Indira Gandhi the 1st female prime minister of India was born on 19th November, 1917 into the politically influential Nehru family. Her father was Jawaharlal Nehru and her mother was Kamala Nehru. Her grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a pivotal figure in the Indian independence mover of Independent India. After finishing schooling Indira Gandhi went to Shantiniketan, a school set up by Rabindranath Tagore, and Huzurpaga, Pune which is the oldest girl’s school in India.
She completed her higher studies from Somerville College, Oxford. When Indira was in England she fell in love with Feroze Gandhi. She married him in 1942. Indira Gandhi started her political career in 1950’s. She served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as the Prime Minister of India. After her father’s death in 1964, she became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966 after the sudden demise of Shastri.
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She was the third Prime Minister of the Republic of India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, a total of fifteen years. Indira Gandhi motivated special agricultural innovation programs. Extra government support launched in the 1960s finally transformed India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk. The country became a food exporter. This achievement is known as the “Green Revolution”. At the same time, the White Revolution was an expansion in milk production which helped to combat malnutrition, especially amidst young children.
The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan. An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. Indira Gandhi supported East Pakistan against Pakistan and gained victory. She played an important role in creation of an independent country Bangladesh. Gandhi contributed and further carried out the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru, former premier of India, to develop the nuclear weapon program. Gandhi promoted the views of Nehru to establish India’s stability and security interests as independent from those of the nuclear superpowers.
In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test near the desert village of Pokhran in Rajasthan. Gandhi directed to the world, describing the test as for peaceful purposes and India’s commitment as to develop its program for industrial and scientific use. The downfall of Indira Gandhi began after India won the war against Pakistan in 1971. The Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty with electoral corruption for the 1971 elections. On 26th June 1975, Indira Gandhi called a State of Emergency under Article 352.
After extending the state of emergency twice, in 1977 Indira Gandhi called for elections. Indira’s Congress party was crushed soundly in the elections. Anarchy in ruling party broke their unity. President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In elections held the following January, Congress was returned to power with a landslide majority. The Khalistan Separatist movement gained momentum in July 1982. Riots started in Punjab. Indira Gandhi ordered the leaders of the movement to lay down their arms but they refused and so, on 6th June 1984 Indira Gandhi enacted Operation Blue Star.
The Indian Army attacked the holiest temple of Sikh and cleared the site of movers. This step of Gandhi hurt feelings of Sikhs in India. On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards assassinated her with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister’s residence. As per economic surveys, when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister, 65% of the country’s population was below the poverty line, and when her regime ended in 1984, it was 45%. Literacy also increased in India by 30%. The goodwill of the rural population earned by Gandhi still has its effects on the success of the Congress Party in rural India.