Indira Gandhi

Indira Gahndi
Born: Nov 19, 1917 in Allahabad, United Provinces, British India
Died: Oct 31, 1984 (at age 66) in New Delhi, Delhi, India
Nationality: Indian
Famous For: Third Prime Minister of India

Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India and she served for two terms from 1966 to 1977 and 1980 to 1984. She was a celebrated figure of the Indian National Congress Party and she was the only woman to ever hold the Prime Minister’s office and longest serving Prime Minister in India.

Early Life

Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru, was born in Allahabad on of November 19, 1917. Her father was India’s first prime minister after the country gained independence from the British while her mother was only 18 when she was born. The Nehru family was very vocal and active when it came to the anti-imperial politics.

Indira’s Political Career

In 1937, Indira went to Britain. She enrolled at Somerville College in Oxford, but she never completed her undergraduate education. She got married to Feroz Gandhi in 1942 despite her father’s objections. During the early 1950s, Indira worked as her father’s personal assistant, who was then India’s prime minister. She then joined the working committee of the Congress Party in 1955 and within four years she rose to the top position of that body.

In 1964, after his husband’s sudden death in 1958, his father died and was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri died unexpectedly in 1966 and Indira was named the Prime Minister as a compromise candidate.

Leadership as Prime Minister

When Indira was prime minister, she made some moves that would increase her popularity in India. Firstly, she was responsible for the authorization of the development of a nuclear weapon program in 1967. In a bid to keep her socialist principles intact, she abolished the maharajas of various states in India. She made moves to nationalize banks, mines, and oil companies in July of 1969. Under Indira’s stewardship, India, which was known to be traditionally famine-prone, became a green revolution success story.

Controversies with Opponents

Indira was elected in 1972 but her opponent would later charge her with electoral malpractice and corruption. In 1975, the high court made a ruling in favor of Narain, her opponent. She was supposed to be stripped of her position and barred from elected office for a maximum of six years. However, Indira refused to resign as prime minister despite the wide-spread unrest. Instead, she convinced the then-India president to declare a state of emergency.

Downfall and Arrests

In a major miscalculation, Indira called new elections in March of 1977. Her party was defeated at the polls and Indira left office. She was briefly arrested and jailed in October of 1977, charged with official corruption.

In December of 1978, she was again arrested on the same charges. However, during that time, the winning party, Janata, was struggling as its constituent parties could not agree on one course for the country to follow.

Indira’s Reemergence in Politics

Indira was re-elected in 1980 after the Janata Party failed to steer the country properly. Indira Gandhi was at the helm of power, taking control for the fourth term as India’s prime ministers. However, her victory was dampened by the death of her son, Sanjay, in a plane crash.

Assassination

In the 1980s, Indira Gandhi tried to suppress a Sikh separatist movement which had developed in India. Sikh extremists held a campaign in the Golden Temple. In a bid to purge the temple, Gandhi ordered 70000 soldiers. The confrontation led to the death of 450 people. On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was shot by her trusted Sikh bodyguard. She died on her way to hospital.