India Of My Dreams Essay By Indira Gandhi Wikipedia

Sanjay Gandhi (14 December 1946 – 23 June 1980)[1] was an Indian politician. He was a family member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. During his lifetime he was widely expected to succeed his mother, Indira Gandhi as head of the Indian National Congress, but following his early death in a plane crash his elder brother Rajiv became their mother's political heir, and succeeded her as Prime Minister of India after her death. Sanjay's widow Maneka Gandhi and son Varun Gandhi are leading politicians in the BJP.

Early life and education[edit]

Sanjay was born in New Delhi, on 14 December 1946, as the younger son of Indira Gandhi, later to become Prime Minister of India, and Feroze Gandhi. Like his elder brother Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay studied first at Welham Boys' School and then at the Doon School in Dehra Dun. Sanjay never attended college, but took up automotive engineering as a career and underwent an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe, England for three years.[2][3] He was very interested in sports cars, and also obtained a pilot's licence[citation needed]. While he was building a career as an airline pilot, independent of politics[citation needed], Sanjay remained close to his mother.

Maruti Limited controversy[edit]

In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Cabinet proposed the production of a "People's car": an efficient indigenous car that middle-class Indians could afford. In June 1971, a company known as 'Maruti Motors Limited' was incorporated under the Companies Act and Sanjay Gandhi became its Managing Director.[3] While Sanjay had no previous experience, design proposals or links with any corporation, he was awarded the contract to build the car and the exclusive production licence. The criticism that followed this decision was mostly directed at Indira, but the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and victory over Pakistan muted the critical voices. The company did not produce any vehicles during his lifetime. A test model put out as a showpiece to demonstrate progress was criticized. Public perception turned against Sanjay, and many began to speculate growing corruption. Sanjay then contacted Volkswagen AG from West Germany for a possible collaboration, transfer of technology and joint production of the Indian version of the "People's Car", to emulate Volkswagen's worldwide success with the Beetle. During the Emergency, Sanjay became active in politics and the Maruti project went on a back burner. There were accusations of nepotism and corruption. Finally, the Janata Government came to power in 1977 and "Maruti Limited" was liquidated.[4] A commission was set up by the new government headed by Justice A. P. Gupta which gave very critical report of the Maruti affair.[5] A year after his death in 1980, and at the behest of Indira, the Union government salvaged Maruti Limited and started looking for an active collaborator for a new company. Maruti Udyog Ltd. was incorporated in the same year through the efforts of V. Krishnamurthy.[6] The Japanese company Suzuki was also contacted to present the design and feasibility of their car to be manufactured in India. When Suzuki learned that the Government of India had contacted Volkswagen as well, it did everything to pip the German company in the race to produce India's first People's Car (Maruti 800).[citation needed] It provided the government a feasible Design of their 'Model 796', which was also successful in Japan and East Asian countries.

Role during emergency[edit]

In 1974, the opposition-led protests and strikes had caused a widespread disturbance in many parts of the country and badly affected the government and the economy. On 25 June 1975 following an adverse court decision against her, Indira Gandhi declared a national emergency, delayed elections, censored the press and suspended some constitutional freedoms in the name of national security. Non-Congress governments throughout the country were dismissed. Thousands of people, including several freedom fighters like Jaya Prakash Narayan and Jivatram Kripalani who were against the Emergency were arrested.

In the extremely hostile political environment just before and soon after the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi rose in importance as Indira's adviser. With the defections of former loyalists, Sanjay's influence with Indira and the government increased dramatically, although he was never in an official or elected position. According to Mark Tully, "His inexperience did not stop him from using the Draconian powers his mother, Indira Gandhi, had taken to terrorise the administration, setting up what was in effect a police state."[7]

It was said that during the Emergency, he virtually ran India along with his friends, especially Bansi Lal.[8] It was also quipped that Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).[9][10][11] He "recruited into the party thousands of younger people, many of them hooligans and ruffians, who used threats and force to intimidate rivals and those who opposed Mrs Gandhi's authority or his own."[12]

During the emergency, Indira Gandhi declared a 20-point economic programme for development. Sanjay also declared his own much shorter five points program promoting

Later during the emergency Sanjay's programme was merged with Indira's 20-point programme to make a combined twenty-five point programme.[13]

Out of the five points, Sanjay is now chiefly remembered for the family planning initiative that attracted much notoriety and caused longterm harm to population control in India.[14][15]

Involvement in politics and government[edit]

Although he had not been elected and held no office, Sanjay began exercising his new-found influence with Cabinet ministers, high-level government officials and police officers. While many Cabinet ministers and officials resigned in protest,[16] Sanjay reportedly appointed their successors.

In one famous example, Inder Kumar Gujral resigned from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting when Sanjay attempted to direct the affairs of his ministry and give him orders. Gujral is reported to have angrily rebuked Sanjay and refused to take orders from an unelected person.[16] Gujral was replaced by Vidya Charan Shukla, a Sanjay Gandhi acolyte. In another incident, after popular Bollywood singer Kishore Kumar refused to sing at a function of the Indian Youth Congress, his songs were banned on All India Radio upon Gandhi's insistence.[17]

Sanjay stood for his first election to the Indian parliament following the lifting of the Emergency in March 1977. This election saw the crushing defeat of not only Sanjay in his constituency of Amethi but also the wiping out of Indira's Congress party throughout Northern India. However, Sanjay won Amethi for the Congress(I) in the next general election held in January 1980.

Just one month before his death, he was appointed secretary general of the Congress Party in May 1980.[18]

Jama Masjid beautification and slum demolition[edit]

Sanjay Gandhi, accompanied by Jagmohan the vice-chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), was reportedly irked during his visit to Turkman Gate in old Delhi area that he couldn't see the grand old Jama Masjid because of the maze of tenements. On 13 April 1976, the DDA team bulldozed the tenements. Police resorted to firing to quell the demonstrations opposing the destruction. The firing resulted in at least 150 deaths. Over 70,000 people were displaced during this episode. The displaced inhabitants were moved to a new undeveloped housing site across the Yamuna river.[19]

Compulsory sterilization program[edit]

In September 1976, Sanjay Gandhi initiated a widespread compulsory sterilization program to limit population growth. The exact extent of Sanjay Gandhi's role in the implementation of the program is somewhat disputed, with some writers[20][21][22][23] holding Gandhi directly responsible for his authoritarianism, and other writers[24] blaming the officials who implemented the program rather than Gandhi himself.

David Frum and Vinod Mehta state that the sterilization programmes were initiated at the behest of the IMF and the World Bank:

"Forced sterilisation was by far the most calamitous exercise undertaken during the Emergency. The IMF and World Bank had periodically shared their fears with New Delhi about the uncontrolled rise in population levels. India’s democracy was a hurdle: no government could possibly enact laws limiting the number of children a couple could have without incurring punishment at the ballot box. But with democracy suspended, the IMF and World Bank encouraged Indira to pursue the programme with renewed vigour. Indira and Sanjay, the self-styled socialists, inflicting on Indians the humiliation of forced sterilisation in order to appease western loan sharks: the irony was lost on them. Socialism, like much else, had been reduced to a slogan."

— David Frum, reviewing The Sanjay Story by Vinod Mehta[25]

Attempted assassination[edit]

Sanjay Gandhi escaped an assassination attempt in March 1977.[26] Unknown gunmen fired at his car about 300 miles south-east of New Delhi during his election campaign.[26]

Kissa Kursi Ka case[edit]

Kissa Kursi Ka was a satirical film directed by Amrit Nahata that lampooned Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. The film was submitted to the Censor Board for certification in April 1975. The film had lampooned Sanjay Gandhi's car manufacturing plans, besides Congress supporters like Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, private secretary to Indira Gandhi R.K. Dhawan, and Rukhsana Sultana. The board sent the film to a seven-member revising committee, which further sent it to the Government. Subsequently, a show-cause notice raising 51 objections was sent to the producer by the Information and Broadcasting ministry. In his reply submitted on 11 July 1975, Nahata stated that the characters were "imaginary and do not refer to any political party or persons". By the time, the Emergency had already been declared.[27]

Subsequently, all the prints and the master-print of the film at Censor Board office were picked up, and brought to Maruti factory in Gurgaon where they were burned. The subsequent Shah Commission established by Government of India in 1977 to enquire into excesses committed in the Indian Emergency found Sanjay Gandhi guilty of burning the negative, along with V. C. Shukla, Information and Broadcasting minister at the time.[27][28]

Legal case[edit]

The legal case ran for 11 months, and the court gave its judgment on 27 February 1979. Both Sanjay Gandhi and Shukla were sentenced to a two-year plus a month prison sentence. Sanjay Gandhi was denied bail. In his judgment, District Judge, O. N. Vohra at Tis Hazari in Delhi, found the accused guilty of "criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, mischief by fire, dishonestly receiving criminal property, concealing stolen property and disappearance of evidence".[29] The verdict was later overturned.[27][28]

Personal life[edit]

Sanjay Gandhi married Maneka Anand, who was 10 years his junior, in New Delhi in October 1974.[30] Their son, Varun Gandhi, was born shortly before Sanjay's death.[18] Maneka and Varun Gandhi represent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha.

A hitherto unknown chapter of his personal life was revealed in January 2017, when Priya Singh Paul claimed that Sanjay Gandhi was her biological father[31], and that she was given away by her biological family for adoption. In June 2017, she gave a legal notice in her capacity as his daughter to stop the release of a film on Sanjay Gandhi.[32]

Death and legacy[edit]

Sanjay Gandhi died instantly from head wounds in an air crash on 23 June 1980 near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi.[18] He was flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying club, and, while performing an aerobatic manoeuvre over his office, lost control and crashed. The only passenger in the plane, Captain Subhash Saxena, also died in the crash.[18]Wikileaks has revealed that three attempts were made on his life before he died in the plane crash.[33][34]

According to Maneka Gandhi, Sanjay wanted to raise his children in the Zoroastrian faith of his family.[35]

Sanjay's death led his mother to induct her other son Rajiv Gandhi into Indian politics. Upon the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv succeeded her as Prime Minister of India. Sanjay's widow Maneka fell out with her in-laws soon after Sanjay's death and started her own party named Sanjay Vichar Manch. Maneka served in a number of non-Congress opposition-led governments over the years. Currently, she and her son Varun are members of the BJP, which is the current ruling party in India. Maneka was appointed to the cabinet as Minister of Women and Child Development by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014. Varun is a BJP member of Parliament from Sultanpur Constituency in Uttar Pradesh.[36]


  1. ^ abDommermuth-Costa, Carol. Indira Gandhi. p. 60. 
  2. ^First Woman of IndiaSt. Petersburg Times, 10 January 1966.
  3. ^ ab"Maruti and Sanjay Gandhi: The history of an illicit, extraordinary love affair". Motoroids. 
  4. ^Bhupesh Bhandari (11 Jul 2015). "Emergency and Sanjay Gandhi: How Maruti's origin lies in cronyism, corruption and blackmail". Business Standard. 
  5. ^Sunil Sethi and Prabhu Chawla (1 Mar 2014). "Maruti Commission report: no fear to remember". India Today. 
  6. ^The Maruti Udyog official Website Timeline PageArchived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^Mark Tully Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle, p. 55, ISBN 81-291-0917-4
  8. ^Subodh Ghildiyal (29 December 2010). "Cong blames Sanjay Gandhi for Emergency 'excesses'". Times Of India. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  9. ^"Mystery Called Sanjay Gandhi". Scribd. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  10. ^Express News Service (11 June 2013). "Emergency 'propagandist' who banned Kishore Kumar songs". Indian Express. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  11. ^Dasgupta, Swapan (July 1985). "Book reviews". Third World Quarterly. 7 (3): 731–778. doi:10.1080/01436598508419863. 
  12. ^Brass, Paul R. (2004). Gandhi, Indira Priyadarshini (1917–1984). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  13. ^Tarlo, Emma (2001). Unsettling memories : narratives of the emergency in Delhi. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-520-23122-8. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  14. ^Lehner, Eliza Ann. "Conceiving the Impact: Connecting Population Growth and Environmental Sustainability"(PDF). Harvard College. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  15. ^Robinson, Warren C.; editors, John A. Ross, (2007). The global family planning revolution : three decades of population policies and programs. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. pp. 311–312. ISBN 0-8213-6951-2. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  16. ^ abMoro, Javier (2015) The red sari. Roli Group, 429 p.
  17. ^Guha, R. (2008). India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy: Pan Macmillan.
  18. ^ abcdGupta, Ranjan (24 June 1980). "Sanjay Gandhi dies in plane crash". The Sydney Morning Herald. New Delhi. Reuters. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  19. ^India Since Independence: Making Sense Of Indian Politics. Pearson Education India. 2012. 
  20. ^Vinay Lal. "Indira Gandhi". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  21. ^Subodh Ghildiyal (29 December 2010). "Cong blames Sanjay Gandhi for Emergency 'excesses'". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  22. ^Kumkum Chadha (4 January 2011). "Sanjay's men and women". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  23. ^"Sanjay Gandhi worked in an authoritarian manner: Congress book". 28 December 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  24. ^India: The Years of Indira Gandhi. Brill Academic Pub. 1988. 
  25. ^Frum, David (29 November 2012). "Hold Onto Your Penis". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  26. ^ ab"Sanjay Gandhi escapes assassination". St. Petersburg Times. 15 March 1977. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  27. ^ abc"30 greatest stories revisited: Sanjay Gandhi and 'Kissa Kursi Ka' film lampooning him : Cover Story". India Today. 18 December 2006. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  28. ^ ab"1978- Kissa Kursi Ka: Celluloid chutzpah : Cover Story". India Today. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  29. ^"Sanjay Gandhi Guilty In Film Case". St. Petersburg Times. 27 February 1979. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  30. ^"Quiet Wedding in New Delhi". The Milwaukee Journal. New Delhi. AP. 3 December 1974. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  31. ^"Priya Singh Paul claimed to be Daughter of Sanjay Gandhi". 10 January 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017. 
  32. ^Jha, Subhash (June 29, 2017). "Sanjay Gandhi's 'daughter' sends legal notice to Indu Sarkar director Madhur Bhandarkar". Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 July 2017. 
  33. ^Aisharya S (July 1, 2017). "Wikileaks reveals 3 attempts were made to kill Sanjay Gandhi before his plane crash!". Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  34. ^"Three attempts were made to kill Sanjay Gandhi: WikiLeaks - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-11-24. 
  35. ^Hinnells, John (28 April 2005), The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration, OUP Oxford, pp. 397–398, ISBN 978-0-19-826759-1 
  36. ^"Election Results 2014: BJP Leader Varun Gandhi Wins From Sultanpur". Retrieved 2017-11-24. 


Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindustani: [ˈɪnːdɪrə ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi] ( listen); née Nehru; 19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian stateswoman and central figure of the Indian National Congress.[1] She was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi belonged to the Nehru–Gandhi family and was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian prime minister. Despite her surname Gandhi, she is not related to the family of Mahatma Gandhi. She served 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.

Gandhi served as her father's personal assistant and hostess during his tenure as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1964. She was elected Congress President in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.[2] In the Congress Party's parliamentary leadership election held in early 1966 (upon the death of Shastri) she defeated her rival, Morarji Desai, to become leader, and thus succeeded Shastri as Prime Minister of India.

As Prime Minister, Gandhi was known for her political ruthlessness and unprecedented centralisation of power. She went to war with Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of independence in East Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh, as well as increasing India's influence to the point where it became the regional hegemon of South Asia. Citing fissiparous tendencies and in response to a call for revolution, Gandhi instituted a state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 where basic civil liberties were suspended and press was censored. Widespread atrocities were carried out during the emergency. In 1980, she returned to power after free and fair elections. She was assassinated by her own bodyguards and Sikh nationalists in 1984. The assassins, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, were both shot by other security guards. Satwant Singh recovered from his injuries and was executed after being convicted of murder.

In 1999, Indira Gandhi was named "Woman of the Millennium" in an online poll organised by the BBC.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Indira Gandhi was born as Indira Nehru in a Kashmiri Pandit family on 19 November 1917 in Allahabad. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a leading figure in India's political struggle for independence from British rule, and became the first Prime Minister of the Dominion (and later Republic) of India. She was the only child (a younger brother was born, but died young), and grew up with her mother, Kamala Nehru, at the Anand Bhavan; a large family estate in Allahabad. She had a lonely and unhappy childhood. Her father was often away, directing political activities or incarcerated, while her mother was frequently bed-ridden with illness, and later suffered an early death from tuberculosis. She had limited contact with her father, mostly through letters.

Indira was mostly taught at home by tutors, and intermittently attended school until matriculation in 1934. She was a student at the Modern School in Delhi, St Cecilia's and St Mary's Christian convent schools in Allahabad,[11] the International School of Geneva, the Ecole Nouvelle in Bex, and the Pupils' Own School in Poona and Bombay, which is affiliated to University of Mumbai. She and her mother Kamala Nehru moved to Belur Math headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission where Swami Ranganathananda was her guardian[13] later she went on to study at the Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan. It was during her interview that Rabindranath Tagore named her Priyadarshini, and she came to be known as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru. A year later, however, she had to leave university to attend to her ailing mother in Europe. While there, it was decided that Indira would continue her education at the University of Oxford. After her mother died, she briefly attended the Badminton School before enrolling at Somerville College in 1937 to study history. Indira had to take the entrance examination twice, having failed at her first attempt with a poor performance in Latin. At Oxford, she did well in history, political science and economics, but her grades in Latin—a compulsory subject—remained poor. She did, however, have an active part within the student life of the university, such as the Oxford Majlis Asian Society.[20]

During her time in Europe, Indira was plagued with ill-health and was constantly attended by doctors. She had to make repeated trips to Switzerland to recover, disrupting her studies. She was being treated there in 1940, when the Nazi armies rapidly conquered Europe. Gandhi tried to return to England through Portugal but was left stranded for nearly two months. She managed to enter England in early 1941, and from there returned to India without completing her studies at Oxford. The university later awarded her an honorary degree. In 2010, Oxford further honoured her by selecting her as one of the ten Oxasians, illustrious Asian graduates from the University of Oxford.[21] During her stay in Great Britain, Indira frequently met her future husband Feroze Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi), whom she knew from Allahabad, and who was studying at the London School of Economics. The marriage took place in Allahabad according to Adi Dharm rituals though Feroze belonged to a ZoroastrianParsi family of Gujarat.[22] The couple had two sons, Rajiv Gandhi (born 1944) and Sanjay Gandhi (born 1946).

In the 1950s, Indira, now Mrs Indira Gandhi after her marriage, served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as the first Prime Minister of India.[23] Towards the end of the 1950s, Indira Gandhi served as the President of the Congress. In that capacity, she was instrumental in getting the Communist led Kerala State Government dismissed in 1959. That government had the distinction of being India's first ever elected Communist Government.[24] After her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and served in Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.[25] In January 1966, after Shastri's death, the Congress legislative party elected Indira Gandhi over Morarji Desai as their leader. Congress party veteran K. Kamaraj was instrumental in achieving Indira's victory.[26] Because she was a woman, other political leaders in India saw Gandhi as weak and hoped to use her as a puppet once elected:

Congress President Kamaraj orchestrated Mrs. Gandhi's selection as prime minister because he perceived her to be weak enough that he and the other regional party bosses could control her, and yet strong enough to beat Desai [her political opponent] in a party election because of the high regard for her father…a woman would be an ideal tool for the Syndicate.[27]

First term as prime minister between 1966 and 1977[edit]

The first eleven years of Indira's position as prime minister saw her evolving from the perception of party leaders to the one with iron resolve to split the party for her policy positions or to go to war with Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh. At the end of this term in 1977, she was such a dominating figure in Indian politics that a Congress party president had coined the phrase "India is Indira and Indira is India."[28]

First year[edit]

Indira formed her government with Morarji Desai as deputy prime minister and finance minister. At the beginning of her first term as prime minister, Indira was widely criticized by the media and the opposition as a "Goongi goodiya" (Hindi word for a dumb doll or puppet) of the Congress party bosses who had got her elected and tried to constrain her.[29][30]


The first electoral test for Indira was the 1967 general elections for the Lok sabha and state assemblies. The Congress Party won a reduced majority for the Lok sabha in these elections owing to widespread disenchantment over rising prices of commodities, unemployment, economic stagnation and a food crisis. Indira Gandhi had started on a rocky note after agreeing to a devaluation of the rupee, which created much hardship for Indian businesses and consumers, and the import of wheat from the United States fell through due to political disputes.[31]

The party also for the first time lost power or lost majority in a number of states across the country. Following the 1967 elections, Indira Gandhi gradually started moving towards socialist policies. In 1969, she fell out with senior Congress party leaders on a number of issues. Chief among them was the decision by Indira to support V. V. Giri, the independent candidate rather than the official Congress party candidate Neelam Sanjiva Reddy for the vacant position of President of India. The other was the announcement by the prime minister of Bank nationalization without consulting the finance minister, Morarji Desai. These steps culminated in Party president S. Nijalingappa expelling her from the party for indiscipline.[32][33][34] Gandhi, in turn floated her own faction of the Congress party and managed to retain most of the Congress MPs on her side with only 65 on the side of Congress (O) faction. The Indira faction, called Congress (R), lost its majority in the parliament but remained in power with the support of regional parties such as DMK.[35] The policies of the Congress under Indira Gandhi, prior to the 1971 elections, also included proposals for the abolition of Privy Purse to former rulers of the Princely states and the 1969 nationalization of the fourteen largest banks in India.


Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi's 1971 bid. On the other hand, the combined opposition alliance had a two word manifesto of "Indira Hatao" (Remove Indira).[36][37] The Garibi Hatao slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programs that came with it were designed to give Gandhi an independent national support, based on rural and urban poor. This would allow her to bypass the dominant rural castes both in and of state and local governments; likewise the urban commercial class. And, for their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight[citation needed]. The programs created through Garibi Hatao, though carried out locally, were funded and developed by the Central Government in New Delhi. The program was supervised and staffed by the Indian National Congress party. "These programs also provided the central political leadership with new and vast patronage resources to be disbursed... throughout the country.",[38]

The biggest achievement of Indira Gandhi after the 1971 election came in December 1971 with India's decisive victory over Pakistan in the liberation war, that led to the formation of independent Bangladesh. She was hailed as Goddess Durga by opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee at that time.[39][40][41][42][note 1] In the elections held for State assemblies across India in March 1972, the Congress (R) swept to power in most states riding on the post-war "Indira wave".[44]

Despite the victory against Pakistan, the Congress government faced numerous problems during this term. Some of these were due to high inflation which was in turn caused by war time expenses, drought in some parts of the country and more importantly, the 1973 oil crisis. The opposition to Gandhi in 1973–75 period, after the Indira wave had receded, was strongest in the states of Bihar and Gujarat. In Bihar, Jayaprakash Narayan, the veteran leader came out of retirement to lead the protest movement there.[44]

Verdict on electoral malpractice[edit]

On 12 June 1975, the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha in 1971 void on grounds of electoral malpractice. In an election petition filed by her 1971 opponent, Raj Narain (who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from Raebareli), alleged several major as well as minor instances of using government resources for campaigning.[45][46] The court ordered her stripped of her parliamentary seat and banned from running for any office for six years. According to constitution, the Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha (the lower house in the Parliament of India) or a member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house). Thus, this decision effectively removed her from office. Gandhi had asked one of her colleagues in government, Mr. Ashoke Kumar Sen to defend her in court.

But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha at Allahabad High Court. It came almost four years after the case was brought by Raj Narain, the premier's defeated opponent in the 1971 parliamentary election. Gandhi, who gave evidence in her defence during the trial, was found guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for party purposes.[45][47] The judge, however, rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.

Gandhi insisted that the conviction did not undermine her position, despite having been unseated from the lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, by order of the High Court. She said: "There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments". And she dismissed criticism of the way her Congress Party raised election campaign money, saying all parties used the same methods. The prime minister retained the support of her party, which issued a statement backing her. After news of the verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging their loyalty. Indian High Commissioner BK Nehru said Gandhi's conviction would not harm her political career. "Mrs Gandhi has still today overwhelming support in the country," he said. "I believe the prime minister of India will continue in office until the electorate of India decides otherwise".

State of Emergency (1975–1977)[edit]

Main article: The Emergency (India)

Gandhi moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the unrest. Her Cabinet and government then recommended that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a state of emergency because of the disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court decision. Accordingly, Ahmed declared a State of Emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352(1) of the Constitution, on 25 June 1975.

Rule by decree[edit]

Within a few months, President's rule was imposed on the two opposition party ruled states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu thereby bringing the entire country under direct Central rule or by governments led by the ruling Congress party.[48] Police were granted powers to impose curfews and indefinitely detain citizens and all publications were subjected to substantial censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Finally, the impending legislative assembly elections were indefinitely postponed, with all opposition-controlled state governments being removed by virtue of the constitutional provision allowing for a dismissal of a state government on recommendation of the state's governor.

Indira Gandhi used the emergency provisions to change conflicting party members.

Unlike her father Jawaharlal Nehru, who preferred to deal with strong chief ministers in control of their legislative parties and state party organizations, Mrs. Gandhi set out to remove every Congress chief minister who had an independent base and to replace each of them with ministers personally loyal to her...Even so, stability could not be maintained in the states...[49]

President Ahmed issued ordinances that did not require debate in the Parliament, allowing Gandhi to rule by decree.

Rise of Sanjay[edit]

The Emergency saw the entry of Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, into Indian Politics. Sanjay wielded tremendous power during the emergency without holding any Government office. According to Mark Tully, "His inexperience did not stop him from using the Draconian powers his mother, Indira Gandhi, had taken to terrorise the administration, setting up what was in effect a police state."[50]

It was said that during the Emergency he virtually ran India along with his friends, especially Bansi Lal.[51] It was also quipped that Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).[52][53][54]

1977 election and opposition years[edit]

In 1977, after extending the state of emergency twice, Indira Gandhi called elections to give the electorate a chance to vindicate her rule. Gandhi may have grossly misjudged her popularity by reading what the heavily censored press wrote about her.[55] In any case, she was opposed by the Janata alliance of Opposition parties. The alliance was made up of right-wing Hindu leaning Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Congress (O), The Socialist parties, and Charan Singh's Bharatiya Kranti Dal representing northern peasant and farmers. Janata alliance, with Jai Prakash Narayan as its spiritual guide, claimed the elections were the last chance for India to choose between "democracy and dictatorship." The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran Indira supporters like Jagjivan Ram, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and Nandini Satpathy were compelled to part ways and form a new political entity, CFD (Congress for Democracy), primarily due to intra-party politicking and also due to circumstances created by Sanjay Gandhi. The prevailing rumour was that Sanjay had intentions of dislodging Gandhi and the trio stood between that. Gandhi's Congress party was crushed soundly in the elections. The public realized the statement and motto of the Janata Party alliance. Indira and Sanjay Gandhi both lost their seats, and Congress was cut down to 153 seats (compared with 350 in the previous Lok Sabha), 92 of which were in the South. The Janata alliance, under the leadership of Morarji Desai, came into power after the State of Emergency was lifted. The alliance parties later merged to form the Janata Party under the guidance of Gandhian leader, Jayaprakash Narayan. The other leaders of the Janata Party were Charan Singh, Raj Narain, George Fernandes and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.[56]

In opposition and return to power[edit]

Since Gandhi had lost her seat in the election, the defeated Congress party appointed Yashwantrao Chavan as their parliamentary party leader. Soon afterwards, the Congress party split again with Gandhi floating her own Congress faction. She won a by-election from the Chikmagalur Constituency to the Lok Sabha in November 1978.[57][58] However, the Janata government's Home Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of her and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira Gandhi was automatically expelled from Parliament. These allegations included that she "had planned or thought of killing all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency".[59] In response to her arrest, Indira Gandhi's supporters hijacked an Indian Airlines jet and demanded her immediate release.[60] However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial gained her great sympathy from many people. The Janata coalition was only united by its hatred of Gandhi (or "that woman" as some called her). The party included right wing Hindu Nationalists, Socialists and former Congress party members. With so little in common, the Morarji Desai government was bogged down by infighting. In 1979, the government started to unravel over the issue of dual loyalties of some members to Janata and the RSS. The ambitious Union Finance minister, Charan Singh, who as the Union Home Minister during the previous year had ordered arrest of Gandhi, took advantage of this and started courting the Congress. After a significant exodus from the party to Charan Singh's faction, Desai resigned in July 1979. Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister, by President Reddy, after Indira and Sanjay Gandhi promised Singh that Congress would support his government from outside on certain conditions.[61][62] The conditions included dropping all charges against Indira and Sanjay. Since Charan Singh refused to drop the charges, Congress withdrew its support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in August 1979.

Before the 1980 elections Gandhi approached the then Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Abdullah Bukhari and entered into an agreement with him on the basis of 10-point programme to secure the support of the Muslim votes.[63] In the elections held in January, Congress returned to power with a landslide majority.

1980 elections and third term[edit]

The Congress under Gandhi swept back to power in January 1980.[64] Elections soon after to State assemblies across the country also brought back Congress ministries in the state with Indira's son Sanjay Gandhi choosing loyalists to lead the states. On June 23, Gandhi's son Sanjay was killed in an air crash while performing an aerobatic manoeuvre in New Delhi.[65] Gandhi by this stage only trusted family members, and therefore persuaded her reluctant son, Rajiv, to enter politics.

Operation Blue Star[edit]

Main article: Operation Blue Star

In the 1977 elections, a coalition led by the Sikh-majority Akali Dal came to power in the northern Indian state of Punjab. In an effort to split the Akali Dal and gain popular support among the Sikhs, Indira Gandhi's Congress helped bring the orthodox religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to prominence in Punjab politics.[66][67] Later, Bhindranwale's organisation Damdami Taksal became embroiled in violence with another religious sect called the Sant Nirankari Mission, and he was accused of instigating the murder of Jagat Narain, the owner of Punjab Kesari newspaper[68] After being arrested in this matter, Bhindranwale disassociated himself from Congress and joined hands with the Akali Dal.[69] In July 1982, he led the campaign for the implementation of the Anandpur Resolution, which demanded greater autonomy for the Sikh-majority state. Meanwhile, a small section of the Sikhs, including some of Bhindranwale's followers, turned to militancy after being targeted by government officials and police in support of the Resolution.[70] In 1982, Bhindranwale and approximately 200 armed followers moved into a guest house called the Guru Nanak Niwas, in the precinct of the Golden Temple .[71]

By 1983, the Temple complex had become a fort for a large number of militants.[72]The Statesman later reported that light machine guns and semi-automatic rifles were known to have been brought into the compound.[73] On 23 April 1983, the Punjab Police Deputy Inspector General A. S. Atwal was shot dead as he left the Temple compound. The following day, after the murder, Harchand Singh Longowal (then president of Shiromani Akali Dal) confirmed the involvement of Bhindranwale in the murder.[74]

After several futile negotiations, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army in June 1984 to enter the Golden Temple in order to remove Bhindranwale and his supporters from the complex. The army used heavy artillery, including tanks, in the action code-named Operation Blue Star. The operation badly damaged or destroyed parts of the Temple complex, including the Akal Takht shrine and the Sikh library. It also led to the deaths of a large number of Sikh fighters and innocent pilgrims. The number of casualties remain disputed with estimates ranging from many hundreds to many thousands[75]

Gandhi was accused of using the attack for political ends. Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer stated that Indira Gandhi attacked the temple complex to present herself as a great hero in order to win general elections planned towards the end of 1984.[76] There was fierce criticism of the action by Sikhs in India and overseas.[77] There was also incidents of mutiny by Sikh soldiers in the aftermath of the attack.[75]


Main articles: Assassination of Indira Gandhi and 1984 anti-Sikh riots

The day before her death (30 October 1984) Indira Gandhi visited Orissa where she gave her last speech at the then Parade Ground in front of the Secretariat of Orissa. In that speech she strikingly associated her blood with the health of the nation[note 2]

On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi's bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, shot her with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister's residence at 1 Safdarjung Road, New Delhi.[80] The shooting occurred as she was walking past a wicket gate guarded by Satwant and Beant. She was to have been interviewed by the British actor Peter Ustinov, who was filming a documentary for Irish television.[81] Beant Singh shot her three times using his side-arm and Satwant Singh fired 30 rounds.[82] Beant Singh and Satwant Singh dropped their weapons and surrendered. Afterwards they were taken away by other guards into a closed room where Beant Singh was shot dead. Kehar Singh was later arrested for conspiracy in the attack. Both Satwant and Kehar were sentenced to death and hanged in Delhi's Tihar Jail.

Indira Gandhi was brought at 9:30 AM to the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences where doctors operated on her. She was declared dead at 2:20 PM. The post-mortem examination was conducted by a team of doctors headed by Dr. Tirath Das Dogra. Dr Dogra stated that as many as 30 bullet wounds were sustained by Indira Gandhi, from two sources, a Sterling submachine gun[83][84] and a pistol. The assailants had fired 31 bullets at her, of which 30 had hit; 23 had passed through her body while 7 were trapped inside her. Dr Dogra extracted bullets to establish the identity of the weapons and to match each weapon with the bullets recovered by ballistic examination. The bullets were matched with respective weapons at CFSL Delhi. Subsequently, Dr Dogra appeared in the court of Shri Mahesh Chandra as an expert witness (PW-5), and his testimony lasted several sessions. The cross examination was conducted by Shri Pran Nath Lekhi, the defence counsel.[85]Salma Sultan gave the first news of the assassination of Indira Gandhi on Doordarshan's evening news on 31 October 1984, more than 10 hours after she was shot.[86][87] She died two weeks and five days before her 67th birthday.

Gandhi was cremated on 3 November near Raj Ghat.[88] The site where she was cremated is today known as Shakti Sthal.[89]

Her funeral was televised live on domestic and international stations, including the BBC. Following her cremation, millions of Sikhs were displaced and nearly three thousand were killed in anti-Sikh riots.[90]Rajiv Gandhi on a live TV show said of the carnage, "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes."[91][92]

Foreign relations[edit]

Indira Gandhi is remembered for her ability to effectively promote Indian foreign policy measures.[93]

South Asia[edit]

Further information: List of state visits made by Indira Gandhi

In early 1971, disputed elections in Pakistan led the then East Pakistan to declare independence as Bangladesh. Repression and violence by the Pakistani army led 10 million refugees to cross border in to India over the coming months.[94] Finally in December 1971, Gandhi directly intervened in the conflict to liberate Bangladesh. India emerged victorious in the resulting conflict to become the dominant power of South Asia.[95] India had signed a treaty with the Soviet Union promising mutual assistance in the case of war,[96] while Pakistan received active support from the United States during the conflict.[97] U.S. President Richard Nixon disliked Gandhi personally, referring to her as a "witch" and "clever fox" in his private communication with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.[98] Nixon later wrote of the war: "[Gandhi] suckered [America]. Suckered us.....this woman suckered us.".[99] Relations with the U.S. became distant as Gandhi developed closer ties with the Soviet Union after the war. The latter grew to become India's largest trading partner and its biggest arms supplier for much of Gandhi's premiership.[100] India's new hegemonic position as articulated under the "Indira Doctrine" led to attempts to bring the Himalayan states under the Indian sphere of influence.[101]Nepal and Bhutan remained aligned with India, while in 1975, after years of building up support, Gandhi incorporated Sikkim into India, after a referendum in which a majority of Sikkimese voted to join India.[102] This was denounced as a "despicable act" by China.[104]

India maintained close ties with neighbouring Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) following the Liberation War. Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman recognized Gandhi's contributions to the independence of Bangladesh. However, Mujibur Rahman's pro-India policies antagonised many in Bangladeshi politics and the military, who feared that Bangladesh had become a client state of India.[105][106] The Assassination of Mujibur Rahman in 1975 led to the establishment of Islamist military regimes that sought to distance the country from India.[107] Gandhi's relationship with the military regimes was strained, due to her alleged support of anti-Islamist leftist guerrilla forces in Bangladesh.[107] Generally, however, there was a rapprochement between Gandhi and the Bangladeshi regimes, although issues such as border disputes and the Farakka Dam remained an irritant in bilateral ties.[108] In 2011, the Government of Bangladesh conferred its highest state award posthumously on Gandhi for her "outstanding contribution" to the country's independence.[109]

Gandhi's approach to dealing with Sri Lanka's ethnic problems was initially accommodating. She enjoyed cordial relations with Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. In 1974, India ceded the tiny islet of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in order to save Bandaranaike's socialist government from a political disaster.[110] However, relations soured over Sri Lanka's turn away from socialism under J. R. Jayewardene, whom Gandhi despised as a "western puppet." India under Gandhi was alleged to have supported LTTE militants in the 1980s to put pressure on Jayewardene to abide by Indian interests.[112] Nevertheless, Gandhi rejected demands to invade Sri Lanka in the aftermath of Black July 1983, an anti-Tamil pogrom carried out by Sinhalese mobs.[113] Gandhi made a statement emphasizing that she stood for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, although she also stated that India cannot "remain a silent spectator to any injustice done to the Tamil community."[113][114]

India's relationship with Pakistan remained strained following the Shimla Accord in 1972. Gandhi's authorization of the detonation of a nuclear device at Pokhran in 1974 was viewed by Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as an attempt to intimidate Pakistan into accepting India's hegemony in the subcontinent. However, in May 1976, Gandhi and Bhutto both agreed to reopen diplomatic establishments and normalize relations.[115] Following the rise to power of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan in 1978, India's relations with its neighbour reached a nadir. Gandhi accused General Zia of supporting Khalistani militants in Punjab.[115] Military hostilities recommenced in 1984 following Gandhi's authorization of Operation Meghdoot.[116] India was victorious in the resulting Siachen conflict against Pakistan.[116]

In order to keep the Soviet Union and the United States out of South Asia, Mrs Gandhi was instrumental in establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1983[117]

Middle East[edit]

Gandhi remained a staunch supporter of Palestinians in the Arab–Israeli conflict and was critical of the Middle East diplomacy sponsored by the United States.Israel was viewed as a religious state and thus an analogue to India's archrival Pakistan. Indian diplomats also hoped to win Arab support in countering Pakistan in Kashmir. Nevertheless, Gandhi authorized the development of a secret channel of contact and security assistance with Israel in the late 1960s. Her lieutenant, P. V. Narasimha Rao, later became Prime Minister and approved full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992.[118]

India's pro-Arab policy had mixed success. Establishment of close ties with the socialist and secular Baathist regimes to some extent neutralized Pakistani propaganda against India.[119] However, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 put the Arab and Muslim states of the Middle East in a dilemma as the war was fought by two states both friendly to the Arabs.[120] The progressive Arab regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Algeria chose to remain neutral, while the conservative pro-American Arab monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates openly supported Pakistan. Egypt's stance was met with dismay by the Indians, who had come to expect close co-operation with the Baathist regimes.[119] But, the death of Nasser in 1970 and Sadat's growing friendship with Riyadh, and his mounting differences with Moscow, constrained Egypt to a policy of neutrality.[119] Gandhi's overtures to Muammar Gaddafi were rebuffed.[120]Libya agreed with the Arab monarchies in believing that Gandhi's intervention in East Pakistan was an attack against Islam.[120]

The 1971 war temporarily became a stumbling block in growing Indo-Iranian ties.[119] Although Iran had earlier characterized the Indo-Pakistani war in 1965 as Indian aggression, the Shah had launched an effort at rapprochement with India in 1969 as part of his effort to secure support for a larger Iranian role in the Persian Gulf.[119] Gandhi's tilt towards Moscow and her dismemberment of Pakistan was perceived by the Shah as part of a larger anti-Iran conspiracy involving India, Iraq, and the Soviet Union.[119] Nevertheless, Iran had resisted Pakistani pressure to activate the Baghdad Pact and draw in the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) into the conflict.[119] Gradually, Indian and Iranian disillusionment with their respective regional allies led to a renewed partnership between the nations.[121] Gandhi was unhappy with the lack of support from India's Arab allies during the war with Pakistan, while the Shah was apprehensive at the growing friendship between Pakistan and Arab states of the Persian Gulf, specially Saudi Arabia, and the growing influence of Islam in Pakistani society.[121] There was an increase in Indian economic and military co-operation with Iran during the 1970s.[121] The 1974 India-Iranian agreement led to Iran supplying nearly 75 percent of India's crude oil demands.[122] Gandhi appreciated the Shah's disregard of Pan-Islamism in diplomacy.[121]


One of the major developments in Southeast Asia during Gandhi's premiership was the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. Relations between ASEAN and India was mutually antagonistic. ASEAN in the Indian perception was linked to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization

Young Indira with Mahatma Gandhi during his fast in 1924. Indira, who is dressed in a khadi garment, is following Gandhi's advocacy that khadi be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles
Indira Nehru c. early 1930s
1984 USSR commemorative stamp
The Saree that Indira wore on the day of her assassination
Today, the spot where Indira Gandhi was assassinated is marked by a glass opening in the crystal pathway at the Indira Gandhi Memorial
Shakti Sthala, the place where Indira Gandhi was cremated at New Delhi

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