Indira Gandhi

Posted March 17th, 2010 by admin

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindi: इंदिरा प्रियदर्शिनी गांधी Indirā Priyadarśinī Gāndhī; née: Nehru; (19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was the prime minister of the Republic of India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, a total of fifteen years. She was India’s first, and to date only, female prime minister.

Education

Gandhi was partly educated in India and then in Britain: at Badminton School, a girls’ independent school in Bristol, and at Somerville College at the University of Oxford.

Life and career

Born in the politically influential Nehru Family, Gandhi grew up in an intensely political atmosphere. Her grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a pivotal figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Prime Minister of Independent India. Returning to India from Oxford in 1941, she became involved in the Indian Independence movement. In the 1950s, she served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as the first Prime Minister of India. After her father’s death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha by the President of India and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri‘s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.[1]

The then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister after the sudden demise of Shastri. Gandhi soon showed an ability to win elections and outmaneuver opponents. She introduced more left-wing economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity. She led the nation as Prime Minister during the decisive victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan and creation of an independent Bangladesh. A period of instability led her to impose a state of emergency in 1975. Due to the alleged authoritarian excesses during the period of emergency, the Congress Party and Indira Gandhi herself lost the next general election for the first time in 1977. Indira Gandhi led the Congress back to victory in 1980 elections and Gandhi resumed the office of the Prime Minister. In June 1984, under Gandhi’s order, the Indian army forcefully entered the Golden Temple, the most sacred Sikh Gurdwara, to remove armed insurgents present inside the temple. She was assassinated on 31 October 1984 in retaliation to this operation.

Early life

Growing up in India

Indira Nehru Gandhi was born on 19 November 1917 to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru and was their only child. The Nehrus were a distinguished Kashmiri Pandit family. At the time of her birth, her grandfather Motilal Nehru and father Jawaharlal were influential political leaders. Gandhi was brought up in an intense political atmosphere at the Nehru family residence, Anand Bhawan, where she spent her childhood years.

Growing up in the sole care of her mother, who was sick and alienated from the Nehru household, Indira developed strong protective instincts and a loner personality. The flurry of political activity in the Nehru household made mixing with her peers difficult. She had personal conflicts with her father’s sisters, including Vijayalakshmi Pandit, and these extended into her relationship with them in the political world.

In her father’s autobiography, Toward Freedom, he writes that the police frequently came to the family home while he was in prison and took away pieces of furniture as payment toward the fines the Government imposed on him. He says, “Indira, my four-year-old daughter, was greatly annoyed at this continuous process of despoliation and protested to the police and expressed her strong displeasure. I am afraid those early impressions are likely to colour her future views about the police force generally.”

Indira created the Vanara Sena movement for young girls and boys which played a small but notable[citation needed] role in the Indian Independence Movement, conducting protests and flag marches, as well as helping members of the Indian National Congress circulate sensitive publications and banned materials. In an often-told story, she smuggled out in her schoolbag an important document from her father’s house under police observation, that outlined plans for a major revolutionary initiative in the early 1930s.[citation needed]

Studying in Europe

In 1936, her mother, Kamala Nehru, finally succumbed to tuberculosis after a long struggle. Indira was 18 at the time and had never experienced a stable family life during her childhood. While studying at Somerville College, University of Oxford, England, during the late 1930s, she became a member of the radical pro-independence London based India League.[2]

In early 1940, Indira spent time in a rest home in Switzerland to recover from chronic lung disease. She maintained her long-distance relationship with her father in the form of long letters as she was used to doing through her childhood. They argued about politics.[3]

In her years in continental Europe and the UK, she met a young Parsi man active in politics, Feroze Gandhi.[4] After returning to India, Feroze Gandhi grew close to the Nehru family, especially to Indira’s mother Kamala Nehru and Indira herself.

Marriage to Feroze Gandhi

When Indira and Feroze Gandhi returned to India, they were in love and had decided to get married, despite doctors’ advice.[5] Indira liked Feroze’s openness, sense of humor and self-confidence. Nehru did not like the idea of his daughter marrying and sought Mahatma Gandhi’s help to dissuade their love relationship. Mahatma Gandhi as a solution adopted Feroze. Indira was adamant and the marriage took place in March 1942 according to Hindu rituals.[6]

Feroze and Indira were both members of the Indian National Congress, and when they took part in the Quit India Movement in 1942, they were both arrested.[7] After independence, Feroze went on to run for election and became a member of parliament from Raebareli Uttar Pradesh in 1952. After the birth of their two sons, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, their relationship was strained leading to a separation. Shortly after his re-election, Feroze suffered a heart attack, which led to a reconciliation. Their relationship endured for the few years prior to the death of Feroze Gandhi in September 1960.

The Nehru familyMotilal Nehru is seated in the center, and standing (L to R) are Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Krishna Hutheesing, Indira, and Ranjit Pandit; Seated: Swaroop Rani, Motilal Nehru and Kamala Nehru (circa 1927).

Early leadership

President of the Indian National Congress

Indira and Mohandas Gandhi circa the 1930s

During 1959 and 1960, Gandhi ran for and was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress. Her term of office was uneventful. She also acted as her father’s chief of staff. Nehru was known as a vocal opponent of nepotism, and she did not contest a seat in the 1962 elections.

Prime minister

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, administering the oath of office to Indira Gandhi on 24 January 1966.

First term

Domestic policy

When Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966, the Congress was split in two factions, the socialists led by Gandhi, and the conservatives led by Morarji Desai. Rammanohar Lohia called her Gungi Gudiya which means ‘Dumb Doll’[8]. The internal problems showed in the 1967 election where the Congress lost nearly 60 seats winning 297 seats in the 545 seat Lok Sabha. She had to accommodate Desai as Deputy Prime Minister of India and Finance Minister of India. In 1969 after many disagreements with Desai, the Indian National Congress split. She ruled with support from Socialist and Communist Parties for the next two years. In the same year, in July 1969 she nationalized banks.

War with Pakistan in 1971

Main article: Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan.[9][10] An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. The United States under Richard Nixon supported Pakistan, and mooted a UN resolution warning India against going to war. Nixon apparently disliked Indira personally, referring to her as a “witch” and “clever fox” in his private communication with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (now released by the State Department).[11]. Indira signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, resulting in political support and a Soviet veto at the UN. India was victorious in the 1971 war, and Bangladesh was born.

Foreign policy

Gandhi invited the late Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Shimla for a week-long summit. After the near-failure of the talks, the two heads of state eventually signed the Shimla Agreement, which bound the two countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute by negotiations and peaceful means. Due to her antipathy for Nixon, relations with the United States grew distant, while relations with the Soviet Union grew closer.

She was criticized by some for not making the Line of Control a permanent border while a few critics even believed that Pakistan-administered Kashmir should have been extracted from Pakistan, whose 93, 000 prisoners of war were under Indian control. But the agreement did remove immediate United Nations and third party interference, and greatly reduced the likelihood of Pakistan launching a major attack in the near future. By not demanding total capitulation on a sensitive issue from Bhutto, she had allowed Pakistan to stabilize and normalize. Trade relations were also normalized, though much contact remained frozen(sealed) for years.

Devaluation of the rupee

During the late 1960s, Gandhi’s administration decreed a 40% devaluation in the value of the Indian rupee from 4 to 7 to the United States dollar to boost trade.

Nuclear weapons program

A national nuclear program was started by Gandhi in 1967, in response to the nuclear threat from the People’s Republic of China and to establish India’s stability and security interests as independent from those of the nuclear superpowers. In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, unofficially code named as “Smiling Buddha“, near the desert village of Pokhran in Rajasthan. Describing the test as for peaceful purposes, India became the world’s youngest nuclear power.

Green Revolution

Special agricultural innovation programs and extra government support launched in the 1960s finally transformed India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk, the success mainly attributed to hard working farmers of majority Sikh farmers of Punjab. Rather than relying on food aid from the United States – headed by a President whom Gandhi disliked considerably (the feeling was mutual: to Nixon, Indira was “the old witch”[11]), the country became a food exporter. That achievement, along with the diversification of its commercial crop production, has become known as the “Green Revolution”. At the same time, the White Revolution was an expansion in milk production which helped to combat malnutrition, especially amidst young children. ‘Food security’, as the program was called, was another source of support for Gandhi in the years leading up to 1975.[12]

Established in the early 1960s, the Green Revolution was the unofficial name given to the Intense Agricultural District Program (IADP) which sought to insure abundant, inexpensive grain for urban dwellers upon whose support Gandhi—as indeed all Indian politicians—heavily depended.[13] The program was based on four premises: 1) New varieties of seed(s), 2) Acceptance of the necessity of the chemicalization of Indian agriculture, i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, etc., 3) A commitment to national and international cooperative research to develop new and improved existing seed varieties, 4) The concept of developing a scientific, agricultural institutions in the form of land grant colleges.[14] Lasting about ten years, the program was ultimately to bring about a tripling of wheat production, a lower but still impressive increase of rice; while there was little to no increase (depending on area, and adjusted for population growth) of such cereals as millet, gram and coarse grain, though these did, in fact, retain a relatively stable yield.

1971 election victory and second term

Indira’s government faced major problems after her tremendous mandate of 1971. The internal structure of the Congress Party had withered following its numerous splits, leaving it entirely dependent on her leadership for its election fortunes. Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi’s 1971 bid. The 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 government; likewise the urban commercial class. And, for their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight.

The programs created through Garibi Hatao, though carried out locally, were funded, developed, supervised, and staffed by New Delhi and 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.”[15]. Scholars and historians now agree as to the extent of the failure of Garibi Hatao in alleviating poverty – only about 4% of all funds allocated for economic development went to the three main anti-poverty programs, and precious few of these ever reached the ‘poorest of the poor’ – and the empty sloganeering of the program was mainly used instead to engender populist support for Gandhi’s re-election.

Corruption charges and verdict of electoral malpractice

On 12 June 1975 the High Court of Allahabad declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha void on grounds of electoral malpractice. In an election petition filed by Raj Narain (who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from Rae Bareily), he had alleged several major as well as minor instances of using government resources for campaigning.[16] The court thus ordered her to be removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running in elections for six years. The Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha (lower house in the Parliament of India) or the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Parliament). Thus, this decision effectively removed her from office. Mrs Gandhi had asked one of India’s best legal minds and also one of her colleagues in government, Mr Ashoke Kumar Sen to defend her in court. It has been written that Mrs Gandhi was told she would only win if Mr Sen appeared for her.

But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice 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. The judge rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.

Indira insisted 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)

Main article: Indian Emergency (1975-1977)

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 of the Constitution, on 26 June 1975.

Rule by decree

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.[17] 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. Inder Kumar Gujral, a future prime minister himself, resigned as Minister for Information and Broadcasting to protest Sanjay Gandhi’s interference in his work. Finally, 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 used the emergency provisions to grant herself extraordinary powers.

“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…”[18]

It is alleged that she further moved President Ahmed to issue ordinances that did not need to be debated in Parliament, allowing her to rule by decree.

Simultaneously, Gandhi’s government undertook a campaign to stamp out dissent including the arrest and detention of thousands of political activists; Sanjay was instrumental in initiating the clearing of slums around Delhi’s Jama Masjid under the supervision of Jag Mohan, later Lt. Governor of Delhi, which allegedly left thousands of people homeless and hundreds killed, and led to communal embitterment in those parts of the nation’s capital; and the family planning program which forcibly imposed vasectomy on thousands of fathers and was often poorly administered.

Elections

After extending the state of emergency twice, in 1977 Indira Gandhi called for 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. In any case, she was opposed by the Janata Party. Janata, led by her long-time rival, Desai and with Jai Prakash Narayan as its spiritual guide, claimed the elections were the last chance for India to choose between “democracy and dictatorship.” Indira’s Congress party was beaten soundly. 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.

Removal, arrest, and return

Mrs. Gandhi with M.G. Ramachandran, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. In the post-emergency elections in 1977, only the Southern states returned Congress majorities.

1984 USSR commemorative stamp

The downfall of Indira Gandhi began after India won the war against Pakistan in 1971. The Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty with electoral corruption for the 1971 elections. In 1975, Indira Gandhi called a State of Emergency under Article 352 in which she ordered the arrest of her opposition, who later joined together and formed the Janata Party In 1977, Indira Gandhi and her party, Indian National Congress, lost the election to the Janata Party, a coalition of virtually all of Indira Gandhi’s opponents. After the elections, Gandhi found herself without work, income or residence. The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran Gandhi supporters like Jagjivan Ram and her most loyal Bahuguna & Nandini Satpathy – very close to Indira, the three were compelled due to politicking and possibly circumstances created by Sanjay Gandhi – to part ways . The prevailing rumour was that Sanjay had intentions of dislodging Indira. The Congress Party was now a much smaller group in Parliament, although the official opposition.

Once the Janata Party came into power, they aimed to return all Indian citizens the freedoms taken away when Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency. The leader of the Janata Party was Jayaprakash Narayan who kept the party united. The other party leaders of the Janata Party were Moraji Desai , Charan Singh , Raj Narain and Atal Bihari Vajpayee . Unable to govern owing to fractious coalition warfare, the Janata government’s Home Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira was automatically expelled from Parliament. These allegations included that Indira Gandhi “‘had planned or thought of killing all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency’” [19].However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial, however, gained her great sympathy from many people who had feared her as a tyrant just two years earlier.The Janata coalition was only united by its hatred of Indira (or “that woman” as some called her). With so little in common, the government was bogged down by infighting and Gandhi was able to use the situation to her advantage. She began giving speeches again, tacitly apologizing for “mistakes” made during the Emergency. Jayaprakash Narayan died on 8 October 1979, which broke the unity of the Janata Party and Desai took his place. Desai resigned in June 1979, and Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister by Reddy after Gandhi promised that Congress would support his government from outside.

After a short interval, she withdrew her initial support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In elections held the following January, Congress was returned to power with a landslide majority.

In the 1980s, despite considerable opposition within the Parliament, the Indira Gandhi government provided money, weapons and military training to LTTE and other Tamil millitant groups in Sri Lanka. 

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindi: इंदिरा प्रियदर्शिनी गांधी Indirā Priyadarśinī Gāndhī; née: Nehru; (19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was the prime minister of the Republic of India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, a total of fifteen years. She was India’s first, and to date only, female prime minister.

Education

Gandhi was partly educated in India and then in Britain: at Badminton School, a girls’ independent school in Bristol, and at Somerville College at the University of Oxford.

Life and career 

Born in the politically influential Nehru Family, Gandhi grew up in an intensely political atmosphere. Her grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a pivotal figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Prime Minister of Independent India. Returning to India from Oxford in 1941, she became involved in the Indian Independence movement. In the 1950s, she served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as the first Prime Minister of India. After her father’s death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha by the President of India and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri‘s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.[1]

The then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister after the sudden demise of Shastri. Gandhi soon showed an ability to win elections and outmaneuver opponents. She introduced more left-wing economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity. She led the nation as Prime Minister during the decisive victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan and creation of an independent Bangladesh. A period of instability led her to impose a state of emergency in 1975. Due to the alleged authoritarian excesses during the period of emergency, the Congress Party and Indira Gandhi herself lost the next general election for the first time in 1977. Indira Gandhi led the Congress back to victory in 1980 elections and Gandhi resumed the office of the Prime Minister. In June 1984, under Gandhi’s order, the Indian army forcefully entered the Golden Temple, the most sacred Sikh Gurdwara, to remove armed insurgents present inside the temple. She was assassinated on 31 October 1984 in retaliation to this operation.

Early life 

Growing up in India

Indira Nehru Gandhi was born on 19 November 1917 to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru and was their only child. The Nehrus were a distinguished Kashmiri Pandit family. At the time of her birth, her grandfather Motilal Nehru and father Jawaharlal were influential political leaders. Gandhi was brought up in an intense political atmosphere at the Nehru family residence, Anand Bhawan, where she spent her childhood years.

Growing up in the sole care of her mother, who was sick and alienated from the Nehru household, Indira developed strong protective instincts and a loner personality. The flurry of political activity in the Nehru household made mixing with her peers difficult. She had personal conflicts with her father’s sisters, including Vijayalakshmi Pandit, and these extended into her relationship with them in the political world.

In her father’s autobiography, Toward Freedom, he writes that the police frequently came to the family home while he was in prison and took away pieces of furniture as payment toward the fines the Government imposed on him. He says, “Indira, my four-year-old daughter, was greatly annoyed at this continuous process of despoliation and protested to the police and expressed her strong displeasure. I am afraid those early impressions are likely to colour her future views about the police force generally.”

Indira created the Vanara Sena movement for young girls and boys which played a small but notable[citation needed] role in the Indian Independence Movement, conducting protests and flag marches, as well as helping members of the Indian National Congress circulate sensitive publications and banned materials. In an often-told story, she smuggled out in her schoolbag an important document from her father’s house under police observation, that outlined plans for a major revolutionary initiative in the early 1930s.[citation needed]

Studying in Europe

In 1936, her mother, Kamala Nehru, finally succumbed to tuberculosis after a long struggle. Indira was 18 at the time and had never experienced a stable family life during her childhood. While studying at Somerville College, University of Oxford, England, during the late 1930s, she became a member of the radical pro-independence London based India League.[2]

In early 1940, Indira spent time in a rest home in Switzerland to recover from chronic lung disease. She maintained her long-distance relationship with her father in the form of long letters as she was used to doing through her childhood. They argued about politics.[3]

In her years in continental Europe and the UK, she met a young Parsi man active in politics, Feroze Gandhi.[4] After returning to India, Feroze Gandhi grew close to the Nehru family, especially to Indira’s mother Kamala Nehru and Indira herself.

Marriage to Feroze Gandhi

When Indira and Feroze Gandhi returned to India, they were in love and had decided to get married, despite doctors’ advice.[5] Indira liked Feroze’s openness, sense of humor and self-confidence. Nehru did not like the idea of his daughter marrying and sought Mahatma Gandhi’s help to dissuade their love relationship. Mahatma Gandhi as a solution adopted Feroze. Indira was adamant and the marriage took place in March 1942 according to Hindu rituals.[6]

Feroze and Indira were both members of the Indian National Congress, and when they took part in the Quit India Movement in 1942, they were both arrested.[7] After independence, Feroze went on to run for election and became a member of parliament from Raebareli Uttar Pradesh in 1952. After the birth of their two sons, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, their relationship was strained leading to a separation. Shortly after his re-election, Feroze suffered a heart attack, which led to a reconciliation. Their relationship endured for the few years prior to the death of Feroze Gandhi in September 1960.

The Nehru familyMotilal Nehru is seated in the center, and standing (L to R) are Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Krishna Hutheesing, Indira, and Ranjit Pandit; Seated: Swaroop Rani, Motilal Nehru and Kamala Nehru (circa 1927).

Early leadership

President of the Indian National Congress

Indira and Mohandas Gandhi circa the 1930s

During 1959 and 1960, Gandhi ran for and was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress. Her term of office was uneventful. She also acted as her father’s chief of staff. Nehru was known as a vocal opponent of nepotism, and she did not contest a seat in the 1962 elections.

Prime minister

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, administering the oath of office to Indira Gandhi on 24 January 1966.

First term

Domestic policy

When Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966, the Congress was split in two factions, the socialists led by Gandhi, and the conservatives led by Morarji Desai. Rammanohar Lohia called her Gungi Gudiya which means ‘Dumb Doll’[8]. The internal problems showed in the 1967 election where the Congress lost nearly 60 seats winning 297 seats in the 545 seat Lok Sabha. She had to accommodate Desai as Deputy Prime Minister of India and Finance Minister of India. In 1969 after many disagreements with Desai, the Indian National Congress split. She ruled with support from Socialist and Communist Parties for the next two years. In the same year, in July 1969 she nationalized banks.

War with Pakistan in 1971

Main article: Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan.[9][10] An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. The United States under Richard Nixon supported Pakistan, and mooted a UN resolution warning India against going to war. Nixon apparently disliked Indira personally, referring to her as a “witch” and “clever fox” in his private communication with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (now released by the State Department).[11]. Indira signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, resulting in political support and a Soviet veto at the UN. India was victorious in the 1971 war, and Bangladesh was born.

Foreign policy

Gandhi invited the late Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Shimla for a week-long summit. After the near-failure of the talks, the two heads of state eventually signed the Shimla Agreement, which bound the two countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute by negotiations and peaceful means. Due to her antipathy for Nixon, relations with the United States grew distant, while relations with the Soviet Union grew closer.

She was criticized by some for not making the Line of Control a permanent border while a few critics even believed that Pakistan-administered Kashmir should have been extracted from Pakistan, whose 93, 000 prisoners of war were under Indian control. But the agreement did remove immediate United Nations and third party interference, and greatly reduced the likelihood of Pakistan launching a major attack in the near future. By not demanding total capitulation on a sensitive issue from Bhutto, she had allowed Pakistan to stabilize and normalize. Trade relations were also normalized, though much contact remained frozen(sealed) for years.

Devaluation of the rupee

During the late 1960s, Gandhi’s administration decreed a 40% devaluation in the value of the Indian rupee from 4 to 7 to the United States dollar to boost trade.

Nuclear weapons program

A national nuclear program was started by Gandhi in 1967, in response to the nuclear threat from the People’s Republic of China and to establish India’s stability and security interests as independent from those of the nuclear superpowers. In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, unofficially code named as “Smiling Buddha“, near the desert village of Pokhran in Rajasthan. Describing the test as for peaceful purposes, India became the world’s youngest nuclear power.

Green Revolution

Special agricultural innovation programs and extra government support launched in the 1960s finally transformed India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk, the success mainly attributed to hard working farmers of majority Sikh farmers of Punjab. Rather than relying on food aid from the United States – headed by a President whom Gandhi disliked considerably (the feeling was mutual: to Nixon, Indira was “the old witch”[11]), the country became a food exporter. That achievement, along with the diversification of its commercial crop production, has become known as the “Green Revolution”. At the same time, the White Revolution was an expansion in milk production which helped to combat malnutrition, especially amidst young children. ‘Food security’, as the program was called, was another source of support for Gandhi in the years leading up to 1975.[12]

Established in the early 1960s, the Green Revolution was the unofficial name given to the Intense Agricultural District Program (IADP) which sought to insure abundant, inexpensive grain for urban dwellers upon whose support Gandhi—as indeed all Indian politicians—heavily depended.[13] The program was based on four premises: 1) New varieties of seed(s), 2) Acceptance of the necessity of the chemicalization of Indian agriculture, i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, etc., 3) A commitment to national and international cooperative research to develop new and improved existing seed varieties, 4) The concept of developing a scientific, agricultural institutions in the form of land grant colleges.[14] Lasting about ten years, the program was ultimately to bring about a tripling of wheat production, a lower but still impressive increase of rice; while there was little to no increase (depending on area, and adjusted for population growth) of such cereals as millet, gram and coarse grain, though these did, in fact, retain a relatively stable yield.

1971 election victory and second term

Indira’s government faced major problems after her tremendous mandate of 1971. The internal structure of the Congress Party had withered following its numerous splits, leaving it entirely dependent on her leadership for its election fortunes. Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi’s 1971 bid. The 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 government; likewise the urban commercial class. And, for their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight.

The programs created through Garibi Hatao, though carried out locally, were funded, developed, supervised, and staffed by New Delhi and 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.”[15]. Scholars and historians now agree as to the extent of the failure of Garibi Hatao in alleviating poverty – only about 4% of all funds allocated for economic development went to the three main anti-poverty programs, and precious few of these ever reached the ‘poorest of the poor’ – and the empty sloganeering of the program was mainly used instead to engender populist support for Gandhi’s re-election.

Corruption charges and verdict of electoral malpractice

On 12 June 1975 the High Court of Allahabad declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha void on grounds of electoral malpractice. In an election petition filed by Raj Narain (who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from Rae Bareily), he had alleged several major as well as minor instances of using government resources for campaigning.[16] The court thus ordered her to be removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running in elections for six years. The Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha (lower house in the Parliament of India) or the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Parliament). Thus, this decision effectively removed her from office. Mrs Gandhi had asked one of India’s best legal minds and also one of her colleagues in government, Mr Ashoke Kumar Sen to defend her in court. It has been written that Mrs Gandhi was told she would only win if Mr Sen appeared for her.

But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr Justice 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. The judge rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.

Indira insisted 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)

Main article: Indian Emergency (1975-1977)

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 of the Constitution, on 26 June 1975.

Rule by decree

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.[17] 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. Inder Kumar Gujral, a future prime minister himself, resigned as Minister for Information and Broadcasting to protest Sanjay Gandhi’s interference in his work. Finally, 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 used the emergency provisions to grant herself extraordinary powers.

“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…”[18]

It is alleged that she further moved President Ahmed to issue ordinances that did not need to be debated in Parliament, allowing her to rule by decree.

Simultaneously, Gandhi’s government undertook a campaign to stamp out dissent including the arrest and detention of thousands of political activists; Sanjay was instrumental in initiating the clearing of slums around Delhi’s Jama Masjid under the supervision of Jag Mohan, later Lt. Governor of Delhi, which allegedly left thousands of people homeless and hundreds killed, and led to communal embitterment in those parts of the nation’s capital; and the family planning program which forcibly imposed vasectomy on thousands of fathers and was often poorly administered.

Elections

After extending the state of emergency twice, in 1977 Indira Gandhi called for 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. In any case, she was opposed by the Janata Party. Janata, led by her long-time rival, Desai and with Jai Prakash Narayan as its spiritual guide, claimed the elections were the last chance for India to choose between “democracy and dictatorship.” Indira’s Congress party was beaten soundly. 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.

Removal, arrest, and return

Mrs. Gandhi with M.G. Ramachandran, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. In the post-emergency elections in 1977, only the Southern states returned Congress majorities.

 

1984 USSR commemorative stamp

The downfall of Indira Gandhi began after India won the war against Pakistan in 1971. The Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty with electoral corruption for the 1971 elections. In 1975, Indira Gandhi called a State of Emergency under Article 352 in which she ordered the arrest of her opposition, who later joined together and formed the Janata Party In 1977, Indira Gandhi and her party, Indian National Congress, lost the election to the Janata Party, a coalition of virtually all of Indira Gandhi’s opponents. After the elections, Gandhi found herself without work, income or residence. The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran Gandhi supporters like Jagjivan Ram and her most loyal Bahuguna & Nandini Satpathy – very close to Indira, the three were compelled due to politicking and possibly circumstances created by Sanjay Gandhi – to part ways . The prevailing rumour was that Sanjay had intentions of dislodging Indira. The Congress Party was now a much smaller group in Parliament, although the official opposition.

Once the Janata Party came into power, they aimed to return all Indian citizens the freedoms taken away when Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency. The leader of the Janata Party was Jayaprakash Narayan who kept the party united. The other party leaders of the Janata Party were Moraji Desai , Charan Singh , Raj Narain and Atal Bihari Vajpayee . Unable to govern owing to fractious coalition warfare, the Janata government’s Home Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira was automatically expelled from Parliament. These allegations included that Indira Gandhi “‘had planned or thought of killing all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency’” [19].However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial, however, gained her great sympathy from many people who had feared her as a tyrant just two years earlier.The Janata coalition was only united by its hatred of Indira (or “that woman” as some called her). With so little in common, the government was bogged down by infighting and Gandhi was able to use the situation to her advantage. She began giving speeches again, tacitly apologizing for “mistakes” made during the Emergency. Jayaprakash Narayan died on 8 October 1979, which broke the unity of the Janata Party and Desai took his place. Desai resigned in June 1979, and Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister by Reddy after Gandhi promised that Congress would support his government from outside.

After a short interval, she withdrew her initial support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In elections held the following January, Congress was returned to power with a landslide majority.

In the 1980s, despite considerable opposition within the Parliament, the Indira Gandhi government provided money, weapons and military training to LTTE and other Tamil millitant groups in Sri Lanka.

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