Indira Gandhi becomes Indian prime minister

Indira Gandhi becomes Indian prime minister

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Following the death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi becomes head of the Congress Party and thus prime minister of India. She was India’s first female head of government and by the time of her assassination in 1984 was one of its most controversial.

Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of the independent Republic of India. She became a national political figure in 1955, when she was elected to the executive body of the Congress Party. In 1959, she served as president of the party and in 1964 was appointed to an important post in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s ruling government. Soon after becoming prime minister, Gandhi was challenged by the right wing of the Congress Party, and in the 1967 election she won only a narrow victory and thus had to rule with a deputy prime minister.

In 1971, she won a resounding reelection victory over the opposition and became the undisputed leader of India. That year, she ordered India’s invasion of Pakistan in support of the creation of Bangladesh, which won her greater popularity and led her New Congress Party to a landslide victory in national elections in 1972.

READ MORE: 7 Women Leaders Who Were Elected to Highest Office

During the next few years, she presided over increasing civil unrest brought on by food shortages, inflation, and regional disputes. Her administration was criticized for its strong-arm tactics in dealing with these problems. Meanwhile, charges by the Socialist Party that she had defrauded the 1971 election led to a national scandal. In 1975, the High Court in Allahabad convicted her of a minor election infraction and banned her from politics for six years. In response, she declared a state of emergency throughout India, imprisoned thousands of political opponents, and restricted personal freedoms in the country. Among several unpopular programs during this period was the forced sterilization of men and women as a means of controlling population growth.

In 1977, long-postponed national elections were held, and Gandhi and her party were swept from office. The next year, Gandhi’s supporters broke from the Congress Party and formed the Congress (I) Party, with the “I” standing for “Indira.” Later in 1978, she was briefly imprisoned for official corruption. Soon after the ruling Janata Party fell apart, the Congress (I) Party, with Indira as its head, won a spectacular election victory in 1980, and Gandhi was again prime minister.

In the early 1980s, several regional states intensified their call for greater autonomy from New Delhi, and the Sikh secessionist movement in Punjab resorted to violence and terrorism. In 1984, the Sikh leaders set up base in their sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar. Gandhi responded by sending the Indian army in, and hundreds of Sikhs were killed in the government assault. In retaliation, Sikh members of Gandhi’s own bodyguard gunned her down on the grounds of her home on October 31, 1984. She was succeeded by her son, Rajiv Gandhi.

Gandhi, Indira 1917-1984

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (born November 19, 1917) was twice elected the prime minister of India and was the first woman to hold the position. Daughter of India ’ s first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 – 1964), she was introduced to the vagaries of political instability early in life. As someone who participated in the anticolonial national movement in the 1930s and 1940s as a youngster, and saw the carnage that accompanied the partitioning of British India into the independent nations India and Pakistan in 1947, Gandhi experienced firsthand the challenges and uncertainties experienced by a fledgling democracy. In this regard, her formative years introduced her to the political cultures that she would negotiate as one of independent India ’ s most charismatic and controversial figures.

After attending educational institutions in Europe and India, she married an Indian National Congress (INC) activist named Feroze Gandhi (1912 – 1960) in 1942. Her sons, Rajiv and Sanjay, were born in 1944 and 1946 respectively. Following the deterioration of her marriage, she moved to Delhi to support her father as he prepared to contest India ’ s first national election in 1951. The 1950s and early 1960s were a period of political education and preparation for Gandhi as she rose rapidly in the ranks of the INC, becoming a minister in the government formed by Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904 – 1966) soon after her father ’ s death on May 24, 1964. In 1965, when war with Pakistan broke out, she emerged as a strong contender for the INC leadership with the backing of a cohort of INC leaders named the Syndicate. Warding off challenges from numerous constituencies within the party, and with the backing of the Syndicate, she became India ’ s fifth prime minister.

From 1971 onward, Gandhi consolidated her dominance. In late 1971, civil war and the secessionist movement of East Pakistan led to the Indian Army ’ s invasion of East Pakistan in the third Indo-Pakistan war since 1947. With the creation of the independent nation-state of Bangladesh in 1971, Gandhi ’ s personality-centered political style became pronounced. Partly to underscore India ’ s growing geopolitical stature in the cold war, she encouraged the development of India ’ s nuclear program, which conducted a successful nuclear test in 1974. Even as India made economic gains in some areas, she undermined India ’ s constitutionally mandated federalism when, unlike her father, she steadily undercut the authority of regional political leaders in order to consolidate power at the center. Her regime witnessed the arrival of a distinctively populist style of government, most apparent from her use of the slogan “ Garibi Hatao ” ( “ remove poverty ” ). While these changes bolstered her authority, they also made her the brunt of popular discontent, which became strident in the 1973 – 1974 period because of food shortages and inflation. Popular unrest and legal assaults on Gandhi ’ s power precipitated, in June 1975, the declaration of a state of emergency by her government.

The only period of authoritarian rule in post-independence India and a phase denounced as one of the darkest of the postcolonial period, the state of emergency lasted from 1975 to 1977. Controversial constitutional amendments, censorship, and assaults on civil liberties were accompanied by the arrest of thousands of party workers, and perhaps most notoriously, the forced sterilization campaigns prompted by Gandhi ’ s son Sanjay Gandhi (1946-1980). These policies raised severe discontent, but Prime Minister Gandhi misjudged the popular mood in 1977 and called parliamentary elections in which her party was comprehensively defeated.

The Janata Party government that came to power in 1977 under the prime ministership of Morarji Desai (1896-1995) did not survive for long, but the period after the state of emergency marked a decisive shift in Indian politics with the restoration of India ’ s parliamentary democracy and the reversal of many of the authoritarian policies adopted by Gandhi. The INC itself split in the wake of the election debacle, and Gandhi sought to build a new political base for herself, one drawn largely from ethnic and religious minorities. Her reemergence as a political leader coincided with infighting in the Janata Party government, and in 1980 Gandhi was voted back to power as India ’ s eighth prime minister.

Gandhi ’ s second term in office was weighed down with problems in the Punjab, where the rise of Sikh militancy accompanied Sikh demands for an independent state. Matters escalated in mid-1984 with Operation Bluestar, when she ordered the Indian Army to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of the holiest Sikh shrines, to remove militants hiding in its premises. This act of desecration, accompanied by the excessive use of military force, has remained a source of enormous controversy. On October 31, 1984, Gandhi was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards as she was walking out of her residence. The assassination triggered a pogrom against Sikhs in New Delhi and other northern Indian cities.

Gandhi ’ s political career has left a deep imprint on Indian politics, not least through her descendants. Her son Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991) became prime minister in 1984, and his widow Sonia Gandhi emerged during the late 1990s as the leader of the Congress Party. “ Vote-bank ” politics, with which Indira Gandhi is often identified, has remained an enduring facet of Indian political culture long after her death.

SEE ALSO Anticolonial Movements Authoritarianism Civil Liberties Cold War Congress Party, India Democracy Federalism Nehru, Jawaharlal Partition Pogroms Populism Poverty Weaponry, Nuclear

Timeline: The making of India's Gandhi dynasty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Nehru-Gandhi family political dynasty has no other equivalent in the world, combining the birthright of royalty with the tragic glamour of the Kennedy clan. A member of the family has been in charge of India for more than two-thirds of the period since independence from Britain in 1947.

Here are highlights of the family’s history.

1947 - Jawaharlal Nehru is elected by the Indian National Congress as the first prime minister of independent India.

1964 - Nehru dies after 17 years as prime minister. His only child, Indira Gandhi, joins cabinet.

1966 - Indira Gandhi becomes the first woman to hold prime minister’s office in India.

1975 - Following public unrest after a high court finds Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral corruption, she declares a state of emergency on June 25.

1977 - Indira Gandhi loses election to coalition led by Janata Party, comprising nearly all of Indira’s opponents.

1980 - Indira Gandhi returns for her fourth term as prime minister as Congress wins elections with a landslide.

1984 - Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards after Indian army attacks militants holed up in Golden Temple.

1984 - Following the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in 1980 and mother’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi reluctantly takes the prime minister’s job at the age of 40.

1989 - A corruption scandal surrounding an arms deal taints image of Rajiv Gandhi, resulting in Congress’s defeat in the 1989 elections.

1991 - Still holding post of Congress President, Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by Tamil Tiger suicide bomber. He is survived by his widow Sonia and a son, Rahul, and daughter Priyanka.

1998 - Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi elected as the president of the struggling Congress party. 1999 - Sonia Gandhi defeated by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in general election.

2004 - Sonia Gandhi leads Congress to victory election. She appoints former finance minister Manmohan Singh as prime minister. Her oldest child Rahul Gandhi elected to parliament for first time.

2007 - Rahul Gandhi is appointed as a general secretary to the Congress party in charge of the Indian Youth Congress.

2009 - Under Sonia Gandhi’s guidance, the Congress-led government is re-elected with Manmohan Singh as prime minister.

2011 - Congress head Sonia Gandhi returns to New Delhi on September 8 after a month in the United States where she underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

INDIRA GANDHI : The story of India’s first woman Prime Minister.

On 10 January 1966, after the shocking and mysterious death of the Prime Minister of India, Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Congress faced the challenge of political succession for the second time in two years. This time there was an intense competition between Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi. Morarji Desai had earlier served as the Chief Minister of Bombay (today’s Maharashtra and Gujarat) also as a minister at the centre. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, had been Congress President in the past and had also been Union Minister for information in the Shastri cabinet. This time the senior leaders in the party decided to back Indira Gandhi, but the decision was not unanimous. The contest was resolved through a secret ballot among Congress MPs. Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji Desai by securing the support of more than two-thirds of the party’s MPs. A peaceful transition of power, despite intense competition for leadership, was seen as a sign of maturity of India’s democracy. It took some time before the new Prime Minister could settle down. While Indira Gandhi had been politically active for very long, she had served as a minister under Shastri only for a short period of time. She faced much difficulties but managed to gain control over the party and to demonstrate her skills. She became the Prime Minister in 1967. She ruled the country from 1967-71. Then came her second tenure.

Economic context:

In the elections of 1971, Congress had given the slogan of garibi hatao (remove poverty). However, the social and economic condition in the country did not improve much after 1971-72. The Bangladesh crisis had put a heavy strain on India’s economy. About eight million people crossed over the East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh) border into India. This was followed by war with Pakistan. After the war, the US government stopped all aid to India. In the international market’ oil prices increased manifold during this period. This led to an over-all increase in prices of commodities. Prices increased by 23 percentage in 1973and 30 percentage in 1974. Such a high level inflation caused much hardship to the people. Industrial growth was low and unemployment was very high, particularly in the rural areas. In order to reduce expenditure, the government froze the salaries of its employees.

Gujarat and Bihar movements:

Student’s protest in Gujarat and Bihar, both of which were Congress ruled states, had far reaching impact on the politics of the two states and the national politics. In January 1974, students in Gujarat started an agitation against rising prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities, and against corruption in high places. The student’s protest was joined by major opposition parties and became widespread leading to the imposition of President’s rule in the state. The opposition parties demanded fresh elections to the state legislature. Morarji Desai, a prominent leader of Congress(O), who was the main rival of Indira Gandhi when he was in the Congress, announced that he would go on an indefinite fast if fresh elections were not held in the state. Under intense pressure from the students, supported by opposition parties, assembly election were held in Gujarat in June 1975. The Congress was defeated in this election.

In March 1974, students came together in Bihar to protest against rising prices, food scarcity, unemployment and corruption. After a point, they invited Jayaprakash Narayan, who had given up active politics and was involved in social work, to lead the student movement. He accepted it on the condition that the movement will remain non-violent and will not limit itself to Bihar. Thus the student’s movement assumed a political character and had national appeal. People from all walks of life now entered the movement. Jayaprakash Narayan demanded the dismissal of the Congress government in Bihar and gave a call for total revolution in the social, economic and political spheres in order to establish what he considered to be true democracy. A series of bandhs, gehraos and strikes were organised in the protest against the Bihar government. The government however refused to resign.

Indira Gandhi’s conflict with judiciary:

This was also the period when the government and the ruling party had many differences with the judiciary. The court said that the parliament cannot amend the Constitution in such a way that the rights are curtailed. The parliament amended the Constitution saying that it can abridge fundamental rights for giving effect to the Directive Principles. But the Supreme Court rejected this provision also. This led to a crisis as far as the relations between the government and the judiciary were concerned. In this case, the court gave a decision that there are some basic features of the Constitution and the Parliament cannot amend these features.

Declaration of Emergency:

On 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha o the Allahabad High Court passed a judgement declaring Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha invalid. This order came on an election petition filed by Raj Narain, a socialist leader and a candidate who had contested against her 1972. The petition, challenged the election of Indira Gandhi on the ground that she had used the services of government servants in her election campaign. The judgement of the High Court meant that legally she was no more an MP and therefore, could not remain the Prime Minister unless she was once again elected as an MP within six months. On June 24, the Supreme Court granted her a partial stay on the High Court order till her appeal was decided, she could remain an MP but could not take part in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. The stage was now set to a big political confrontation.

On the night of 25 June 1975, the Prime Minister recommended the imposition of Emergency to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. He issued the proclamation immediately. After midnight, the electricity to all major newspaper offices was disconnected. In the early morning, a large number of leaders and workers of the opposition parties were arrested. The cabinet was informed about it at a special meeting at 6 a.m. on 26 June, after all this bad taken place.

Consequences of the Emergency:

The actual implementation of the Emergency is another contentious issue. The government said that it wanted to use the Emergency to bring law and order, restore efficiency and implement the pro-poor welfare programmes. The government led by Indira Gandhi announced a twenty-point programme and declared its determination to implement this programme. The twenty-point programme included land reforms, land redistribution, review of agricultural wages, worker’s participation in management, eradication of bonded labour, etc. In the initial months after the declaration of Emergency, the urban middle classes were generally happy over the fact that agitations came to an end and discipline was enforced on the government employees. The poor and rural people also expected effective implementation of the welfare programmes that the government was promising. Thus, different sections of the society had different expectations from the emergency and also different viewpoints about it.

The Emergency at once brought out both the weakness and the strengths of India’s democracy. Though there are many observers who think that India ceased to be democratic during the Emergency, it is noteworthy that normal democratic during the Emergency, a short span of time. Thus, one lesson of Emergency is that it is extremely difficult to do away with democracy in India. The Emergency lasted for two years, 1975-77.

Indira Gandhi: A ‘Green’ Prime Minister

As Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was as tough as nails and this persona often eclipsed her sensitive side, which cared deeply about nature. Most importantly, Gandhi used her authority to frame environmental laws that are binding even today. In his book Indira Gandhi: A Life In Nature (2017), senior Congress politician and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh reflects on a ‘Green’ Indira. An excerpt:

A naturalist is who Indira Gandhi really was, who she thought she was. She got sucked into the whirlpool of politics but the real Indira Gandhi was the person who loved the mountains, cared deeply for wildlife, was passionate about birds, stones, trees and forests, and was worried deeply about the environmental consequences of urbanization and industrialization.

She was singularly responsible not just for India’s best-known wildlife conservation programme—namely, Project Tiger—but also for less highprofile initiatives for the protection of crocodiles, lions, hanguls, cranes, bustards, flamingos, deer and other endangered species.

She almost single-handedly pushed through two laws—one for the protection of wildlife and another for the conservation of forests, which continue to hold sway. Today’s laws for dealing with water and air pollution were enacted during her tenure.

Indira Gandhi was zealous about tree plantation—a fact that James Brewbaker, a professor of horticulture and genetics at the University of Hawaii, came to appreciate. When he met the prime minister in February on behalf of the Watumull Foundation—which had invited her to Honolulu later in the year—he discussed plants, specifically endorsing kubabul, a small, fast-growing tree from Hawaii. In a letter to the prime minister on 17 March, Brewbaker stated that kubabul could become one of the major fuelwood, fodder, home-building, pulpwood and green manure trees. The prime minister replied on 1 April:

Our Ministry of Agriculture has kept me in touch with the work being done with regard to this and other trees which do well in dry areas. Some time ago when I went to the drought-affected areas of Rajasthan, I took along seeds of Kubabul. It is indeed a most useful tree. We are encouraging people to plant it.

The prime minister’s firm commitment to nurturing tree-cover was evident to her ministerial colleagues and officials, as she urged them to accelerate forestry programmes. On 15 February, she wrote to Minister of Agriculture Rao Birendra Singh:

[…] We must see that the results of our efforts, particularly in social forestry, become meaningful and visible soon. I do not think enough was done last year to promote the planting of trees on a large scale, perhaps because of drought etc. But this year we should make all the preparations in advance and aim to plant trees on a really massive scale. […] We should fully utilize the early monsoon to nourish the new plantations.

The information she received was not particularly encouraging. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were expected to do well but in states where the programme was likely to be much more significant like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal, the increase was not expected to be anything to write home about. Rajamani examined the state-level variations and sent a note to her on 29 April saying, ‘If approved, these imbalances will be brought to the notice of IG, Forests, who will be requested to review this immediately […]’ Prompt came the prime minister’s response the very same day:

This is something that must be done. It is not a question of requesting. If they default, we shall have to think of curtailing other programmes.

On 1 July, Indira Gandhi launched a massive tree plantation programme to be taken up all over the country by the Youth Congress. The decision was meant to recall the memory of Sanjay Gandhi who had included tree plantation as part of his five-point programme.

Indira Gandhi used the occasion to dwell on her favourite topic—how the merciless felling of trees had already brought about climatic change, led to pollution and caused droughts and floods. She was somewhat critical of the government-run ‘vanamahotsava’ initiative since she felt it had become a ritual without adequate care being taken to ensure the survival of the tree saplings that got planted. She wanted various kinds of trees to be planted in the name of every newborn child.

It was the first time that the Congress as an organization took up tree plantation in such a gigantic way—some half a million saplings were to be planted all over the country in seven days.

Sadly, that momentum would not last for very long, as far as political activities around afforestation was concerned.

17 November marked the first anniversary of the Department of Environment, of which Indira Gandhi herself was a minister. Since the department was still finding its feet, and was yet to achieve anything tangible—although a number of studies had been commissioned and surveys launched—Indira Gandhi decided to offer it a shot in the arm through a public message:

Three days ago we celebrated National Children’s Day. For the children’s sake we must ensure that the environment is not degraded, that natural resources are not depleted, and that there is a proper ecological balance. This needs short-term and long-term goals. Over-exploitation and pollution must be avoided […]

Among nature’s most precious gifts are forests. The greatest emphasis must be placed on afforestation and the planting of trees wherever possible. A tree is a symbol of life. Combining our love of children with their concern for trees will broaden our perspectives. A campaign such as “For every child a tree” is a process of education. A tree planted whenever a child is born and nursed to full growth will be an asset to the nation, even as that particular child grows to become a good citizen. Why not plan for a tree on every birthday?

In November last year we set up a Department of Environment. I hope the Department will persuade every parent and child to cooperate with the programmes of environmental management whether they are initiated by Government or non-officials.

A few days later, she broached a new idea before her officials and R. Rajamani, recorded a brief note and dispatched it to Samar Singh

As I mentioned over the telephone, the Prime Minister would like the need for legislation against indiscriminate cutting of trees to be examined. A note on the legal and practical aspects of this may kindly be sent on priority.

Indira Gandhi’s proposal was quite radical. Tired of the complaints she would constantly receive regarding the uprooting of trees in towns and cities, she had wondered aloud if a national law to regulate the felling of trees outside designated ‘forest areas’, would be of some use. Her officials later told her that such a law would go against the Constitution and it was best to leave such regulation to the states concerned. While the prime minister was less than happy about this, she had no option but to go along. Her eventual request was that the states be asked to pass such a law—and that is where matters stood.

Excerpted with permission from Indira Gandhi: A Life In Nature (2017) by Jairam Ramesh and published by Simon & Schuster India. You can buy the book here.

This article is part of our special series the ‘Making of Modern India’ through which we are focussing on the period between 1900-2000. This century saw the birth and transformation of India. This series aims to chronicle India’s exciting journey and is a special feature brought to you by LHI Foundation.

How Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister: Prelude to the Congress Split

On the grey winter afternoon of 11 January 1966, a huge crowd of Indian Government officials, politicians, military officers, heads of states of other nations and common public thronged the Palam Airport in New Delhi. They were awaiting a small Soviet aircraft bringing in the dead body of India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. India had woken up to Shastri’s sudden death in Tashkent, Uzbekistan only hours ago. A sense of uncertainty over India’s political future surrounded the airport thicker than the Delhi fog. Many had come to the airport to mourn Shastri’s death, many for appearance sake. But at least one person was there for a clearer purpose. Clad in white khadi, was an astrologer, much consulted by top-level Congress politicians. He was there to predict who will be the next Prime Minister.

Unlike with Nehru, no one had anticipated Shastri’s death and there had been no discussion over the issue of his succession. Only two hours after his death, the President had sworn in the home minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda as the acting Prime Minister in the middle of night. But Nanda was considered a light-weight, unlikely to be able to turn his job permanent. Nevertheless, within twenty-four hours he threw his hat in the ring to be considered as the next Prime Minister. So did many others. Within two days of Shastri’s death, the list of politicians circling around the throne had grown considerably, including the defence minister YB Chavan, Mahashtrian politician SK Patil and the future President of India Sanjiva Reddy. But the strongest candidate was Morarji Desai.

Desai had already had already had bitter experience in his ambition to be India’s Prime Minister. In early 1960s, Desai was a centre of power within the Congress Party. A right-leaning, pro-business conservative leader, he had emerged as the opposing pole within the party to left-leaning, liberal Nehru. As the finance minister in Nehru’s Government, he had become so influential as to be considered by many as his natural successor, to the extent that in some of his foreign visits he got the treatment reserved for visiting heads of state. Had Nehru not eased him out of the Cabinet in 1963, he would have most likely become the next Prime Minister automatically. Instead, in 1964, when Nehru passed away, it was the unimpressive Shastri who got the chair, a shy, placating man who was so unimposing that his greatest achievement at the time seemed to be that he had “hardly ever made an enemy during his entire career”.

The architects for this upset had been a group of party insiders called the Syndicate. The Syndicate had emerged as a loose alliance of six or seven senior politicians in the months preceding Nehru’s death. These were leaders who weren’t part of the Cabinet, but managed the Congress party instead – the power brokers in Delhi. The Syndicate was led by a Tamil leader named K Kamaraj, who at the time was almost the kingmaker of India, the power behind the throne.

While the members of the Syndicate shared many ideological stands, the greatest uniting factor for them seemed to be their mutual dislike for Morarji Desai. They did not disagree with Desai ideologically in fact, the Syndicate was also conservative, pro-business and anti-socialism. Rather their concern appeared to be that Desai was too large a political entity and too independent to be tamed by the Syndicate. Many Syndicate members also had old feuds with Desai which contributed their distrust of the man. Accordingly, after Nehru’s death in 1964 the Syndicate had rallied their support against Desai’s candidacy and had instead propped up Shastri as the Prime Minister.

Nineteen months later, the Syndicate and Desai found themselves locked in the same struggle once again. But the dynamics was slightly different this time around. During his tenure, Shastri had confounded the expectation by growing into a strong, independent leader, weakening the Syndicate’s unspoken claim that they were the sole puppet masters in New Delhi. In 1965, there had been language riots in Madras, Kamaraj’s own backyard, politically weakening him significantly. The next general elections were right around the corner, and they needed a Prime Minister who could win them for the Congress. But most importantly, the Syndicate no longer had a viable candidate like Shastri to challenge Desai’s stature.

At first, the Syndicate tried to rally their support behind Kamaraj himself, but this was quickly abandoned when Kamaraj refused to be nominated saying he wasn’t someone the country to unite behind. “No English, no Hindi. How?” Instead, Kamaraj began considering another candidate – the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru.

In the last two years, Indira Gandhi’s political career had been in limbo. Although, she was one of the most recognized figures in Indian politics, had international recognition and had a secular image capable of catching minority votes, these strengths had played against her when Shastri had become the Prime Minister. While Shastri had recognized that he needed Mrs. Gandhi’s support, he didn’t want to give her too much impetus to grow into a challenger to his own position. Shastri had given her place in his cabinet as Information and Broadcasting Minister, but kept her at an arm’s length. Over 1964-65, the divisions between the two had grown and most likely Shastri was considering pushing her out of the Cabinet before he unexpectedly died. Even Mrs. Gandhi, disgruntled with her stalled career, was contemplating to leave New Delhi and move to England for a few years.

A rare photograph of Gandhi, Kamaraj and Desai together

This equation changed at one in the morning on 11 January 1966, when she was woken up by a phone call informing her of Shastri’s death. She immediately began seeking advice from her friends about her possible candidacy as his successor. In a couple of days she had made up her mind. Privately, she was willing to throw her hat in the ring. Officially, she maintained that she will consider the position if Congress leaders asked her to.

And the leaders did – rather, Kamaraj did. He correctly judged her to be the only possible challenger to Desai. She had the respect within the party, legacy of Nehru and name recognition that no one else did. More importantly, she was not too strong, and would need Syndicate’s support to run the country. Some Gandhi supporters have accused Kamaraj of underestimating her because she was a woman, but it is unlikely, for she had outshone many men in politics during her career already. It was more likely that Kamaraj calculated that she could be controlled through Congress committees and institutions, all of which the Syndicate dominated.

Whatever may be the reason, Kamaraj was convinced that the Syndicate could control Indira Gandhi, and continue their roles as the power behind the throne. Kamaraj mobilized his considerable influence and got her endorsements from most of the state Chief Ministers and eventually all the members of the Syndicate. With such strong support behind her, Mrs. Gandhi became strong enough to challenge Desai.

With the prize twice snatched from under his nose, Desai was adamant to see this struggle through. He demanded an open election within the Congress of all of the party’s MPs. Syndicate members mobilized their home states, delivering Mrs. Gandhi support from the southern states, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Desai could only carry his home state of Gujarat and the small factions from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Finally tally had Mrs. Gandhi leading with 355 votes to Desai’s 169.

India had a new Prime Minister. Desai had once again been thwarted in his ambition, something he will be able to realise only ten years later and then too for just twenty-six months. The Syndicate had got what they wanted, a pliable young woman, who they can control from behind the curtains. In the first few months, Mrs. Gandhi played their game, often accused of being nothing but an empty chair or famously “maum ki gudiya” (doll of wax). The understanding within the party was that her tenure was an interim arrangement, only to fill the gap until the 1967 elections.

The Syndicate, Congress Party, the media and the opposition – all proved to be wrong. Mrs. Gandhi soon set herself on a collision course with the Syndicate, a struggle that will turn into a full-blown battle for the soul of the Congress Party and India. At the height of crisis, the old kingmaker will find himself allied with his bitter enemy – Morarji Desai – fighting against the ever-growing political power of Mrs. Gandhi. For the first twenty years of India’s existence, political differences had been settled in the backrooms of Congress offices. Now they will be settled in the streets by the public.

The build up to the Congress Split had begun.

Sources: Desai, Morarji. The Story of My Life, McMillan India, 1974 Frank, Katherine. Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi, Harper Collins, 2010 Frankel, Francine R. India’s political economy, 1947-2004: the gradual revolution. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005 Ghosh, Atulya. The Split in Indian National Congress. Jayanti, 1970 Kochanek, Stanley A. The Congress Party of India: The dynamics of one-party democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968

80s History – 10/31/84 India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is Assassinated

On the 31st of October 1984, the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her very own Sikh bodyguards.

Gandhi was making her way to an interview where Peter Ustinov, an English actor, was going to speak with her and use the footage for a documentary. As the Prime Minister entered the garden area of her official residence in New Delhi, she went through a gate that was manned by two individuals: Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. These two men began shooting her.

A popular illustration of Indira Gandhi’s Assassination

Gandhi as a Leader

Before she was killed, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was considered a decisive and commanding leader–some critics even declared her leadership as dictatorial. Gandhi led India during the nuclear age and in the early 70s, she led her nation into the space age. By the time 1980 came, India was able to launch its very own satellite using the country’s own rocket.

In the early seventies, the Prime Minster wanted to make sure her country was to be a strong power to contend with in the subcontinent. This was the period when Pakistan was defeated by India in a war that lasted eleven months. As a result of this war, Bangladesh was formed from what was formerly known as East Pakistan.

As for ties with the international community, she was able to develop a strong relationship with the Soviet Union which enabled India was able to build an army that was well-equipped and strong. The nation was furthermore able to receive billions of dollars in aid from the United States for three decades.

She claimed her policy was ”pro-Indian” and that she wasn’t partial to any specific side in her nation. Her critics, however, contended that because of her, India was locked into a position that didn’t leave much room for flexibility.

One of her killers, Beant Singh, was a favorite guard of the Prime Minister. They had known each other for a decade. Her other assassin, Satwant Singh, was very young, during her assassination Singh was only 22 and was working as a bodyguard for Gandhi for only five months. As an accomplice, Satwant Singh, was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution took place on January 6, 1989.

Satwant Singh – Convicted and executed in January 1989

After her brutal and untimely death, citizens of India started riots that went on for four days, leaving over 8,000 Indian Sikhs dead because of the retaliation from Gandhi’s supporters.

80s History – 10/31/84 India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is Assassinated

On the 31st of October 1984, the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her very own Sikh bodyguards.

Gandhi was making her way to an interview where Peter Ustinov, an English actor, was going to speak with her and use the footage for a documentary. As the Prime Minister entered the garden area of her official residence in New Delhi, she went through a gate that was manned by two individuals: Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. These two men began shooting her.

A popular illustration of Indira Gandhi’s Assassination

Gandhi as a Leader

Before she was killed, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was considered a decisive and commanding leader–some critics even declared her leadership as dictatorial. Gandhi led India during the nuclear age and in the early 70s, she led her nation into the space age. By the time 1980 came, India was able to launch its very own satellite using the country’s own rocket.

In the early seventies, the Prime Minster wanted to make sure her country was to be a strong power to contend with in the subcontinent. This was the period when Pakistan was defeated by India in a war that lasted eleven months. As a result of this war, Bangladesh was formed from what was formerly known as East Pakistan.

As for ties with the international community, she was able to develop a strong relationship with the Soviet Union which enabled India was able to build an army that was well-equipped and strong. The nation was furthermore able to receive billions of dollars in aid from the United States for three decades.

She claimed her policy was ”pro-Indian” and that she wasn’t partial to any specific side in her nation. Her critics, however, contended that because of her, India was locked into a position that didn’t leave much room for flexibility.

One of her killers, Beant Singh, was a favorite guard of the Prime Minister. They had known each other for a decade. Her other assassin, Satwant Singh, was very young, during her assassination Singh was only 22 and was working as a bodyguard for Gandhi for only five months. As an accomplice, Satwant Singh, was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution took place on January 6, 1989.

Satwant Singh – Convicted and executed in January 1989

After her brutal and untimely death, citizens of India started riots that went on for four days, leaving over 8,000 Indian Sikhs dead because of the retaliation from Gandhi’s supporters.

Here are some of Rajiv Gandhi’s failures as the Prime Minister of India:

Shielding culprits: Bhopal Gas Tragedy is certainly the biggest industrial mishap of India and one of the biggest in the world. Rajiv Gandhi allowed safe passage to Warren Anderson, the key accused in Bhopal gas tragedy case in exchange for the release of his childhood friend (?), who was serving a 35-year sentence in the US.

Scammer: Rajiv Gandhi literally inaugurated the congress led mega scam festival with the help of his wife Sonia Gandhi and her Italian accomplices. The Bofors Scandal was first mentioned on Swedish Radio. It was alleged that the equivalent of sixty crores of Indian rupees were paid as bribes to Indian officials and Congress party members to secure the contract for the 410 howitzer guns to Bofors company of Sweden in face of stiff competition from a French gun company. It is also said Rajiv Gandhi rigged Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections of 1987 to favor its ally, National Conference. Leading political pundits ascribe the rise of Mujahiddins in the valley with the rigging of the ’87 elections.

Pseudo Secular: Rajiv Gandhi took Congress’s tried and tested strategy of Minority Appeasement to a whole new level by overruling a court judgement and enforcing an archaic law which took the right to alimony for Muslim women from their former husbands. He snatched the basic rights of Muslim Women in order to appease the Muslim clergymen who had and still have a domineering presence over the minds of Muslims. This is popularly known as the Shah Bano Case. Rajiv Gandhi cemented his position as the champion of Minority rights in India by getting Salman Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verses” banned.

Cold and Cruel: More than 8000 Sikhs were murdered in cold blood in and around Delhi as a retribution for the assassination of Indira Gandhi. He famously remarked “When a big tree falls, earth trembles”.

Here’s he uttering the infamous words:

Terrible Strategist: Rajiv Gandhi sent more than 100,000 soldiers (Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF) to Sri Lanka amidst the LTTE crisis. The IPKF had been mandated to disarm LTTE. He sent troops to Sri Lanka without even informing the Cabinet. It was a part of some masterplan which could never take off. The Indian army bore the ire of the locals and close to 1200 armed men ended up losing their lives. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE later on.

Here’s a Sri Lankan Soldier attacking Rajiv Gandhi in a State Event and in full public view:

So we see Rajiv Gandhi’s career is marred with inefficiencies, terrible decision making, dishonesty and general foolhardiness. However he is perceived as a renaissance man by a large section of Indians. The Congress governments left no stone unturned in eulogizing him. There are as many as 16 schemes in the name of Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Awaas Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Shashaktikaran Abhiyan, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowships for ST students, are among few of the schemes named after him.

History has been very kind to Rajiv Gandhi who in my opinion is the worst Prime Minister India ever had!

With inputs from this Quora Post.

Cops with body-worn cameras hit Indian streets

Can only God help Muslim women?

Atul Kumar Mishra

Lovable Narcissist | Whiskey Lover | Dharma Warrior | Founder, The Frustrated Indian | CEO,

Comments 26

Not to forget the The Rajiv Gandhi international airport at Hyderbad. When the state was ruled by congress they changed the name of the airport to RJI. People protested against this and wanted the airport to be named after many of their local heroes, but this didn’t happen. Even national heroes like Bhagat singh and subash chandra bose do not have schemes or airports named after them. All we see is Indra gandhi airport or Rajeev gandhi airport. #CongessFreeIndia.

Kolkata’s airport is named after Netaji. Punjab government has proposed Mohali airport to be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

I think the point Maninder was trying to make is, by default, everything is named after some Gandhi or Nehru across India… A few cases will be exception here and there like you mentioned…

Probably one of the other only contribution of his was listening to Sam Petroda and allowing the Computer Education into India in the ISC/ICSE boards.

I am also for #CongressFreeIndia.

What a big gandu this author Mishra is…. Were you born out of your mother’s anus. The very computer you are using was brought in by Rajiv’s efforts…. The whole IT brigade and digitization that modi is barking about would not have been possible without that.. The Maruti’s and various other to include in that list…. And Aadil was not released in lieu of Anderson… Just because some asshole sanghis like you spread this bullshit, does not means this is truth… Go and get back inside the very anus you came out from… Or keep licking the Modi and BJP ke “tatte” which you biharis are good at…. Mishra #Bhosdi ke

He may have had his faults but a balanced article should have credited him for ushering IT revolution in India .

Sanghis do not credit anyone…. They only follow in the same direction where another kaccha dhari is going..

yeah it can be documented on the back of a postal stamp, he said

The real source of corruption was sonia gandhi and now rahul gandhi.

Please justify . Its your post, which you posted 22 hours back.

/>Atul Kumar Mishra says:

I posted it in the satire section, now give me a 5

You shouldn’t have said that it ‘This led to a rise of countless Sikh militant outfits and an era of hatred and vengeance.’ – that leads the reader to believe that there were none before. You should have said that it worsened the conflict.

Also, I think it would be appropriate to mention that Rajeev Gandhi came to power with the BIGGEST mandate of Indian history, just to contrast with how badly he let people down. And also it is probably relevant to know that today because another guy has become prime minister with, if not as big a mandate as Rajeev Gandhi’s, a big one all the same.

Also mention how he become Prime Minister after Indira’s death when there were several competent congress leaders like one our current President.

Oh dont you statrt again. When you have Rahul Gandhi now what is the point of looking for others. Infact, After Rahul Gandhi, Vadra sons are now being projected as Gandhis and there you go.. Continuous flow of leaders as long as they keep f****g.

RAJIV CHOWK, IGI AIRPORT.. Every second place in India has either Indira or Rajiv in it’s name.. We celebrate children’s day because it’s “Chacha Nehru’s” birthday. A simple search for nehru and helena mountbatten reveals what kind of people he was.. so sad.

well given the Childrens day is linked to Nehru, we should rename Children’s day as Production of Children’s day.
The new Children’s day should be celebrated on APJ Kalam’s bday.

Well, most of the erstwhile leaders glorified today had shades of grey….

Sir don’t you think instead of opening old graves you can remind Mr. Modi on his old tweets of Dollar/ onion prices and save him from being another worst PM?

And as far as comparison is concerned Modi has also been accused of saving Jailed Minister like Yeddurappa/ Amit Shah, saving jailed rioters like Bajrangi/ Kodnani, transferring/ sacking officers who spoke against his cases, like Satish Verma/ Rahul Sharma/ Sanjiv Bhatt. Nepotism towards Andanis Australian deals or promoting close tained officers, Lawyers as ACB or Judges? Like Rajeev, he is also Infamous for irresponsible quotes during riots.

Also like Modiji judiciary cudn’t prove anything against Rajiv Gandhi aswel. Though I agree as Rajiv G is the most overrated PM, but Modiji still have 4 years and some more court cases to go. And unfortunately his first year itself has not been very pleasant to the country. Lets think.

here we go again.. Aaptards

Your intelligence stops here. Tumse na ho payega.

He was responsible for banning ‘GANJA’, A holy-medicinal plant!

From 1960’s, the US government wanted to ban the most medicinal plant across the world and create a taboo and a propaganda around Cannabis, also known as ganja and bhang in india. They created the first psychotropic meet at United Nations in 1961 and then in 1971 and forced every country to ban and prohibit the use of the plant so that they could establish the pharmaceutical culture.

India resisted all pressures from the united nations for over 25 years. They said that Bhang is a holy medicine and its written in our veda and ayurveda that its a sacred plant. and india had a strong open culture towards smoking cannabis for recreational and spiritual purposes and many ayurvedic medicines used bhang in it to heal the people completely and remain healthy. India said no to Banning a HOLY plant.

But not until this idiot came into power! INDIA PROhibited the use of Cannabis in Narcotic Drug and Psycotropic Substances Act of 1985 and included Cannabis as a schedule 1 drug with the likes of cocaine, heroine and Meth and hundred more chemically toxic substances.

And Ever since, allopathy took a stong firmhold in our country and now they are poisoning millions of people and looting all the money in form of pills, injections, chemotherapy and radiation when in fact Cannabis alone can cure hundreds of diseases including Cancer and HIV.

The law is highly unconstitutional. he stepped over the ‘Right to Life’.

a loser of a prime minister indeed!

Join the ‘GREAT LEGALISATION MOVEMENT – India’ to legalise and give the plant back to our suffering people.

It will be meaningful that let all the new proposed &
built sulabh sauchalaya be named after Fake Gandhi.
(as congi quote congress ek party nayi hai ek soch hai) & Vidya Balan quote in her campaign
jaha soch hai waha shauchalaya hai

Rajiv Gandhi

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Rajiv Gandhi, in full Rajiv Ratna Gandhi, (born August 20, 1944, Bombay [now Mumbai], India—died May 21, 1991, Sriperumbudur, near Madras [now Chennai]), Indian politician and government official who rose to become the leader of the Congress (I) Party (a faction of the Indian National Congress [Congress Party] established in 1981) and served as prime minister of India (1984–89) after the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi, in 1984. He was himself assassinated in 1991.

Rajiv and his younger brother, Sanjay (1946–80), the sons of Feroze and Indira Gandhi, were educated at the prestigious Doon School in Dehra Dun (now in Uttarakhand state). Rajiv then attended Imperial College, London, and completed an engineering course at the University of Cambridge (1965). He met his future wife, Sonia, during his time in England. After returning to India, he acquired a commercial pilot’s license and, beginning in 1968, worked for Indian Airlines.

While his brother was alive, Rajiv largely stayed out of politics but, after Sanjay, a vigorous political figure, died in an airplane crash on June 23, 1980, Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, drafted Rajiv into a political career. In June 1981 he was elected in a by-election to the Lok Sabha (lower chamber of national parliament) and in the same month became a member of the national executive of the Indian Youth Congress (the youth wing of the Congress Party).

Whereas Sanjay had been described as politically “ruthless” and “willful” (he was considered a prime mover during the state of emergency his mother decreed in India in 1975–77), Rajiv was regarded as a nonabrasive person who consulted other party members and refrained from hasty decisions. After his mother was killed on October 31, 1984, Rajiv was sworn in as prime minister that same day and was elected leader of the Congress (I) Party a few days later. He led the Congress (I) Party to a landslide victory in elections to the Lok Sabha in December 1984, and his administration took vigorous measures to reform the government bureaucracy and liberalize the country’s economy. Gandhi’s attempts to discourage separatist movements in Punjab state and the Kashmir region backfired, however, and after his government became embroiled in several financial scandals, his leadership became increasingly ineffectual. He resigned his post as prime minister in November 1989 after the Congress (I) Party was defeated in parliamentary elections, though he remained leader of the party.

In May 1991 Gandhi was campaigning in Tamil Nadu state for the next round of parliamentary elections when he and 16 others were killed by a bomb concealed in a basket of flowers carried by a woman associated with the Tamil Tigers. In 1998 an Indian court convicted 26 people in the conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi. The conspirators, who consisted of Tamil militants from Sri Lanka and their Indian allies, had sought revenge against Gandhi because the Indian troops he had sent to Sri Lanka in 1987 to help enforce a peace accord there had ended up fighting the Tamil separatist guerrillas. After Rajiv’s death, his widow, Sonia Gandhi, took over the leadership of the Congress Party (the “I” designation was formally dropped in 1996).

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kenneth Pletcher, Senior Editor.

Watch the video: India Tv Exclusive: Indira Gandhis last moments-1