Born: November 19, 1917
Martyrdom: October 31, 1984
Achievements: Became President of Indian National Congress in
1959; was Minister of Information and Broadcasting in Lal Bahadur
Shastri's government; became Prime Minister in 1966; nationalized major
banks in 1969; gave the slogan of Garibi Hatao during 1971 general
elections; led India to a decisive war against Pakistan in 1971.
Indira Gandhi, one of the best-known women of the 20th century, was
Prime Minister of India, and daughter of former Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru. Also known as Indira Nehru Gandhi, she was born on
November 19, 1917 in Allahabad. She was born in a family that was at the
centre of Indian freedom movement. Her father Jawaharlal Nehru and
grandfather Motilal Nehru were at the forefront of Indian freedom
struggle. Her mother Kamla Nehru, although less involved politically,
was subject to political arrest by the British. Indira Gandhi had a
lonely childhood, with some of her most vivid remembrances being the
entry into her home of British policemen. As her parents did not want to
send her to any of the British schools in India, Indira Gandhi's
education took place at a series of Indian schools and at non-British
schools in Europe, with a number of private tutorials interspersed
between periods at school.
Gandhi married a Parsi named Feroze Gandhi in 1942. The marriage was
opposed by orthodox Hindus because it was an intercommunal love marriage
not arranged by her parents. Jawaharlal Nehru too opposed the marriage
on grounds that the couple were somewhat incompatible because both
possessed fiery tempers. Publicly, however, both Jawaharlal Nehru and
Mahatma Gandhi strenuously defended the marriage. Shortly after their
marriage both Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi were arrested and jailed
for nationalist activities. Indira Gandhi was released after eight
months and Feroze Gandhi after an year. After the release Feroze Gandhi
became editor of The National Herald, a newspaper founded by Jawaharlal
Nehru, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the principal confidant and
assistant of her father during the period of Nehru's prime ministership
(1947-1965). The couple separated for a number of years during the 1950s
as Feroze Gandhi launched his own political career in Parliament and was
often at odds with Jawaharlal Nehru's policies and style. In 1959 Indira
Gandhi became President of the Indian National Congress and in 1964 she
was elected to the parliament. Meanwhile, the death of Feroze Gandhi
(from a heart attack) in 1960, and the subsequent death of her father in
1964, caused Indira Gandhi to withdraw into a shell and limit herself to
her immediate family.
After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime
Minister and Indira Gandhi was the minister of Information and
Broadcasting in his government. After Lal Bahadur Shastri's untimely
death in 1966, she was selected as prime minister by party bosses within
the Congress Party as a compromise candidate. Her candidature was
opposed by Morarji Desai, a veteran nationalist and prime ministerial
aspirant himself. The Congress bosses were apparently looking for a
leading figure acceptable to the masses, who could not only command
general support during the next general election but who would also
acquiesce to their guidance. In her initial days as Prime Minister,
Indira Gandhi encountered numerous problems such as Mizo tribal
uprisings in the northeast; famine, labour unrest,and misery among the
poor in the wake of rupee devaluation; and agitation in Punjab for
linguistic and religious separatism.
In the fourth general elections held in 1967, Congress suffered a major
setback. Congress majority was greatly reduced in parliament and
non-Congress ministries were established in Bihar, Kerala, Orissa,
Madras, Punjab, and West Bengal. This forced Mrs. Indira Gandhi to
become assertive and opt for a series of choices that pitted her
directly against the Congress Party high command, which had previously
been built up by her father. Seeking to eradicate poverty, Mrs. Gandhi
pursued a vigorous policy in 1969 of land reform and placed a ceiling on
personal income, private property, and corporate profits. She also
nationalized the major banks, a bold step amidst a growing rift between
herself and the party elders. The Congress expelled her for "indiscipline"
on November 12, 1969, an action that split the party into two factions:
the Congress (O)-for Organisation-led by Morarji Desai, and the Congress
(I)--for Indira-led by Indira Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi campaigned fiercely on the slogan of "Garibi Hatao"
(eliminate poverty) during the fifth general elections in March 1971 and
won an unprecedented two-third majority. Her leadership qualities came
to the fore during India-Pakistan war in 1971 that resulted in
liberation of Bangladesh. India achieved decisive victory over Pakistan
in the face of diplomatic opposition from both China and the United
States and a lack of international support from almost every other
nation except the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries. Indian
victory over Pakistan led to a great surge in Indira Gandhi's popularity
and she was compared to Goddess Durga by ordinary Indians.
Expectations raised by the garibi hatao campaign
and India's victory over Pakistan in 1971 led to great disappointment
and political difficulties in the mid-1970s. Enormous economic cost of
1971 war, increase in world oil prices and, drop in industrial output
added to the economic hardships. During this time J.P.Narayan initiated
a civil disobedience movement against Indira Gandhi. In June 1975,
amidst all this crises Allahabad High Court invalidated her 1971
election on the grounds of electoral malpractices. Instead of resigning,
Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency in the country and jailed al her
political opponents. The Emergency lasted till March 1977 and in the
general election held afterwards she was defeated by a coalition of
parties called Janta Morcha.
Factionalism among coalition partners led to the collapse of Janta
government and Indira Gandhi came back to the power once again in 1980.
But her second innings was beset with difficulties and personal
tragedies. Her younger son Sanjay Gandhi died in an air crash. Her
government was confronted with serious challenges to its ability to
maintain law and order as conflicts between religious and ethnic groups
broke out in different parts of the country. After the army had invaded
the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the chief shrine of the Sikhs, which had
been held as an armed camp by a group of militant Sikhs, she became the
target for Sikh anger and on 31 October 1984 she was assassinated by her
own Sikh bodyguard.
Indira Gandhi Pictures
Here is a collection of Indira Gandhi's pictures. These photos reveal different phases and facets of her life. These images encompass his whole life journey from childhood to her martyrdom.
Indira Gandhi Quotes
Here are some famous quotes by Indira Gandhi. These quotes reveal Indra Gandhi's thinking and are a guiding light and source of inspiration to others.