Indira Gandhi: Know All About the First Woman Prime Minister of India

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Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was a leader and a prominent figure in Indian History. She was the first woman Prime Minister of India and is the only female Prime Minister until now. Her leadership spanned from 1966 to 1977 and later from 1980 until her tragic assassination in 1984. In this article, we will explore the remarkable journey of Indira Gandhi and the tragic event that led to her untimely death.

Who is Indira Gandhi?

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad and belonged to a politically influential family. Her father was Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India and her mother was Kamala Nehru who was a social activist. She experienced and witnessed the struggles and sacrifices made by her family for India’s Independence from a very close view. 

Image Source – The Hindustan Times

She pursued her education at Shantiniketan in West Bengal and her higher education at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where she honed her political acumen and leadership skills. In 1942, she married Feroze Gandhi, who also played a great role in her political life.

Indira Gandhi’s political career started during the Indian National Congress (INC) sessions, where she actively participated and supported her father’s vision of an Independent India. She worked closely alongside her father and assisted him in his political decisions gaining valuable experience.

Also Read – Social Reformist Jyotiba Phule: Biography, History, Facts

What was the Role of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister?

Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India in 1966 and during her tenure, she implemented many socio-economic policies. From her vast contributions let’s explore some of the highlights of her time in office.

As the first woman Prime Minister of India and because of her aggressive and fierce decision-making skills Indira Gandhi emerged to be known as the “Iron Lady of India”. 

In her First Term as Prime Minister (1966 – 1971):

  • After the untimely demise of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Indira Gandhi was elected as the leader of the Indian National Congress and became the Prime Minister.
  • Green Revolution – In 1968, Indira Gandhi adopted an instrumental and revolutionary program in the field of Agriculture. She launched the Green Revolution aiming at increasing Food Production. This initiative led to a significant increase in crop yields and helped to alleviate hunger and poverty in India.
  • Nationalisation of Banks – To make a bold statement, she nationalised the major banks of India. On July 19, 1969, she nationalised 14 commercial banks with a deposit of 50 crores. It provided access to banking services for millions of Indians and intended to reduce the influence of wealthy industrialists over the economy.

Also Read – Revolutions in India You Must Know About

In her Second Term as Prime Minister (1971 – 1977):

  • Garibi Hatao Campaign – Indira Gandhi’s focus on poverty alleviation led to the implementation of the Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) campaign. The program aimed to uplift the economically disadvantaged sections of society through targeted welfare measures and development schemes.
  • Bangladesh Liberation War – Indira Gandhi supported the liberation movement in Bangladesh leading to its independence from Pakistan in 1971. Her decisive action during the war earned her admiration both domestically and internationally.
Image Source – Utsavpedia

Announcement of National Emergency (1975-1977)

  • In a controversial turn of events, Indira Gandhi facing political unrest and protests, declared a State of Emergency in 1975, citing internal threats and political disturbances.
  • It led to the suspension of civil liberties and the imposition of strict authoritarian rule.
  • During this period, many opposition leaders were arrested and censorship was imposed on the media.
  • The emergency ended in 1977 following the protests and defeat of the Congress party in general elections. 

Also Read – What is a National Emergency?

When and Why was Indira Gandhi Assassinated?

The main reason for her assassination was – 

Operation Blue Star

  • In 1984, tension arose between the Indian Government and Sikh separatists who sought an independent state called Khalistan.
  • To combat the growing Sikh separatist movement, Operation Blue Star, an army operation ordered by Gandhi was authorised.
  • The operation aimed to remove militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh shrine.
  •  Operation Blue Star resulted in the death of many innocent civilians and the desecration of the temple’s sanctity which also hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community.

Assassination of Indira Gandhi

On October 31, 1984. India Gandhi was assassinated by two of her own Sikh Bodyguards in revenge for Operation Blue Star. Her death came as a wave of shock and anti-Sikh riots erupted which lasted for several days resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. She was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi.

The Iron Lady of India made historic decisions in her life and set the stage for female leadership in politics. Her contributions and controversial decisions continue to be topics of discussion, but the name Indira Gandhi the first female Prime Minister of India and the Iron Lady of India is forever etched in Indian History.

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