INDIRA PRIYADARSHINI GANDHI (Hindustani: (_ listen ); née NEHRU;
19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician and
central figure of the
Indian National Congress party. She was the
first and to date the only female
Prime Minister of India . Indira
Gandhi belonged to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and was the daughter of
India 's first Prime Minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru . Despite her surname
Gandhi_, she is not related to the family of
Mahatma Gandhi . She
served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980
until her assassination in 1984, making her the second-longest-serving
Prime Minister of India after her father.
Indira Gandhi instituted state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 during
which she ruled by decree . The years of emergency are recorded as the
darkest years of Indian democracy where basic civil liberties were
suspended and press was censored.
Gandhi served as her father's personal assistant and hostess during
his tenure as prime minister between 1947 and 1964. She was elected
Congress President in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964 she was
appointed as a member of the
Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Lal Bahadur Shastri 's cabinet as Minister of Information
and Broadcasting . In the Congress Party's parliamentary leadership
election held in early 1966, upon the death of Shastri , she defeated
Morarji Desai , to become leader, and thus succeeded
Shastri as Prime Minister of India.
As the Prime Minister of India, Gandhi was known for her political
ruthlessness and unprecedented centralisation of power . She went to
Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of
East Pakistan , which resulted in an Indian victory
and the creation of
Bangladesh , as well as increasing India's
influence to the point where it became the regional hegemon of South
Asia . She was assassinated by
Sikh nationalists in 1984. In her case,
her elimination by her bodyguards was claimed to be a retaliation for
the storming of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in
she ordered to counter the
Punjab insurgency , less than a month
before her 67th birthday. The assassins, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh
, were both shot by other security guards.
Satwant Singh recovered
from his injuries and was executed after being found guilty of murder.
In 1999, Indira was named "Woman of the Millennium" in a poll
organised by the
* 1 Early life and career
* 2 The first term as Prime Minister between 1966 to 1977
* 2.1 The first year
* 2.2 1967- 1971
* 2.3 1971-1977
* 2.3.1 Verdict on electoral malpractice
* 2.3.2 State of Emergency (1975–1977)
Rule by decree
* 2.3.4 Rise of Sanjay
* 3 1977 election and opposition years
* 3.1 In opposition and return to power
* 4 1980 elections and third term
Operation Blue Star
* 4.2 Assassination
* 5 Foreign relations
* 5.2 Middle East
* 5.3 Asia-Pacific
* 5.4 Africa
* 5.5 The
* 5.6 The Non-aligned Movement
* 5.7 Western
* 5.9 United States
* 6 Economic policy
* 6.1 Green Revolution and the Fourth Five Year Plan
* 6.2 State of Emergency and the Fifth Five Year Plan
* 6.3 Operation Forward and the Sixth Five Year Plan
* 6.4 Inflation and unemployment
* 7 Domestic policy
* 7.1 Nationalisation
* 7.2 Administration
* 7.3 Social reform
* 7.4 Language policy
* 7.5 National security
* 7.6 Nuclear Program of
* 8 Family, personal life and outlook
* 9 Views on women
* 10 Awards
* 11 Legacy
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 13.1 Notes
* 13.2 References
* 13.3 Sources
* 14 Further reading
* 15 External links
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Indira Gandhi was born as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru in a Kashmiri
Pandit family on 19 November 1917 in
Allahabad . Her father,
Jawaharlal Nehru , was a leading figure in India's political struggle
for independence from British rule , and became the first Prime
Minister of the Dominion (and later Republic ) of India. She was the
only child (a younger brother was born, but died young), and grew up
with her mother,
Kamala Nehru , at the
Anand Bhavan ; a large family
estate in Allahabad. She had a lonely and unhappy childhood. Her
father was often away, directing political activities or incarcerated,
while her mother was frequently bed-ridden with illness, and later
suffered an early death from tuberculosis. She had limited contact
with her father, mostly through letters.
Indira was mostly taught at home by tutors, and intermittently
attended school until matriculation in 1934. She was a student at the
Modern School in
Delhi , St Cecilia's and St Mary's Christian convent
Allahabad , the
International School of Geneva , the Ecole
Bex , and the Pupils' Own School in Poona and Bombay ,
which is affiliated to University of
Mumbai . She and her mother
Kamala Nehru moved to
Belur Math headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission
Swami Ranganathananda was her guardian later she went on to
study at the
Visva-Bharati University in
Santiniketan . It was during
her interview that
Rabindranath Tagore named her Priyadarshini, and
she came to be known as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru. A year later,
however, she had to leave university to attend to her ailing mother in
Europe . While there, it was decided that Indira would continue her
education at the
University of Oxford
University of Oxford . After her mother died, she
briefly attended the
Badminton School before enrolling at Somerville
College in 1937 to study history. Indira had to take the entrance
examination twice, having failed at her first attempt with a poor
performance in Latin. At Oxford, she did well in history, political
science and economics, but her grades in Latin—a compulsory
subject—remained poor. She did, however, have an active part
within the student life of the university, such as the Oxford Majlis
Asian Society. Young Indira with
Mahatma Gandhi during his fast
in 1924. Indira, who is dressed in a khadi garment, is following
Gandhi's advocacy that khadi be worn by all Indians instead of
British-made textiles Indira Nehru c. early 1930s
During her time in Europe, Indira was plagued with ill-health and was
constantly attended by doctors. She had to make repeated trips to
Switzerland to recover, disrupting her studies. She was being treated
there in 1940, when the Nazi armies rapidly conquered Europe. Gandhi
tried to return to England through Portugal but was left stranded for
nearly two months. She managed to enter England in early 1941, and
from there returned to
India without completing her studies at Oxford.
The university later awarded her an honorary degree. In 2010, Oxford
further honoured her by selecting her as one of the ten Oxasians,
illustrious Asian graduates from the
University of Oxford
University of Oxford . During
her stay in Great Britain, Indira frequently met her future husband
Feroze Gandhi (no relation to
Mahatma Gandhi ), whom she knew from
Allahabad, and who was studying at the
London School of Economics
London School of Economics .
The marriage took place in
Allahabad according to
Adi Dharm rituals
though Feroze belonged to a Zoroastrian
Parsi family of Gujarat. The
couple had two sons,
Rajiv Gandhi (born 1944) and
Sanjay Gandhi (born
In the 1950s, Indira, now Mrs
Indira Gandhi after her marriage,
served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his
tenure as the first
Prime Minister of India . Towards the end of the
Indira Gandhi served as the President of the Congress . In that
capacity, she was instrumental in getting the Communist led Kerala
State Government dismissed in 1959. That government had the
distinction of being India's first ever elected Communist Government.
After her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the
Rajya Sabha (upper house) and served in Prime Minister Lal Bahadur
Shastri 's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting . In
January 1966, after Shastri's death, the Congress legislative party
Indira Gandhi over
Morarji Desai as their leader. Congress
K. Kamaraj was instrumental in achieving Indira's
victory. Because she was a woman, other political leaders in
Gandhi as weak and hoped to use her as a puppet once elected.
"Congress President Kamaraj orchestrated Mrs. Gandhi's selection as
prime minister because he perceived her to be weak enough that he and
the other regional party bosses could control her, and yet strong
enough to beat Desai in a party election because of the high regard
for her father…a woman would be an ideal tool for the Syndicate".
THE FIRST TERM AS PRIME MINISTER BETWEEN 1966 TO 1977
The first eleven years of Indira's position as prime minister saw her
evolving from the perception of being puppet of party leaders to the
one with iron resolve to split the party for her policy positions or
to go to war with
Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh. At the end of this
term in 1977 she was such a dominating figure in Indian politics that
a Congress party president had coined the phrase "
India is Indira and
Indira is India."
THE FIRST YEAR
Indira formed her government with
Morarji Desai as Deputy Prime
Minister and Finance Minister.At the beginning of her first term as
prime minister, Indira was widely criticized by the media and the
opposition as a "Goongi goodiya" (
Hindi word for a dumb doll or
puppet) of the Congress party bosses who had got her elected and tried
to constrain her.
The first electoral test for Indira was the 1967 general elections
for the Lok sabha and state assemblies. The Congress Party won a
reduced majority for the Lok sabha in these elections owing to
widespread disenchantment over rising prices of commodities,
unemployment, economic stagnation and a food crisis.
Indira Gandhi had
started on a rocky note after agreeing to a devaluation of the rupee ,
which created much hardship for Indian businesses and consumers, and
the import of wheat from the United States fell through due to
The party also for the first time lost power or lost majority in a
number of states across the country. Following the 1967 elections,
Indira Gandhi gradually started moving towards socialist policies. In
1969, she fell out with senior Congress party leaders on a number of
issues. Chief among them was the decision by Indira to support V. V.
Giri , the independent candidate rather than the official Congress
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy for the vacant position of
India . The other was the announcement by the prime
minister of Bank nationalization without consulting the finance
minister, Morarji Desai. These steps culminated in Party president S.
Nijalingappa expelling her from the party for indiscipline. Gandhi,
in turn floated her own faction of the Congress party and managed to
retain most of the Congress MPs on her side with only 65 on the side
of Congress (O) faction. The Indira faction, called Congress (R) ,
lost its majority in the parliament but remained in power with the
support of smaller parties such as DMK . The policies of the Congress
under Indira Gandhi, prior to the 1971 elections, also included
proposals for the abolition of Privy Purse to former rulers of the
Princely states and the 1969 nationalization of the fourteen largest
banks in India.
Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi's 1971 bid.
On the other hand, the combined opposition alliance had a two word
manifesto of "Indira Hatao" (Remove Indira). The
Garibi Hatao 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 governments; 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 and developed by the Central Government in New Delhi. The
program was supervised and staffed by the Indian National Congress
party. "These programs also provided the central political leadership
with new and vast patronage resources to be disbursed... throughout
The biggest achievement of
Indira Gandhi after the 1971 election came
in December 1971 with India's decisive victory over
Pakistan in the
liberation war , that led to the formation of independent
She was hailed as Goddess
Durga by opposition leader Atal Bihari
Vajpayee at that time. In the elections held for State assemblies
India in March 1972, the Congress (R) swept to power in most
states riding on the post-war "Indira wave".
Despite the victory against Pakistan, the Congress government faced
numerous problems during this term. Some of these were due to high
inflation which was in turn caused by war time expenses, drought in
some parts of the country and more importantly, the
1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis .
The opposition to Gandhi in 1973–75 period, after the Indira wave
had receded, was strongest in the states of
Gujarat . In
Jayaprakash Narayan , the veteran leader came out of retirement
to lead the protest movement there.
Verdict On Electoral Malpractice
On 12 June 1975, the
Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi's
election to the
Lok Sabha in 1971 void on grounds of electoral
malpractice. In an election petition filed by her 1971 opponent, Raj
Narain (who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from
Raebareli ), alleged several major as well as minor instances of using
government resources for campaigning. The court ordered her stripped
of her parliamentary seat and banned from running for any office for
six years. According to constitution , the Prime Minister must be a
member of either the
Lok Sabha (the lower house in the Parliament of
India ) or a member of the
Rajya Sabha (the upper house). Thus, this
decision effectively removed her from office. Gandhi had asked one of
her colleagues in government, Mr.
Ashoke Kumar Sen to defend her in
But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to
the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice Jagmohanlal
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, however, rejected more
serious charges of bribery against her. With
Richard Nixon , 1971
Gandhi insisted that 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 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
State Of Emergency (1975–1977)
The Emergency (India)
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
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(1) of the Constitution, on 25 June 1975.
Rule By Decree
Within a few months, President\'s rule was imposed on the two
opposition party ruled states of
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 . Finally, the 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 change conflicting
Unlike her father Jawaharlal Nehru, 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...
President Ahmed issued ordinances that did not require debate in the
Parliament , allowing Gandhi to rule by decree .
Rise Of Sanjay
The Emergency saw the entry of Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay , into
Indian Politics. Sanjay wielded tremendous power during the emergency
without holding any Government office. According to
Mark Tully , "His
inexperience did not stop him from using the Draconian powers his
mother, Indira Gandhi, had taken to terrorise the administration,
setting up what was in effect a police state."
It was said that during the Emergency he virtually ran
with his friends, especially
Bansi Lal . It was also quipped that
Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the
government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the
PMO (Prime Minister Office) .
1977 ELECTION AND OPPOSITION YEARS
In 1977, after extending the state of emergency twice, Indira Gandhi
called 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 alliance of Opposition parties. The alliance was
made up of right-wing
Bharatiya Jana Sangh , Congress
(O) , The Socialist parties, and Charan Singh's Bharatiya Kranti Dal
representing northern peasant and farmers. Janata alliance, with Jai
Prakash Narayan as its spiritual guide, claimed the elections were the
last chance for
India to choose between "democracy and dictatorship."
The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran
Gandhi supporters like
Jagjivan Ram ,
Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and
Nandini Satpathy 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
Gandhi and the trio stood between that. Gandhi's Congress party was
crushed soundly in the elections. The public realized the statement
and motto of the
Janata Party alliance. 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.
The Janata alliance, under the leadership of
Morarji Desai , came into
power after the State of Emergency was lifted. The alliance parties
later merged to form the
Janata Party under the guidance of Gandhian
Jayaprakash Narayan . The other leaders of the Janata Party
Charan Singh ,
Raj Narain ,
George Fernandes and Atal Bihari
IN OPPOSITION AND RETURN TO POWER
USSR commemorative stamp
Since Gandhi had lost her seat in the election, the defeated Congress
Yashwantrao Chavan as their parliamentary party
leader. Soon afterwards, the Congress party split again with Gandhi
floating her own Congress faction. She won a by-election from the
Chikmagalur Constituency to the
Lok Sabha in November 1978. However,
the Janata government's Home Minister, Choudhary
Charan Singh ,
ordered the arrest of her and
Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none
of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant
Indira Gandhi was automatically expelled from Parliament. These
allegations included that she "‘had planned or thought of killing
all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency’". In response
to her arrest, Indira Gandhi's supporters hijacked an Indian Airlines
jet and demanded her immediate release. However, this strategy
backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial gained her
great sympathy from many people. The Janata coalition was only united
by its hatred of Gandhi (or "that woman" as some called her). The
party included right wing
Hindu Nationalists, Socialists and former
Congress party members. With so little in common, the Morarji Desai
government was bogged down by infighting. In 1979, the government
started to unravel over the issue of dual loyalties of some members to
Janata and the RSS . The ambitious Union Finance minister, Charan
Singh , who as the Union Home Minister during the previous year had
ordered arrest of Gandhi, took advantage of this and started courting
the Congress. After a significant exodus from the party to Charan
Singh's faction, Desai resigned in July 1979.
Charan Singh was
appointed Prime Minister, by President Reddy, after Indira and Sanjay
Gandhi promised Singh that Congress would support his government from
outside on certain conditions. The conditions included dropping all
charges against Indira and Sanjay. Since
Charan Singh refused to drop
the charges, Congress withdrew its support and President Reddy
dissolved Parliament in August 1979.
Before the 1980 elections Gandhi approached the then
Shahi Imam of
Jama Masjid ,
Syed Abdullah Bukhari and entered into an agreement with
him on the basis of 10-point programme to secure the support of the
Muslim votes. In the elections held in January, Congress returned to
power with a landslide majority.
In 1979, when she visited Madurai, some hooligans attacked her.
Nedumaran saved her from the attacks.
1980 ELECTIONS AND THIRD TERM
The Congress under Gandhi swept back to power in January 1980.
Elections soon after to State assemblies across the country also
brought back Congress ministries in the state with Indira's son Sanjay
Gandhi choosing loyalists to lead the states. Unfortunately, Indira
experienced an immense personal loss when
Sanjay Gandhi died an air
crash while performing an aerobatic manoeuvre on 23 June 1980 in New
Delhi. Gandhi by this stage only trusted her family members and
therefore decided to bring in her reluctant pilot son, Rajiv into
OPERATION BLUE STAR
Operation Blue Star
In the 1977 elections, a coalition led by the
Sikh -majority Akali
Dal came to power in the northern Indian state of Punjab. In an effort
to split the Akali Dal and gain popular support among the Sikhs,
Indira Gandhi's Congress helped bring the orthodox religious leader
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to prominence in Punjab politics. Later,
Damdami Taksal became embroiled in
violence with another religious sect called the Sant Nirankari Mission
, and he was accused of instigating the murder of the Congress leader
Jagat Narain . After being arrested in this matter, Bhindranwale
disassociated himself from Congress and joined hands with the Akali
Dal. In July 1982, he led the campaign for the implementation of the
Anandpur Resolution , which demanded greater autonomy for the
Sikh-majority state. Meanwhile, a small section of the Sikhs,
including some of Bhindranwale's followers, turned to militancy after
being targeted by government officials and police in support of the
Resolution. After several futile negotiations,
Indira Gandhi ordered
the Indian army to enter the Golden Temple in order to confront those
followers of Bhindranwale who had turned to militancy. Indian army
used heavy artillery such as tanks and cannons and machine guns in
addition with helicopters to crush the Sikhs of Harmindar Sahib. In
Operation Blue Star , the shrine was damaged and many
civilians were brutally massacred. Riots broke out in Punjab, and as a
result, many religious
Sikh leaders and devotees of Harminder Sahib
were systematically arrested, tortured and killed. Still there is a
long list of missing persons from
Sikh religious community of Punjab
being abducted by state agencies, police and army. 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; Many Sikhs seeing the attack as unjustified and
Bhindrawale being declared the greatest
Sikh martyr of the 20th
Akal Takht (
Sikh Political Authority) in 2003.
Assassination of Indira Gandhi and 1984 anti-Sikh
The day before her death (30 October 1984)
Indira Gandhi visited
Orissa where she gave her last speech at the then Parade Ground in
front of the Secretariat of Orissa:
I am alive today, I may not be there tomorrow...I shall continue to
serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop
of my blood will invigorate
India and strengthen it.
"Even if I died in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it.
Every drop of my blood... will contribute to the growth of this nation
and to make it strong and dynamic."
After her death, the Parade Ground was converted to the Indira Gandhi
Park which was inaugurated by her son, Rajiv Gandhi. _ Shakti
Sthala _, the place where
Indira Gandhi was cremated at
Today, the spot where
Indira Gandhi was assassinated is marked by a
glass opening in the crystal pathway at the
Indira Gandhi Memorial
On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi's 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. The
shooting occurred as she was walking past a wicket gate guarded by
Satwant and Beant. She was to have been interviewed by the British
Peter Ustinov , who was filming a documentary for Irish
television. 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 Delhi's
Tihar Jail .
The Saree that Indira wore on the day of her assassination
Indira Gandhi was brought at 9:30 AM to the All
India Institutes of
Medical Sciences where doctors operated on her. She was declared dead
at 2:20 PM. The post-mortem examination was conducted by a team of
doctors headed by Dr.
Tirath Das Dogra . Dr Dogra stated that as many
as 30 bullet wounds were sustained by Indira Gandhi, from two sources,
Sten gun and a pistol. The assailants had fired 31 bullets at
her, of which 30 had hit; 23 had passed through her body while 7 were
trapped inside her. Dr Dogra extracted bullets to establish the
identity of the weapons and to match each weapon with the bullets
recovered by ballistic examination. The bullets were matched with
respective weapons at CFSL Delhi. Subsequently, Dr Dogra appeared in
the court of Shri Mahesh Chandra as an expert witness (PW-5), and his
testimony lasted several sessions. The cross examination was conducted
Pran Nath Lekhi , the defence counsel.
Salma Sultan gave the
first news of the assassination of
Indira Gandhi on
evening news on 31 October 1984, more than 10 hours after she was
shot. She died two weeks and five days before her 67th birthday.
Gandhi was cremated on 3 November near
Raj Ghat . The site where she
was cremated is today known as Shakti Sthal . Her funeral was
televised live on domestic and international stations, including the
BBC . Following her cremation, millions of Sikhs were displaced and
nearly three thousand were killed in anti-
Sikh riots . Rajiv Gandhi
on a live TV show said of the carnage, "When a big tree falls, the
Indira Gandhi is remembered for her ability to effectively promote
Indian foreign policy measures.
Indira Gandhi and
Nicolae Ceaușescu Further information:
List of state visits made by Indira Gandhi
In early 1971, disputed elections in
Pakistan led the then East
Pakistan to declare independence as Bangladesh. Repression and
violence by the Pakistani army led 10 million refugees to cross border
India over the coming months. Finally in December 1971, Gandhi
directly intervened in the conflict to liberate
Bangladesh . India
emerged victorious in the resulting conflict to become the dominant
power of South Asia.
India had signed a treaty with the Soviet Union
promising mutual assistance in the case of war, while Pakistan
received active support from the United States during the conflict.
Richard Nixon disliked Gandhi personally, referring to
her as a "witch" and "clever fox" in his private communication with
Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger . Nixon later wrote of the war: "
suckered . Suckered us.....this woman suckered us.". Relations with
the U.S. became distant as Gandhi developed closer ties with the
Soviet Union after the war. The latter grew to become India's largest
trading partner and its biggest arms supplier for much of Gandhi's
premiership. India's new hegemonic position as articulated under the
"Indira Doctrine" led to attempts to bring the
Himalayan states under
the Indian sphere of influence.
Bhutan remained aligned
with India, while in 1975, after years of building up support, Gandhi
Sikkim into India, after a referendum in which a majority
of Sikkimese voted to join India. This was denounced as a
"despicable act" by China.
India maintained close ties with neighbouring
East Pakistan ) following the Liberation War . Prime Minister Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman recognized Gandhi's contributions to the independence
of Bangladesh. However, Mujibur Rahman's pro-
antagonised many in Bangladeshi politics and the military, who feared
Bangladesh had become a client state of India. The
Assassination of Mujibur Rahman in 1975 led to the establishment of
Islamist military regimes that sought to distance the country from
India. Gandhi's relationship with the military regimes was strained,
due to her alleged support of anti-Islamist leftist guerrilla forces
in Bangladesh. Generally, however, there was a rapprochement between
Gandhi and the Bangladeshi regimes, although issues such as border
disputes and the Farakka Dam remained an irritant in bilateral ties.
In 2011, the Government of
Bangladesh conferred its highest state
award posthumously on Gandhi for her "outstanding contribution" to the
Indira Gandhi with
Jacqueline Kennedy in
New Delhi, 1962
Gandhi's approach to dealing with Sri Lanka's ethnic problems was
initially accommodating. She enjoyed cordial relations with Prime
Sirimavo Bandaranaike . In 1974,
India ceded the tiny islet
Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in order to save Bandaranaike's socialist
government from a political disaster. However, relations soured over
Sri Lanka's turn away from socialism under
J. R. Jayewardene
J. R. Jayewardene , whom
Gandhi despised as a "western puppet."
India under Gandhi was alleged
to have supported LTTE militants in the 1980s to put pressure on
Jayewardene to abide by Indian interests. Nevertheless, Gandhi
rejected demands to invade Sri Lanka in the aftermath of Black July
1983 , an anti-Tamil pogrom carried out by Sinhalese mobs. Gandhi
made a statement emphasizing that she stood for the territorial
integrity of Sri Lanka, although she also stated that
"remain a silent spectator to any injustice done to the Tamil
India's relationship with
Pakistan remained strained following the
Shimla Accord in 1972. Gandhi's authorization of the detonation of a
nuclear device at
Pokhran in 1974 was viewed by Pakistani leader
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as an attempt to intimidate
accepting India's hegemony in the subcontinent. However, in May 1976,
Gandhi and Bhutto both agreed to reopen diplomatic establishments and
normalize relations. Following the rise to power of General Muhammad
Pakistan in 1978, India's relations with its neighbour
reached a nadir. Gandhi accused General Zia of supporting Khalistani
militants in Punjab . Military hostilities recommenced in 1984
following Gandhi's authorization of
Operation Meghdoot .
victorious in the resulting
Siachen conflict against Pakistan.
In order to keep out South Asia, the
Soviet Union and the United
States, Mrs Gandhi was instrumental in establishing the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC ) in 1983
Indira Gandhi meeting the
Shah of Iran
Shah of Iran
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and
Farah Pahlavi during their state visit to
India in 1970
Gandhi remained a staunch supporter of Palestinians in the
Arab–Israeli conflict and was critical of the Middle East diplomacy
sponsored by the United States.
Israel was viewed as a religious
state and thus an analogue to India's archrival Pakistan. Indian
diplomats also hoped to win Arab support in countering
Kashmir . Nevertheless, Gandhi authorized the development of a secret
channel of contact and security assistance with
Israel in the late
1960s. Her lieutenant,
P. V. Narasimha Rao , later became Prime
Minister and approved full diplomatic ties with
Israel in 1992.
India's pro-Arab policy had mixed success. Establishment of close
ties with the socialist and secular Baathist regimes to some extent
neutralized Pakistani propaganda against India. However, the
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 put the Arab and Muslim states of the
Middle East in a dilemma as the war was fought by two states both
friendly to the Arabs. The progressive Arab regimes in
Egypt , Syria
Algeria chose to remain neutral, while the conservative
pro-American Arab monarchies in
Saudi Arabia ,
Kuwait , and
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates openly supported Pakistan. Egypt's stance was met
with dismay by the Indians, who had come to expect close co-operation
with the Baathist regimes. But, the death of Nasser in 1970 and Sadat
's growing friendship with
Riyadh , and his mounting differences with
Egypt to a policy of neutrality. Gandhi's
Muammar Gaddafi were rebuffed.
Libya agreed with the
Arab monarchies in believing that Gandhi's intervention in East
Pakistan was an attack against
The 1971 war temporarily became a stumbling block in growing
Indo-Iranian ties . Although
Iran had earlier characterized the
Indo-Pakistani war in 1965 as Indian aggression, the Shah had launched
an effort at rapprochement with
India in 1969 as part of his effort to
secure support for a larger Iranian role in the
Persian Gulf .
Gandhi's tilt towards Moscow and her dismemberment of
perceived by the Shah as part of a larger anti-
Iraq , and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless,
resisted Pakistani pressure to activate the
Baghdad Pact and draw in
the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) into the conflict. Gradually,
Indian and Iranian disillusionment with their respective regional
allies led to a renewed partnership between the nations. Gandhi was
unhappy with the lack of support from India's Arab allies during the
war with Pakistan, while the Shah was apprehensive at the growing
Pakistan and the Gulf states, specially Saudi
Arabia, and the growing influence of
Islam in Pakistani society.
There was an increase in Indian economic and military co-operation
Iran during the 1970s. The 1974 India-Iranian agreement led to
Iran supplying nearly 75 percent of India's crude oil demands. Gandhi
appreciated the Shah's disregard of
Pan-Islamism in diplomacy.
One of the major developments in
Southeast Asia during Gandhi's
premiership was the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. Relations between ASEAN and
mutually antagonistic. ASEAN in the Indian perception was linked to
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and it was therefore,
seen as a pro-American organisation. On their part, the ASEAN nations
were unhappy with Gandhi's sympathy for the
Viet Cong and India's
strong links with the
USSR . Furthermore, they were also apprehensions
in the region about Gandhi's future plans, particularly after India
played a big role in breaking up
Pakistan and facilitating in the
Bangladesh as a sovereign country in 1971. India's entry
into the nuclear weapons club in 1974 contributed to tensions in
Southeast Asia. Relations only began to improve following Gandhi's
endorsement of the ZOPFAN declaration and the disintegration of the
SEATO alliance in the aftermath of Pakistani and American defeats in
the region. Nevertheless, Gandhi's close relations with reunified
Vietnam and her decision to recognize the
Vietnam installed Government
Cambodia in 1980 meant that
India and ASEAN were not able to
develop a viable partnership.
India was initially viewed as a champion of
anti-colonialism, its cordial relationship with the
Nations and liberal views of British colonial policies in East Africa
had harmed its image as a staunch supporter of the anti-colonial
movements. Indian condemnation of militant struggles in
Algeria was in sharp contrast to China, who had supported armed
struggle to win African independence. After reaching a high
diplomatic point in the aftermath of Nehru's role in the
Suez Crisis ,
India's isolation from Africa was complete when only four nations;
Libya supported her during the
Sino-Indian War in 1962. After Gandhi became Prime Minister,
diplomatic and economic relations with the states which had sided with
India during the
Sino-Indian War were expanded. Gandhi began
negotiations with the Kenyan government to establish the Africa-India
Development Cooperation. The Indian government also started
considering the possibility of bringing Indians settled in Africa
within the framework of its policy goals to help recover its declining
geo-strategic influence. Gandhi declared the people of Indian origin
settled in Africa as "Ambassors of India." Efforts to rope in the
Asian community to join Indian diplomacy, however, came to naught,
partly because of the unwillingness of Indians to remain in
politically insecure surroundings and partly due to the exodus of
African Indians to Britain with the passing of the Commonwealth
Immigrants Act in 1968. In
Uganda , the African Indian community even
suffered persecution and eventually expulsion under the government of
Idi Amin .
Foreign and domestic policy successes in the 1970s enabled Gandhi to
rebuild India's image in the eyes of African states. Victory over
Pakistan and India's possession of nuclear weapons showed the degree
of India's progress. Furthermore, the conclusion of the Indo-Soviet
treaty in 1971 and threatening gestures by the major western power,
the United States, to send its nuclear armed
Task Force 74 into the
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal at the height of the
East Pakistan crisis had enabled
India to regain its anti-imperialist image. Gandhi firmly tied Indian
anti-imperialist interests in Africa to those of the Soviet Union.
Unlike Nehru, she openly and enthusiastically supported liberation
struggles in Africa. At the same time, Chinese influence in Africa
had declined owing to its incessant quarrels with the Soviet Union.
These developments permanently halted India's decline in Africa and
helped reestablish its geo-strategic presence.
Commonwealth is voluntary association of mainly former British
India maintained cordial relations with most of the members
during her time in power. In 1980s,
Indira Gandhi along with Canadian
Pierre Trudeau , Zambia's President
Kenneth Kaunda ,
Australian prime minister
Malcolm Fraser and Singapore Prime Minister
Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew was regarded as one of the pillars of the commonwealth
India under Indira also hosted the 1983
Commonwealth heads of
Government summit in
New Delhi in 1983. Gandhi used to use the
Commonwealth meetings as a forum to put pressure on member countries
to cut economic, sports, and cultural ties with
Apartheid South Africa
THE NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT
In early 1980s under Gandhi,
India attempted to reassert its
prominent role in the
Non-Aligned Movement by focusing on the
relationship between disarmament and economic development. By
appealing to the economic grievances of developing countries , Gandhi
and her successors exercised a moderating influence on the Non-aligned
movement, diverting it from some of the
Cold War issues that marred
the controversial 1979 Havana meeting where Cuban leader Fidel Castro
attempted to steer the movement towards the Soviet Union. Although
hosting the 1983 summit at
Delhi boosted Indian prestige within the
movement, its close relations with the
Soviet Union and its pro-Soviet
Cambodia limited its influence
Indira spent a number of years in
Europe during her youth and formed
many friendships during her stay there. During her premiership she
formed friendship with many socialist leaders such as German
Willy Brandt and Austrian chancellor
Bruno Kreisky .
She also enjoyed closed working relationship with many British leaders
including conservative premiers,
Edward Heath and
Margaret Thatcher .
India and the
Soviet Union deepened during
Indira's rule. The main reason was the perceived bias of United States
and China, the rivals of USSR, towards Pakistan. The support of USSR
with arms supplies and casting of veto at United Nations helped in
winning and consolidating the victory over
Pakistan in the 1971
Bangladesh liberation war. Prior to the war Indira signed a treaty of
friendship with the USSR. The
USSR was not happy with the 1974 nuclear
test conducted by
India but did not support further action because of
the ensuing cold war with the United States. Indira was not happy with
the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan but once again calculations
involving relations with
Pakistan and China kept from criticizing the
Soviet Union harshly.
USSR became the main arms supplier during the
Indira years by offering cheap credit and transactions in rupees
rather than in dollars. The easy trade deals also applied to
non-military goods. Under Indira by early 1980s the
USSR became the
largest trading partner of
When Indira came to power in 1966, Lyndon Johnson was the US
President. At that time,
India was reliant on USA for food aid. Indira
resented the US policy of food aid as a tool in forcing
India to adopt
policies favored by the US. She also resolutely refused to sign the
NPT . Relations with US strained badly under President Richard Nixon
and his favoring of
Pakistan during the
Bangladesh liberation war.
Nixon despised Indira politically and personally. Indira met
Ronald Reagan in 1981 for the first time at the
North–South Summit held to discuss global poverty. Indira had been
described to him as an 'Ogre' but he found her charming and easy to
work with and they formed a close working relationship during her
premiership in 1980s.
Gandhi presided over three Five-Year plans as Prime Minister, two of
which succeeded in meeting the targeted growth.
There is considerable debate regarding whether Gandhi was a socialist
on principle or out of political expediency. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray
described her as "a master of rhetoric...often more posture than
policy", while _
The Times _ journalist, Peter Hazelhurst, famously
quipped that Gandhi's socialism was "slightly left of self-interest."
Critics have focused on the contradictions in the evolution of her
stance towards communism ; Gandhi being known for her anti-communist
stance in the 1950s with Meghnad Desai even describing her as "the
scourge of Communist Party." Yet, she later forged close relations
with Indian communists even while using the army to break the
Naxalites . In this context, Gandhi was accused of formulating
populist policies to suit her political needs; being seemingly against
the rich and big business while preserving the status quo in order to
manipulate the support of the left at times of political insecurity,
such as the late 1960s. Although Gandhi came to be viewed in time as
the scourge of the right-wing and reactionary political elements of
India, leftist opposition to her policies emerged. As early as 1969,
critics had begun accusing her of insincerity and machiavellianism .
_The Indian Libertarian_ wrote that: "it would be difficult to find a
more machiavellian leftist than Mrs Indira Gandhi...for here is
Machiavelli at its best in the person of a suave, charming and astute
politician." Rosser wrote that "some have even seen the declaration
of emergency rule in 1975 as a move to suppress dissent against
Gandhi's policy shift to the right." In the 1980s, Gandhi was accused
of "betraying socialism" after the beginning of _Operation Forward_,
an attempt at economic reform. Nevertheless, others were more
convinced of Gandhi's sincerity and devotion to socialism. Pankaj
Vohra noted that "even the late prime minister’s critics would
concede that the maximum number of legislations of social significance
was brought about during her tenure... she lives in the hearts of
millions of Indians who shared her concern for the poor and weaker
sections and who supported her politics."
In summarizing the biographical works on Gandhi, Blema S. Steinberg
concluded she was decidedly non-ideological. Only 7.4% (24) of the
total 330 biographical extractions posit ideology as a reason for her
policy choices. Steinberg noted Gandhi's association with socialism
was superficial; only having a general and traditional commitment to
the ideology, by way of her political and family ties. Gandhi
personally had a fuzzy concept of socialism. In one of the early
interviews she had given as Prime Minister, Gandhi had ruminated: "I
suppose you could call me a socialist, but you have understand what we
mean by that term...we used the word because it came closest to what
we wanted to do here – which is to eradicate poverty. You can call
it socialism; but if by using that word we arouse controversy, I don't
see why we should use it. I don't believe in words at all."
Regardless of the debate over her ideology or lack of thereof, Gandhi
remains a left-wing icon. She has been described by Hindustan Times
columnist, Pankaj Vohra as "arguably the greatest mass leader of the
last century." Her campaign slogan,
Garibi Hatao (Eng: Remove
Poverty), has become the iconic motto of the Indian National Congress.
To the rural and urban poor, untouchables, minorities and women in
India, Gandhi was "Indira Amma or Mother Indira."
GREEN REVOLUTION AND THE FOURTH FIVE YEAR PLAN
Gandhi inherited a weak and troubled economy. Fiscal problems
associated with the war with
Pakistan in 1965, along with a
drought-induced food crisis that spawned famines, had plunged India
into the sharpest recession since independence. The government
responded by taking steps to liberalize the economy, and by agreeing
to the devaluation of the currency in return for the restoration of
foreign aid. The economy managed to recover in 1966 and ended up
growing at 4.1% over 1966–1969. But, much of that growth was
offset by the fact that the external aid promised by the United States
government and the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (IBRD), meant to ease the short-run costs of adjustment to
a liberalized economy, never materialized. American policy makers had
complained of continued restrictions imposed on the economy. At the
same time, Indo-US relations were straining due to Gandhi's criticism
of the American bombing campaign in Vietnam. While it was thought, at
the time, and for decades after, that President Johnson 's policy of
withholding food grain shipments was to coerce Indian support for the
war, in fact, it was to offer
India rainmaking technology that he
wanted to use as a counterweight to China's possession of the atomic
bomb. In light of the circumstances, liberalization became
politically suspect and was soon abandoned. Grain diplomacy and
currency devaluation became matters of intense national pride in
India. After the bitter experience with Johnson, Gandhi decided not to
request food aid in the future. Moreover, Gandhi's government resolved
never again to become "so vulnerably dependent" on aid, and
painstakingly began building up substantial foreign exchange reserves.
When food stocks slumped after poor harvests in 1972, the government
made it a point to use foreign exchange to buy US wheat commercially
rather than seek resumption of food aid.
Indira Gandhi meeting
Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office on 28 March 1966
The period of 1967–75 was characterized by socialist ascendency in
India which culminated in 1976 with the official declaration of state
socialism . Gandhi not only abandoned the short lived liberalization
programme but also aggressively expanded the public sector with new
licensing requirements and other restrictions for industry. She began
a new course by launching the _Fourth Five-Year Plan_ in 1969. The
government targeted growth at 5.7% while stating as its goals, "growth
with stability and progressive achievement of self-reliance." The
rationale behind the overall plan was Gandhi's _Ten Point Programme_
of 1967. This had been her first economic policy formulation, six
months after coming to office. The programme emphasized greater state
control of the economy with the understanding that government control
assured greater welfare than private control. Related to this point
were a set of policies which were meant to regulate the private
sector. By the end of the 1960s, the reversal of the liberalization
process was complete, and India's policies were characterised as
"protectionist as ever."
To deal with India's food problems, Gandhi expanded the emphasis on
production of inputs to agriculture that had already been initiated by
her father, Jawaharlal Nehru. The Green Revolution in India
subsequently culminated under her government in the 1970s and
transformed the country from a nation heavily reliant on imported
grains and prone to famine to being largely able to feed itself, and
become successful in achieving its goal of food security. Gandhi had a
personal motive in pursuing agricultural self-sufficiency, having
found India's dependency on the U.S. for shipments of grains
The economic period of 1967–75 became significant for its major
wave of nationalisations amidst the increased regulation of the
Some of the other objectives of the economic plan for the period was
to provide for the minimum needs of the community through a rural
works program and the removal of the privy purses of the nobility.
Both these, and many other goals of the 1967 program were accomplished
by 1974–75. Nevertheless, the success of the overall economic plan
was tempered by the fact that annual growth at 3.3–3.4% over
1969–74 fell short of the targeted figure.
STATE OF EMERGENCY AND THE FIFTH FIVE YEAR PLAN
The Fifth Five Year Plan (1974–79) was enacted in the backdrop of
the state of emergency and the _Twenty Point Program_ of 1975. The
latter was the economic rationale of the emergency, a political act
which has often been justified on economic grounds. In contrast to
the reception of Gandhi's earlier economic plan, this one was
criticized for being a "hastily thrown together wish list." Gandhi
promised to reduce poverty by targeting the consumption levels of the
poor and enact wide-ranging social and economic reforms. The
government additionally targeted an annual growth of 4.4% over the
period of the plan.
The measures of the emergency regime was able to halt the economic
trouble of the early to mid-1970s, which had been marred by harvest
failures, fiscal contraction, and the breakdown of the Bretton Woods
system of fixed exchanged rate; the resulting turbulence in the
foreign exchange markets being further accentuated by the oil shock of
1973. The government was even able to exceed the targeted growth
figure with an annual growth rate of 5.0–5.2% over the five-year
period of the plan (1974–79). The economy grew at the rate of 9%
in 1975–76 alone, and the Fifth Plan, became the first plan during
which the per capita income of the economy grew by over 5%.
OPERATION FORWARD AND THE SIXTH FIVE YEAR PLAN
Gandhi inherited a weak economy when she again became Prime Minister
in 1980. The preceding year in 1979–80 under the Janata Party
government had led to the strongest recession (−5.2%) in the history
India with inflation rampant at 18.2%. Gandhi proceeded
to abrogate the
Janata Party government's Five Year Plan in 1980 and
launched the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980–85). The government targeted
an average growth of 5.2% over the period of the plan. Measures to
check the inflation were also taken; by the early 1980s inflation was
under control at an annual rate of about 5%.
Although Gandhi continued professing socialist beliefs, the Sixth
Five Year Plan was markedly different from the years of
Garibi Hatao .
Populist programs and policies were replaced by pragmatism. There was
an emphasis on tightening public expenditures, greater efficiency of
the state-owned enterprises (SOE), which Gandhi qualified as a "sad
thing", and in stimulating the private sector through deregulation and
liberation of the capital market. The government subsequently
launched _Operation Forward_ in 1982, the first cautious attempt at
reform. The Sixth Plan went on to become the most successful of the
Five Year plans yet; showing an average growth of 5.7% over 1980–85.
INFLATION AND UNEMPLOYMENT
The price of oil during the 1970s energy crisis. The graph shows
sharp increases in 1973 and again in 1979
During Lal Bahadur Shastri's last full year in office (1965),
inflation averaged 7.7%, compared to 5.2% at the end of Gandhi's first
stint in office (1977). On average, inflation in
India had remained
below 7% through the 1950s and 1960s. But, it then accelerated
sharply in the 1970s, from 5.5% in 1970–71 to over 20% by 1973–74,
due to the international oil crisis . Gandhi declared inflation the
gravest of problems in 1974 (at 25.2%) and devised a severe
anti-inflation program. The government was successful in bringing down
inflation during the emergency; achieving negative figures of −1.1%
by the end of 1975–76.
Gandhi inherited a tattered economy in her second term; harvest
failures and a second oil shock in the late 1970s had again caused
inflation to rise. During
Charan Singh 's short reign in office in
the second half of 1979, inflation averaged 18.2%, compared to 6.5%
during Gandhi's last year in office (1984). General economic
recovery under Gandhi led to an average inflation at 6.5% from
1981–82 to 1985–86; the lowest since the beginning of India's
inflation problems in the 1960s.
Unemployment stayed constant at 9% over a nine-year period
(1971–80) before declining to 8.3% in 1983.
Despite the provisions, control and regulations of Reserve Bank of
India , most banks in
India had continued to be owned and operated by
private persons. Businessmen who owned the banks were often accused
of channeling the deposits into their own companies, and ignoring the
priority sector . Furthermore, there was a great resentment against
_class_ banking in India, which had left the poor (the majority
population) unbanked . After becoming Prime Minister, Gandhi
expressed the intention of nationalising the banks in a paper titled,
_"Stray thoughts on Bank Nationalisation"_ in order to alleviate
poverty. The paper received the overwhelming support of the public.
In 1969, Gandhi moved to nationalise fourteen major commercial banks.
After the nationalisation of banks, the branches of the public sector
India rose to approximate 800 percent in deposits, and
advances took a huge jump by 11,000 percent. Nationalisation also
resulted in a significant growth in the geographical coverage of
banks; the number of bank branches rose from 8,200 to over 62,000,
most of which were opened in the unbanked, rural areas. The
nationalization drive not only helped to increase household savings,
but it also provided considerable investments in the informal sector,
in small and medium-sized enterprises, and in agriculture, and
contributed significantly to regional development and to the expansion
of India’s industrial and agricultural base.
Jayaprakash Narayan ,
who became famous for leading the opposition to Gandhi in the 1970s,
was solid in his praise for her bank nationalisations.
Having been re-elected in 1971 on a nationalisation platform, Gandhi
proceeded to nationalise the coal, steel, copper, refining, cotton
textiles, and insurance industries. Most of these nationalisations
were made to protect employment and the interest of the organised
labour. The remaining private sector industries were placed under
strict regulatory control.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 , foreign-owned private oil
companies had refused to supply fuel to the Indian Navy and Indian Air
Force. In response, Gandhi nationalised oil companies in 1973. After
nationalisation the oil majors such as the Indian Oil Corporation
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and the Bharat
Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) had to keep a minimum stock level of oil,
to be supplied to the military when needed.
Administrative divisions of
India 1961–1975. Gandhi
established six states,
Himachal Pradesh (1971),
Tripura (all 1972), and finally
bringing up the total of states to 22. She also established Arunachal
Mizoram (1972) as Union Territories
In 1966, Gandhi accepted the demands of the Akali\'s to reorganize
Punjab on linguistic lines. The
Hindi -speaking southern half of
Punjab became a separate state,
Haryana , while the Pahari speaking
hilly areas in the north east were joined to
Himachal Pradesh . In
doing so, she had hoped to ward off the growing political conflict
Sikh groups in the region. However, a contentious
issue that was considered unresolved by the Akali's was the status of
Chandigarh , a prosperous city on the Punjab-
Haryana border, which
Gandhi declared a union territory to be shared as a capital by both
Pakistan in 1971 consolidated Indian power in Kashmir.
Gandhi indicated that she would make no major concessions on Kashmir.
The most prominent of the Kashmiri separatists,
Sheikh Abdullah , had
to recognize India's control over
Kashmir in light of the new order in
South Asia. The situation was normalized in the years following the
war after Abdullah agreed to an accord with Gandhi, by giving up the
demand for a plebiscite in return for a special autonomous status for
Kashmir . In 1975, Gandhi declared the state of Jammu and
Kashmir as a
constituent unit of India. The
Kashmir conflict remained largely
peaceful if frozen under Gandhi's premiership.
In 1972, Gandhi granted statehood to
Manipur and Tripura
, while the
North-East Frontier Agency was declared a union territory
Arunachal Pradesh . The transition to statehood for these
territories was successfully overseen by her administration. This was
followed by the annexation of
Sikkim in 1975.
The principle of equal pay for equal work for both men and women was
enshrined in the Indian Constitution under the Gandhi administration.
Gandhi questioned the continued existence of a privy purse for former
rulers of princely states . She argued the case for abolition based on
equal rights for all citizens and the need to reduce the government's
revenue deficit. The nobility responded by rallying around the Jana
Sangh and other right-wing parties that stood in opposition to
Gandhi's attempts to abolish royal privileges. The motion to abolish
privy purses, and the official recognition of the titles, was
originally brought before the Parliament in 1970. It was passed in the
Lok Sabha but felt short of the two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha
by a single vote. Gandhi responded by having a Presidential
proclamation issued; de-recognizing the princes; with this withdrawal
of recognition, their claims to privy purses were also legally lost.
However, the proclamation was struck down by the Supreme Court of
India . In 1971, Gandhi again motioned to abolish the privy purse.
This time, it was successfully passed as the 26th Amendment to the
India . Many royals tried to protest the abolition of
the privy purse, primarily through campaigns to contest seats in
elections. They, however, received a final setback when many of them
were defeated by huge margins.
Gandhi claimed that only "clear vision, iron will and the strictest
discipline" can remove poverty. She justified the imposition of the
state of emergency in 1975 in the name of the socialist mission of the
Congress. Armed with the power to rule by decree and without
constitutional constraints, Gandhi embarked on a massive
redistribution program. The provisions included rapid enforcement of
land ceilings, housing for landless labourers, the abolition of bonded
labour and a moratorium on the debts of the poor. North
India was at
the centre of the reforms; millions of acres of land were acquired and
redistributed. The government was also successful in procuring houses
for landless labourers; according to Frankel , three-fourths of the
targeted four million houses was achieved in 1975 alone.
Nevertheless, others have disputed the success of the program and
criticized Gandhi for not doing enough to reform land ownership. The
political economist, Jyotindra Das Gupta, cryptically questioned
"...whether or not the real supporters of land-holders were in jail or
in power?" Critics also accused Gandhi of choosing to "talk left and
act right", referring to her concurrent pro-business decisions and
endeavours. Rosser wrote that "some have even seen the declaration of
emergency rule in 1975 as a move to suppress dissent against Gandhi's
policy shift to the right." Regardless of the controversy over the
nature of the reforms, the long-term effects of the social changes
gave rise to prominence of middle-ranking farmers from intermediate
and lower castes in North India. The rise of these newly empowered
social classes challenged the political establishment of the Hindi
Belt in the years to come.
Under the Constitution of
India of 1950,
Hindi was to have become the
official national language by 1965. This was not acceptable to many
Hindi speaking states, who wanted the continued use of English in
government. In 1967, Gandhi made a constitutional amendment that
guaranteed the de facto use of both
Hindi and English as official
languages. This established the official government policy of
India and satisfied the non-
Hindi speaking Indian
states. Gandhi thus put herself forward as a leader with a pan-Indian
vision. Nevertheless, critics alleged that her stance was actually
meant to weaken the position of rival Congress leaders from the
northern states such as
Uttar Pradesh , where there had been strong,
sometimes violent, pro-
Hindi agitations. Gandhi came out of the
language conflicts with the strong support of the south Indian
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Gandhi had the Indian army crush
militant Communist uprisings in the Indian state of
West Bengal . The
communist insurgency in
India was completely suppressed during the
state of emergency .
Gandhi considered the north-eastern regions important, because of its
strategic situation. In 1966, the Mizo uprising took place against
the government of
India and overran almost the whole of the Mizoram
region . Gandhi ordered the
Indian Army to launch massive retaliatory
strikes in response. The rebellion was suppressed with the Indian Air
Force even carrying out airstrikes in
Aizawl ; this remains the only
India carrying out an airstrike in its own civilian
territory. The defeat of
Pakistan in 1971 and the secession of East
Pakistan as pro-
Bangladesh led to the collapse of the Mizo
separatist movement. In 1972, after the less extremist Mizo leaders
came to the negotiating table, Gandhi upgraded
Mizoram to the status
of a union territory. A small-scale insurgency by some militants
continued into the late 1970s but was successfully dealt with by the
government. The Mizo conflict was definitively resolved during the
administration of Gandhi's son Rajiv . Today,
Mizoram is considered as
one of the most peaceful states in the north-east.
Responding to the insurgency in
Nagaland , Gandhi "unleashed a
powerful military offensive" in the 1970s. Finally, a massive
crackdown on the insurgents took place during the state of emergency
ordered by Gandhi. The insurgents soon agreed to surrender and signed
the Shillong Accord in 1975. While the agreement was considered a
victory for the Indian government and ended large-scale conflicts,
there has since been spurts of violence by rebel holdouts and ethnic
conflict amongst the tribes .
NUCLEAR PROGRAM OF INDIA
India and weapons of mass destruction and Smiling
Gandhi contributed and further carried out the vision of Jawaharlal
Nehru , former Premier of
India to develop the program. Gandhi
authorised the development of nuclear weapons in 1967, in response to
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 had the ability to test its first
nuclear weapon. Gandhi gave verbal authorisation of this test , and
preparations were made in a long-constructed army base, the Indian
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 and its Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto , described this test as "_Indian hegemony_" to intimidate
Pakistan. In response to this Bhutto launched a massive campaign all
Pakistan to make
Pakistan a nuclear power. In these campaigns
Bhutto asked the nation to get united and great slogans were raised
such as _hum ghaas aur pattay kha lay gay magar nuclear power ban k
rhe gay (We will eat grass or leaves even go hungry but will get
nuclear power)_. Gandhi directed a letter to Bhutto and, later to the
world, describing the test for peaceful purposes and India's
commitment to develop its programme for industrial and scientific use.
FAMILY, PERSONAL LIFE AND OUTLOOK
Jawaharlal Nehru ,
Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi
A member of the Nehru-Gandhi family , she married
Feroze Gandhi at
the age of 25, in 1942. Their marriage lasted for 18 years, until
Feroze died after a heart attack in 1960. They had two sons – Rajiv
(b. 1944) and Sanjay (b. 1946). Her younger son Sanjay had initially
been her chosen heir; but after his death in a flying accident in June
1980, Gandhi persuaded her reluctant elder son Rajiv to quit his job
as a pilot and enter politics in February 1981. Rajiv took office as
prime minister following his mother's assassination in 1984; he served
until December 1989.
Rajiv Gandhi himself was assassinated by a
suicide bomber working on behalf of LTTE on May 21, 1991.
Gandhi's yoga guru,
Dhirendra Brahmachari , helped her in making
certain decisions and also executed certain top level political tasks
on her behalf, especially from 1975 to 1977 when Gandhi declared a
state of emergency and suspended civil liberties." Portrait of
Indira Gandhi Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi with
grandson Rahul Gandhi on her 53rd birthday, in
New Delhi on November
In January 2017, a woman called Priya Singh Paul claimed to be
Indira's grand-daughter as Sanjay Gandhi's biological daughter.She
claims that she was given away for adoption because
Indira Gandhi hid
her as a child and her mother as a wife of
Sanjay Gandhi for political
VIEWS ON WOMEN
In 1952 in a letter to her American friend Dorothy Norman, Gandhi
wrote: "I am in no sense a feminist, but I believe in women being able
to do everything...Given the opportunity to develop, capable Indian
women have come to the top at once." While this statement appears
paradoxical, it reflects Gandhi's complex feelings toward her gender
and feminism. Her egalitarian upbringing with her cousins helped
contribute to her sense of natural equality. "Flying kites, climbing
trees, playing marbles with her boy cousins, Indira said she hardly
knew the difference between a boy and a girl until the age of twelve."
Indira Gandhi did not often discuss her gender, but she did involve
herself in women's issues before becoming the prime minister. Before
her election as the Prime Minister, she became active in the
organizational wing of the Congress party, working in part in the
Women’s Department. In 1956, Gandhi had an active role in setting
up the Congress Party’s Women’s Section. Unsurprisingly, a lot of
her involvement stemmed from her father. As an only child, Gandhi
naturally stepped into the political light. And, as a woman, Gandhi
naturally helped head the Women’s section of the Congress Party. She
often tried to organize women to involve themselves in politics.
Although rhetorically Gandhi may have attempted to separate her
political success from her gender, Gandhi did involve herself in
women’s organizations. The political parties in
substantial attention to Gandhi’s gender before she became prime
minister, hoping to use her for political gain. Even though men
surrounded Gandhi during her upbringing, she still had a female role
model as a child. Several books on Gandhi mention her interest in Joan
of Arc. In her own accounts through her letters she wrote to her
friend Dorothy Norman, in 1952 she wrote: "At about eight or nine I
was taken to France; Jeanne d’Arc became a great heroine of mine.
She was one of the first people I read about with enthusiasm."
Another historian recounts Indira’s comparison of herself to Joan of
Arc: "Indira developed a fascination for Joan of Arc, telling her
aunt, 'Someday I am going to lead my people to freedom just as Joan of
Arc did!'" Gandhi's linking of herself to Joan of Arc presents a nice
model for historians to assess Gandhi. As one writer said: "The Indian
people were her children; members of her family were the only people
capable of leading them."
Gandhi had been swept up in the call for Indian independence since
she was born in 1917. Thus by 1947 she was already well immersed in
politics, and by 1966, when she first assumed the position of prime
minister, she had held several cabinet positions in her father’s
Gandhi's advocacy for women's rights began with her help in
establishing the Congress Party's Women’s Section. In 1956, she
wrote in a letter: "It is because of this that I am taking a much more
active part in politics. I have to do a great deal of touring in order
to set up the Congress Party Women's Section, and am on numerous
important committees." Gandhi spent a great deal of time throughout
the 1950s helping organize women. She wrote to Norman in 1959,
irritable that women had organized around the communist cause but had
not mobilized for the Indian cause: "The women, whom I have been
trying to organize for years, had always refused to come into
politics. Now they are out in the field." Once appointed president in
1959, she "travelled relentlessly, visiting remote parts of the
country that had never before received a VIP...she talked to women,
asked about child health and welfare, inquired after the crafts of the
region" Gandhi's actions throughout her ascent to power clearly
reflect a desire to mobilize women. Gandhi did not see the purpose of
feminism. Gandhi saw her own success as a woman, and also noted that
"Given the opportunity to develop, capable Indian women have come to
the top at once."
Gandhi felt guilty about her inability to fully devote her time to
her children. She noted that her main problem in office was how to
balance her political duties with tending to her children, and
"stressed that motherhood was the most important part of her life."
At another point, she went into more detail: “To a woman, motherhood
is the highest fulfilment…To bring a new being into this world, to
see its perfection and to dream of its future greatness is the most
moving of all experiences and fills one with wonder and exaltation.”
Her domestic initiatives did not necessarily reflect favourably on
Indian women. Gandhi did not make a special effort to appoint women to
cabinet positions. She did not appoint any women to full cabinet rank
during her terms in office. Yet despite this, many women saw Gandhi
as a symbol for feminism and an image of women’s power.
India to victory against
Pakistan in the Bangladesh
liberation war in 1971, President
V. V. Giri awarded Mrs. Gandhi
India's highest civilian honour, the
Bharat Ratna . In 2011, the
Bangladesh Freedom Honour (
Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona),
Bangladesh's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred on
Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contributions to Bangladesh's
List of things named after Indira Gandhi Indira
Gandhi's wax statue at
Madame Tussauds , London
Indira Gandhi is associated with fostering a culture of nepotism in
Indian politics and in India's institutions. She is also almost
singularly associated with the period of Emergency rule and the dark
period in Indian Democracy that it entailed, the period of conflict
with Khalistan freedom fighters in the western state of Punjab, and
being the face of a progressive Indian electorate owing to her being
the first woman elected to hold the office of the Prime Minister of
The two extreme points of India: the northernmost Indira Col
(35.674520°N 76.845245°E) and the southernmost Indira Point
(6.74678°N 93.84260°E) are also named after Indira Gandhi.
The Indira Awaas Yojana , a central government low-cost housing
programme for the rural poor, was named after her. The international
New Delhi is named
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport in
her honour. The
Indira Gandhi National Open University , the largest
university in the world, is also named after her. Indian National
Congress established the annual
Indira Gandhi Award for National
Integration in 1985, given in her memory on her death anniversary. The
Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust also constituted the annual Indira Gandhi
* Biography portal
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* List of elected and appointed female heads of state and government
Atal Bihari Vajpayee though categorically denied ever having
said that when he made an appearance in
Rajat Sharma 's show Aap ki
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Ved Mehta , _A Family Affair:
India Under Three Prime Ministers_
(1982) ISBN 0-19-503118-0
Pupul Jayakar , _Indira Gandhi: An Intimate Biography_ (1992) ISBN
Katherine Frank , _Indira: the life of Indira Nehru Gandhi_ (2002)
Ramachandra Guha , _
India after Gandhi: The History of the World's
Largest Democracy_ (2007) ISBN 978-0-06-019881-7
* Inder Malhotra, _Indira Gandhi: A personal and political
biography_ (1991) ISBN 0-340-53548-2
Indira Gandhi – Iron Lady of
India by Dr Sulakshi Thelikorala
* Midnight\'s Children , Salman Rushdie
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