housing programme for the rural poor, is named after her. The international airport at New Delhi is named Indira Gandhi International Airport
in her honour.
A negative legacy Mrs. Gandhi will be associated with is that of fostering a culture of nepotism.
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