She is considered one of the great Prime Ministers in the world. She was an Amazon. Her leadership showed path for many. Her works inspired countries. She is an Indian. She is Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi.
She was born on November 19, 1917 to the First Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru and Kamala Nehru. Nehru was a key player in the Indian Independence struggle.
Schooling, Childhood of Indira Gandhi:
Indira Gandhi did her pre-schooling from Modern School in Delhi. Later she got educated from various schools across the globe. She studied in Europe, including Ecole Internationale in Geneva. She also studied in Vishwa Bharathi University, West Bengal. In 1936 she enrolled in Somerville college, Oxford, Univeristy of Oxford. A major setback for Indira Gandhi was when she was preparing for her exams. Her mother expired after a prolonged battle with tuberculosis. She was emotionally disturbed. Later she could gain some mental strength. In spite of these setbacks, she decided to continue her studies and she spent few months in Badminton School, Bristol before clearing the Oxford entrance examination.
Neither Indira Gandhi health was cooperating with her and she frequently fell ill. She made frequent visits to Switzerland. Later she moved on to England. She was proficient at Economics, History and political Science. During her stay in UK, she very often met her husband Feroz Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi political career:
She entered politics at a very young age. She served as an unofficial secretary to her father, Jawahar lal Nehru during his first tenure as Prime Minister of India. In 1964 she was appointed to rajya sabha and was given a cabinet berth under the leadership of Lal Bhadur Shastri. She was given the portfolio of “Information and Broadcasting”. It was the then Congress Party chief Kamraj, who was instrumental in encouraging Indira Gandhi to become Prime Minister. She became the 3rd prime Minister of India, and the First women prime Minister of India in January 1966. She played a key role in gaining support of the soviet union to face the then rival Pakistan. She stood bold when East Pakistan defeated Pakistan and gained independence in 1971, which is today’s Bangladesh.
She imposed a state of emergency in 1975. She lost the subsequent elections. She came back to power in 1980. Prior to becoming prime Minister she served few pivotal portfolios like Ministry of External Affairs, ministry of defence, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs. She was the first Indian Woman Prime Minister to produce Budget in the Parliament.
Accolades & Achievements:
Indira Gandhi was instrumental in shaping up the Agricultural Sector. Gandhi supported “Green Revolution”. Green Revolution was officially called Intense Agricultural District Program (IADP). It was under her governance, India’s agricultural output yielded surplus crop leaving behind the draught conditions. From food grain importer, India achieved a new status of Food grain Exporter.
She was the backbone behind implementation of “White Revolution”, which was started to combat malnutrition amongst children.
In 1969 fourteen Major Banks have been nationalized, which were meant for boosting Indian economy. The main motto behind this act was to make banking easy. Post nationalization, the number of branches rose from 8200 to over 60,000. Most of these branches were opened in rural and urban areas providing every citizen banking facility.
She came into power for the second term in 1971, with a single point agenda, “garibi hatao”. She signed peace treaties with many countries, including Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s first nuclear missile test was conducted under her leadership. The Famous Pokhran test was conducted in Rajasthan in 1974. This was unofficially coded as “Smiling Buddha”. This was recorded as a response to the “Test No.6”, by the republic of China.
Indira Gandhi controversies:
Indira Gandhi was no exception from controversies. Her candidature was cancelled for violating the election code. Petition was filed against her for spending more amount for election campaigning and another charge was about the Misuse of Government machinery for campaigning. All these charges against her could never tarnish her image. 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”.
Since the opposition was not happy with the judgement given by Allahabad court, they started counter attack on Indira Gandhi. She wanted to restore good governance. Her Government then recommended the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a state of emergency, because of the disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court decision. Within no time emergency was imposed in two other states, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, which were being ruled by opposition. Police was given full powers to impose curfew.
Post emergency, elections were held in 1977. Indira Gandi faced severe defeat by her opponent party, Janatha Party. Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, etc were key leaders of Janatha Party. The then Home minister Chaudary Charan Singh ordered enquiry and arrest of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges. The leader of Janata Party Jay Prakash Narayan died in 1979. Desai resigned from his post in 1979, March. Later Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, the then president of India, appointed Charan Singh as Prime Minister, who was promised support by Indira Gandhi. After few months congress withdrew support and government was dissolved. Elections were held in January 1980, in which congress won with hefty majority.
Another major controversy that struck Indira Gandhi’s neck was the attack on the Sacred Golden temple Punjab. It was called operation Blue star. This was to clear the insurgents present in Golden temple possessing weapons and ammunitions. Upon Gandhi’s order army entered the Gurudwara forcefully and attacked. Hundreds of Army men and Sikh people have lost lives in this operation.
Assassination of Indira Gandhi:
Indira Gandhi’s death was a planned attack. She was shot by her personal security guards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh on October 31 1984. The day before her death she was in Orissa, where in her speech she spoke, “I am alive today; I may not be there tomorrow. I shall continue to serve till my last breath and when I die every drop of my blood will strengthen India and keep a united India alive”. It was such a brutal act. Whole nation mourned her death.
As a mark of respect on her, today there are many Government schemes being started on her name, like Indira Gandhi Awas Yojana, etc. An open University Indira Gandhi National Open University is today one of the world’s most reputed institutions.