Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician, stateswoman and a central member of the Indian National Congress. She was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the pioneer prime minister of India. Despite her surname Gandhi, she is not related to the family of Mahatma Gandhi; Gandhi is a common surname in Gujarat. She worked as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father.
Early life and career
Indira Gandhi went school intermittently until matriculation in 1934 and was more often taught at home. She also studied at the Viswa Bharati University in Shantiniketan. She, however, gone out of the university and moved to Europe to attend to her ailing mother. She attended the Badminton School for a brief period after her mother passed away. After that in 1937, she enrolled at Somerville College to pursue History. She was suffering from ill-health and had to be attended to by doctors regularly. Her studies got disturbed as she had to make repeated trips to Switzerland for recovery. Because of her ill health and other disruptions, she had to return to India without being able to complete her studies at the Oxford. However, the Oxford University afterward conferred her with an honorary degree. In 2010 she was further honored by the University of Oxford as one of the 10 illustrious graduates of Asia, the Oxasians.
She married Feroze Gandhi her husband, who was a Parsi from Gujarat. They knew each other from Allahabad and later met in the UK when he was studying at the London School of Economics. She chose her younger son Sanjay Gandhi as her heir in politics but after his sudden death in June 1980 in a flying accident, Indira Gandhi persuaded her elder son Rajiv Gandhi to join politics. Rajiv Gandhi at that time was a pilot who averses to quit his job to join politics in February 1981.
From 1947 to 1964 Indira remained the Chief of Staff of Jawaharlal Nehru’s administration that was highly centralized. In 1964 she was elected as representative of the Rajya Sabha. She worked as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting under the government led by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri.
After the sudden death of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, in January 1966 Indira Gandhi was selected as the Prime Minister of India. She worked the post till 1977. At the time of her tenure, she displayed exceptional political skills. This time also experienced internal dissent in the party, leading to a split in 1969.
As a Prime Minister, she charged radical changes in the political, economic, national and international policies of the country.
During the oil crisis of 1971 after the war against Pakistan, Indira Gandhi nationalized oil companies, which saw the establishment of oil companies like Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL).
The Green Revolution under her guidance made remarkable advances in the agricultural produce of the country. Consequently, the degree of self-sufficiency increased. During the Pakistan Civil War in 1971, Indira Gandhi supported East Pakistan, which results in the formation of Bangladesh.
Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab were declared as states under her administrative policy.
The opposition parties accused her of using unfair means after the 1971 elections. A case was filed against Indira in the Allahabad High Court, which found her guilty of employing state machinery for campaigning in the election.
On June 1975 the court declared the elections as null and void and she was unseated from the Lok Sabha and banned from taking part in elections for the next six years.
The next term of her tenure as Prime Minister from 1980 was mostly spent on resolving the political problems of Punjab. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his group initiated a secessionist movement in 1983 and based themselves at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, a place of worship for the Sikhs which is considered as most sacred.
Indira Gandhi commenced Operation Blue Star to control and check the terrorist situation. The operation, although successfully downcast Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other terrorists, also saw the loss of life of several civilians and damage of the shrine. Consequently in outrage among the Sikh community who condemned her and declared Jarnail Singh Bindrawale a martyr of the 21st century.