Remembering Indira

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi : Indira Gandhi,the iron lady and the first ever female Prime Minister of India till date, was born in the hosue of Nehrus on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad.Her fatther Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was one of the prominet leaders of Indian freedom movement who later on became the first Prime Minister of India. Indira’s grandfather Pandit Motilal Nehru was one of the prominent barristers of India and also a leading personlity in the freedom movement

The flurry of political activities in the hosue of Nehrus had a great impact upon young Indira. In her early formative years during her school days she created the Vanara Sena movement for young girls and boys which played a small but notable role in the Indian Independence Movement, conducting protests and flag marches, as well as helping members of the Indian National Congress circulate sensitive publications and banned materials. It was her first political act which later on got inculcated in her personality when she learnt the naunces of politics under her father.

She attended Salt movement alongwith her mother Kamala Nehru and grand father Moti Lal Nehru on April 8,1930. It was her first contact with Raebareli which later on became her constituency.

In 1936, her mother, Kamala Nehru, finally succumbed to tuberculosis after a long struggle. Indira was 19 at the time and thus never experienced a stable family life during her childhood. In 1937, she studied at Shantiniketan under the tutelage of Rabindranath Tagore, and later went to Oxford University where she studied history, anthropology and administration.While studying at Somerville College, University of Oxford, she became a member of the pro-independence London based India League.

She maintained her long-distance relationship with her father in the form of long letters as she was used to doing through her childhood. They argued about politics and contemporay issues of those times and no doubt Indira got a broad world view throught these letters. These letters are considered historical in its content and later on were published as ‘Letters from a Father to His Daughter’.
In 1942, Indira Gandhi married Firoz Gandhi and they had two sons Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi. Feroze and Indira were both members of the Indian National Congress, and when they took part in the Quit India Movement in 1942, they were both arrested After independence, Feroze Gandhi went on to run for election and became a member of parliament from Raebareli Uttar Pradesh in 1952.
In 1959, Indira Gandhi became the President of India National Congress. Afther the death of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru on May 27, 1964, Lal Bahadu Shashtri became the Prime Minister of India and Indira Gandhi joned the government as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. She was member of Rajya Sabha at that time.
After the sudden and trajic death of Lal Bahadur Shashtri in Tashkent in 1966, Indira Gandhi took charge of the situation and became Prime Minsiter of India. In the general election held for 4th Loksabha in 1967, she won from Raebareli, a seat which was represented by her husband Firoz Gandhi from 1952 to 1960 till his death.
Though, her candidature for the primeministership was heavliy opposed by many veterans in the party like Morarji Desai, she easily defeated all her political rivals. In 1969, the Congress had to face a splitt due to the opposition from Morarji group but it did not have any impact on the central government. But the general election of 1971 proved that Indira Gandhi was the real leader of the Congress and the masses at large when she got the majority in the Loksabha on her own.
During her first stint as Prime Minsiter from 1966 to 1971, Indira Gandhi took various pro-people decisions. She abolished the privy purse for ex-Maharajas of princely states and nationalised banks and mines. In 1971 general election, she talked of ‘Garibi Hatao’ a slogan that touched the chord of comman man.
Indira showed her mantle in 1971’s Indo-Pak war when Pakistan was defeated and dismembered into two leading to the birth of a new soverign state called Bangladesh. Pakistan had to surrender in that war with its aroudn 90,000 troops and had to sign the Shimala Agreement.
In 1974, for the first time amid huge protest worldover, India tasted its Nuclear capabality under the able leadership of Indira Gandhi. She was very successful in reshaping the foreign policy of India when India signed 20- year Friendship Treaty with USSR.
But within the country, the unrest grew gradually which started as a student movement in Gujarat and later on engulfed the northern states. The movement became anarchic under the leadership of Jai Prakash Narayan and Indira Gandhi had to clamp emergency in the country. In 1977 general election, the Congress had to face a defeat including the defeat of Indira Gandhi herself. But just within three months, she bounced back and the party won all the five assembly seats of Raebareli constituency; signaling a come back of resurgent Indira.
Due to the internal fractions, the Janata government at centre collapsed in 1979 and Indira Gandhi bounced back to power in 1980 winning a landslide victory across the country. In that election, she contested from two seats, Raebareli and Medak(Andhra Pradesh) though she continued from Medak and resigned from Raebareli. But her relationship from Raebareli remained same; it had a special place in her heart.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 at her residence by her body guards due to her tough stance on terrorism in Punjab. She had approved operation Blue Star which angered a section of Sikh community translating in her assassination. Just days before her assassination, she had told in a public rally at Puri that ‘I don’t mind if my life goes in the service of the nation. If I die today every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation.’