HomeGeneral KnowledgeBiographyIndira Gandhi Biography: World's First Female PM

Indira Gandhi Biography: World’s First Female PM


Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Birth Surname: Nehru) (19 November 1917–31 October 1984) was the Prime Minister of the Republic of India for 3 consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and then in the fourth term from 1980 to her political assassination in 1984. Was prime minister She was the first and till now the only woman Prime Minister of India.

Early Life and Career

The marriage of Indira and Firoz in 1942; This marriage was neither a traditional nor a legal marriage.
Indira was born on 19 November 1917 in the politically influential Nehru family. His father was Jawaharlal Nehru and his mother was Kamala Nehru. Indira got her nickname “Gandhi” after her marriage to Feroze Gandhi. He had no relation with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi neither by blood nor by marriage. His paternal grandfather Motilal Nehru was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. His father Jawaharlal Nehru was a prominent personality of the Indian independence movement and was the first Prime Minister of independent India.

After completing her schooling in 1934–35, Indira joined the Visva-Bharati University built by Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore gave her the name “Priyadarshini”. She then went to England and appeared in the entrance examination of Oxford University, but she failed and after spending a few months at Badminton School in Bristol, after passing the examination in 1937, she joined Somerville College, Oxford. During this time she often met Firoz Gandhi, whom she knew from Allahabad and who was studying at the London School of Economics. She finally married Firoz on 16 March 1942 in a private Adi Dharma Brahmo-Vedic ceremony at Anand Bhawan, Allahabad.

After coming back to India from Oxford in the year 1941, she joined the Indian independence movement. In the 1950s, she served as a personal assistant to her father during her tenure as the first Prime Minister of India. After the death of his father, he was appointed as a Rajya Sabha member in 1964. After this she became the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the cabinet of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Read: Lata Mangeshkar Biography

After the sudden demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister. Gandhi showed his ability to win elections quickly as well as dominate his opponents through popularisation. It brought more leftist economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity. In a state of instability in the period following a decisive victory in the Indo-Pak war of 1971, he imposed a state of emergency in 1975. He and the Congress party faced defeat for the first time in the 1977 general election. After returning to power in 1980, she was involved in an increasing feud with most of the Punjab separatists, which later led to her political assassination in 1984 by her own bodyguards.

Early life

Indira was born on 19 November 1917 to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his wife Kamala Nehru. She was his only child. The Nehru family can trace their ancestors to the Brahmins of Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. Indira’s paternal grandfather Motilal Nehru was a wealthy barrister from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the very prominent members of the Indian National Congress in the past. His father Motilal Nehru was a popular leader of the Indian freedom struggle. During Indira’s birth, Jawaharlal Nehru joined the freedom movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Her upbringing under the complete care of her mother, who was kept away from the household chores of the Nehru family due to illness, led Indira to develop a selfless personality with strong protective instincts. His paternal grandfather and father’s constant involvement in national politics also made it difficult for him to socialize with peers. With his own sisters (father’s sisters) including Vijayalakshmi Pandit, there was opposition and it continued in the political world as well.

Indira created the Vanar Sena for young boys and girls, which played a small but notable role in the Indian freedom struggle by circulating sensitive publications and banned materials, including protests and flag marches, as well as helping Congress leaders. The often repeated story is that he stole a key document planning a major revolutionary initiative of the early 1930s through his schoolbag, escaping from his father’s house under police surveillance.

In 1936 his mother Kamala Nehru finally passed away after a long struggle with tuberculosis. Indira was then 18 years old and thus never experienced a stable family life in her childhood. He studied at major Indian, European and British schools, such as Shantiniketan, Badminton School and Oxford.

During her studies at Somerville College, Oxford University, England in the late 1930s, she became a member of the staunchly pro-independence Indian League based in London.

While living in continental Europe and Britain, she met Firoz Gandhi, a Parsi Congress worker, and eventually married her in a private Adi Dharma Brahmo-Vedic ceremony at Anand Bhavan, Allahabad on 16 March 1942, just before the start of the Quit India Movement when Mahatma Gandhi An extreme and vigorous national rebellion was launched by Gandhi and the Congress party. In September 1942, she was arrested by the British authorities and detained without charge. He was finally released on 13 May 1943 after spending more than 243 days in prison. She gave birth to Rajiv Gandhi with Feroze Gandhi in 1944 and Sanjay Gandhi two years later.

He helped organize refugee camps and provide medical care for millions of refugees from Pakistan during the chaos of the 1947 Partition of India. This was his first time in major public service.

The Gandhis later settled in Allahabad, where Firoz worked with a Congress Party newspaper and an insurance company. Their married life was fine in the beginning, but later when Indira moved to New Delhi with her father, during his prime ministership who was living alone in an atmosphere of high mental pressure in Teen Murti Bhavan, he became her confidant, secretary and nurse. became. Her sons lived with her, but she eventually parted ways with Firoz permanently, though the status of marriage continued.

When India’s first general election came to a close in 1951, Indira was involved in campaigning for both her father and her husband, who was contesting from the Rae Bareli constituency. Firoz did not consult Nehru about his rival selection and, though elected, opted for a separate residence in Delhi. Firoz quickly developed the image of being a fighter against political corruption by uncovering a major scandal in a nationalized insurance industry that resulted in the resignation of one of Nehru’s associates, the finance minister.

In a state of extreme tension, Indira separated from her husband. However, shortly after the by-election in 1958, Firoz suffered a heart attack, which dramatically healed his broken marriage. Supporting him in his recovery in Kashmir, his family became close. But on September 8, 1960, when Indira went on a foreign tour with her father, Firoz died.

Indian National Congress President

Indira contested elections during 1959 and 1960 and was elected President of the Indian National Congress. His tenure was eventless. She was playing the role of her father’s chief of staff.

Nehru died on May 27, 1964, and Indira joined the government, contesting the elections on the inspiration of the new Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and being immediately appointed Minister of Information and Broadcasting. She went to Chennai when riots broke out in the non-Hindi speaking states of the South over the issue of Hindi becoming the national language. There he held discussions with government officials, tempered the anger of community leaders, and oversaw reconstruction efforts in the affected areas. Shastri and senior ministers were ashamed of their lack of such efforts. Minister Gandhi’s actions were probably not directly aimed at Shastri’s or his own political stature. She reportedly lacked enthusiasm in the day-to-day work of the ministry but was media-oriented and skilled in politics and the art of image-making.

After 1965, during the struggle for succession between Mrs Gandhi and her rivals, the Central Congress [party] leadership, many states removed upper caste leaders from state Congress [party] organizations and replaced them with backward caste individuals. Started gathering votes of castes so that their opposition and opponents in the state Congress [party] could be defeated. The consequences of these interventions, some of which can be considered appropriate socially progressive achievements, however, often led to intensification of inter-ethnic regional conflicts.

When the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was going on, Indira was present in the Srinagar border area. Although the army had warned that Pakistani infiltrators were speeding too close to the city, they rejected offers to resettle themselves in Jammu or Delhi, instead circling the local government and welcoming the media’s attention. . Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away hours after signing a peace deal with Ayub Khan of Pakistan in Tashkent in Soviet mediation.

Then Congress party president K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the prime minister after the sudden demise of Shastri. He was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister.

Prime minister

In 1966, when Mrs Gandhi became Prime Minister, the Congress had split into two factions, the socialists led by Mrs Gandhi and the conservatives led by Morarji Desai. Morarji Desai used to call her “Gungi Gudiya”. Internal problems arose in the 1967 election where the Congress gained 297 seats in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, losing nearly 60 seats. He had to take Desai as India’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of India. The Indian National Congress split in 1969 after disagreements with Desai on several issues. She ruled for the next two years with the support of socialists and communist parties. In the same year in July 1969, he nationalized the banks.

In 1971, he declared war on Pakistan on behalf of East Pakistan, who were fighting for their independence, to solve the Bangladeshi refugee problem. The US, under President Richard Nixon during the 1971 war, sent its Seventh Fleet to India to stay away from East Pakistan, warning that a broader offensive against West Pakistan could be carried out, particularly over the border issue of Kashmir. as sent to the Bay of Bengal. This move alienated India from the First World and Prime Minister Gandhi now swiftly reoriented a previously cautious national security and foreign policy. India and the Soviet Union had already signed a Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Cooperation, which resulted in substantial political and military support for India’s victory in the 1971 war.

Nuclear program

But, with the nuclear threat from the People’s Republic of China and the interest in interference by the two major superpowers not feeling conducive to India’s stability and security, Gandhi now had a national nuclear program. He had invited the new Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for a week-long Shimla summit. Negotiations approaching failure The two heads of state eventually signed the Simla Agreement, under which the two countries agreed to settle the Kashmir dispute through negotiations and peaceful means.

Indira Gandhi was criticized by some critics for not making the Line of Control a permanent border, while others believed that Pakistan-administered Kashmir should have been taken out of Pakistan’s possession of 93,000 prisoners of war by India. But this agreement nullified the immediate intervention of the United Nations and any third party and greatly reduced the possibility of any major attack by Pakistan in the near future. By not demanding complete surrender from Bhutto on a sensitive issue, he gave Pakistan a chance to be stable and normal.

Trade relations were also restored to normal through many contacts that had been stalled over the years.

In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under the unofficial shadow name of Smiling Buddha, near the desert village of Pokhran in Rajasthan. Describing the test for peaceful purposes, India became the world’s newest nuclear power.

Green revolution

In the 1960s, the introduction of specialized innovative agriculture programs and additional government support eventually turned India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production, primarily in terms of wheat, rice, cotton and milk. Instead of relying on food aid from the United States—a president whom Mrs. Gandhi greatly disliked (the sentiment was mutual: Nixon found Indira to be a “witchy old woman”), the country became a food exporter. The diversification of crop production is known as the Green Revolution. At the same time, the White Revolution brought about by increased milk production has helped to tackle malnutrition, especially among growing children. ‘Food Security’, as this program is known It remained another source of support for Mrs. Gandhi until the years of 1975.

Organized in the early 1960s, the Green Revolution was the informal name of the Intensive Agricultural District Program (IADP), under which the city dwellers, on whose support Gandhi—as such, virtually all Indian politicians—relyed deeply, Got the assurance of cheap grains in abundance. The program was based on four phases:

New varieties of seeds

Acceptance of the need for chemicalisation of Indian agriculture, such as fertilizers, insecticides, weed repellents, etc.
Commitment to national and international cooperative research to develop new and better existing seed varieties
Scientific concept of development of agricultural institutions as land grant colleges,

This ten-year program eventually led to a threefold increase in wheat production and a small but attractive increase in rice; While there was little or no growth in the areas of cereals such as millet, gram and coarse cereals (taking into account for area and population growth)—they maintained a relatively stable yield.

Victory in 1971 election and second term (1971– 1975)
Gandhi’s government faced major difficulties after his coercive mandate in 1971. The weakening of the internal structure of the Congress party as a result of its numerous divisions had made it completely dependent on his leadership to determine its fate in elections. Gandhi’s slogan in preparation for 1971 was Garibi Hatao. This slogan and the blueprint for the proposed Garibi Hatao program that came with it were designed to give Gandhi an independent national support based on the rural and urban poor. Thus they were allowed to ignore the state and local governments and the urban merchant class dominated by the dominant rural castes. And, the share of the poor who had remained undecided in the past, at least in attainment of both the political value and the political burden, increased.

Programs under Garibi Hatao, although locally carried out, were financed, developed, supervised and functionalized by New Delhi and the Indian National Congress Party. “These programs also gave the central political leadership the ownership of distributing new and vast resources across the country. Ultimately, poverty alleviation did little for the poor: only 4% of all funds allocated for economic development were allocated to the three major poverty alleviation programs. and almost no one reached the “poorest of the poor”. Thus, although the program failed to reduce poverty, it achieved Gandhi’s goal of winning elections.

Tendency towards totalitarianism

Gandhi had already been accused of authoritarian conduct. Treating their strong parliamentary majority, their ruling Indian National Congress had changed the balance of power between the Center and the states by amending the Constitution. He twice declared the states ruled by opposition parties to be “lawless and chaotic” and took control of them by imposing President’s rule under Article 356 of the Constitution. Further, at the growing influence of Sanjay Gandhi, who had become Gandhi’s close political advisor instead of elected officials, P.N. Haksar, Gandhi’s former adviser when rising to the height of his potential, expressed displeasure. Seeing his new inclination towards the use of authoritarian power, eminent personalities and ex-freedom fighters like Jayaprakash Narayan, Satendra Narayan Sinha and Acharya Jivatram Kripalani toured India actively campaigning against him and his government.

Corruption allegation and election malpractice verdict

On June 12, 1975, the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi’s Lok Sabha election to be annulled on the basis of alleged corruption allegations in an election petition filed by Raj Narayan (who had repeatedly contested and lost from the Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency). Gave. Thus the court ordered a ban on him from leaving the seat of Parliament and participating in elections for six years. It is mandatory to be a member of Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian Parliament) or Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) for prime ministership. Thus, this decision effectively relieved him from office.

When Gandhi appealed the decision, opposition parties and their supporters, eager to gain political capital, began circling collectively for his resignation. Normal life came to a standstill in many states due to the strike by a large number of unions and protestors. To strengthen this movement, Jayaprakash Narayan called upon the police to defy the order to open fire at the unarmed crowd. Due to the difficult economic times as well as the disenchantment of the people with his government, huge crowds of protestors surrounded the Parliament House and his residence in Delhi, demanding his resignation.

State of Emergency (1975–1977)
Main article: Emergency (India)

Indira Gandhi

Gandhi ordered the arrest of most of the opponents who created the unrest, as an intervention to restore order. Thereafter, it was recommended by his cabinet and government that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a state of emergency in view of the chaos and anarchy that spread after the decision of Allahabad High Court. Accordingly, Ahmed declared a state of emergency on 26 June 1975 in view of the internal disorder as per the provision of Article 352 of the Constitution.

Governance by Decree / Order Based Governance

Within a few months, President’s rule was imposed on the two opposition-ruled states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, as a result of which the entire country was brought under direct central rule. The police were given the ability to enforce 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 from the post of Information and Broadcasting minister to protest Sanjay Gandhi’s interference in his work. Ultimately the impending assembly elections were postponed indefinitely and all opposition-ruled state governments were removed in light of the constitutional provision for the dismissal of the state government on the recommendation of the governor of the state concerned.

Gandhi used the emergency provisions to achieve extraordinary powers of his own.


Gandhi called elections in 1977 to give voters another chance to approve that rule. Gandhi may have miscalculated his popularity with what the heavily censored press wrote about him. Whatever the reason, she lost badly to the Janata Dal. The Janata Dal, led by his longtime rival Desai and under the spiritual guidance of Jai Prakash Narayan, won the elections, representing India’s last chance to choose between “democracy and dictatorship”. Indira and Sanjay Gandhi both lost their seats and the Congress was reduced to 153 seats (compared to 350 in the previous Lok Sabha) of which 92 were from the South.

Removal, arrest and return

Desai became the Prime Minister and the official choice of 1969 Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was made the President of the Republic. Gandhi found himself workless, incomeless and homeless until he won the 1978 by-election. The Congress party split in the 1977 election campaign: supporters like Jagjivan Ram left their side. The Congress (Gandhi) party, now officially the opposition in Parliament, was a very small group.

Unable to govern due to indulging in mutual fighting between the different parties of the coalition, the Home Minister of the Janata government, Chaudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which was easy to prove in an Indian court. . This arrest meant Indira was automatically expelled from Parliament. But this strategy turned out to be bad. His arrest and prolonged trial earned him the sympathy of many who had feared him as a dictator just two years earlier.

The Janata alliance was united only by the hatred of Mrs. Gandhi (or “that woman” as some called her). The government was trapped in mutual discord over petty issues and Gandhi was able to use this situation in his favor. He again, skillfully apologizing for the “mistakes” committed during the Emergency, began to speak. Desai resigned in June 1979 and Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister by Reddy after Mrs Gandhi promised that the Congress would support her government from outside.

After a short hiatus, he withdrew his initial support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In the elections held the following January, the Congress was back in power with a landslide majority.

Operation Blue Star and Murder

Main articles: Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi
The post-Gandhi years Punjab was rife with problems. In September 1981, the separatist Sikh terrorist group of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was stationed inside the Harmandir Sahib complex, the holiest shrine of Sikhism. Despite the presence of thousands of civilians in the Golden Temple complex, Gandhi ordered the army to enter the shrine in an attempt to eliminate the terrorists. Military and civilian casualties varied accordingly. Government estimates are eighty-nine soldiers and 492 terrorists, including four officers; According to other accounts, 3000 others, including possibly 500 or more soldiers and many pilgrims, were trapped in the crossfire. While figures regarding the exact civilian casualties have been disputed, the timing and manner of the attack are also controversial. Indira Gandhi’s majority bodyguards were two, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, both Sikhs. On 31 October 1984, they politically assassinated Indira Gandhi with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister’s residence at 1, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi. She passed a small gate guarded by Satwant and Beant to interview British actor Peter Ustinov while filming a documentary for Irish television. Immediately after this incident, as per available information, Beant Singh fired at him thrice using the weapon next to him and Satwant Singh fired twenty-two rounds at him using a Stain Carbine. Beant Singh was shot by his other bodyguards and Satwant Singh was shot and arrested.

Gandhi died on the way in her official car to the hospital, but her death was not declared for hours. He was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where doctors operated on him. Official accounts at the time show 29 entry and exit wounds, and some earnestly 31 bullets fired from his body. His last rites took place on 3 November near Raj Ghat and this place came to be known as Shakti Sthal. Following his death, communal unrest broke out in New Delhi as well as several other cities in India, including Kanpur, Asansol and Indore, and thousands of Sikh deaths were recorded. Gandhi’s friend and biographer Pupul Jayakar further sheds light on Indira’s tensions and preconceptions about what might happen if Operation Blue Star was launched.

Personal Life

Indira married Feroze Gandhi. Sanjay was initially chosen to be his heir, but after his death in a flight accident, his mother persuaded a reluctant Rajiv Gandhi to give up his job as a pilot and enter politics in February 1981.

Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister after Indira’s death. He was also politically assassinated in May 1991, this time by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam terrorists. Rajiv’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, led the United Progressive Alliance to a surprise electoral victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha election.

Sonia Gandhi rejects the Prime Minister’s Office opportunity but has a hold on the political apparatus of the Congress; Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, formerly the Finance Minister, is now leading the nation. Rajiv’s children, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have also entered politics. Sanjay Gandhi’s widow, Maneka Gandhi – who is well known to be evicted from the Prime Minister’s house after Sanjay’s death – as well as Sanjay’s son, Varun Gandhi, entered politics as members of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party party.

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