Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (November 19, 1917 – October 31, 1984) was an Indian politician and central figure of the Indian National Congress party, and to date the only female Prime Minister of India.
She was the daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. She served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, making her the second-longest-serving Prime Minister of India 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, Gandhi refused to enter the Congress party leadership contest and instead chose to become a cabinet minister in the government led by Lal Bahadur Shastri.
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 the Prime Minister of India, 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.
Gandhi also presided over a controversial state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 during which she ruled by decree. She was assassinated in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards a few months after she ordered the storming of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar to counter the Punjab insurgency. The assassins, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, were both killed.
In 1999, Indira was named “Woman of the Millennium” in a poll organised by the BBC.
Words of Wisdom
My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people; those who do the work and those who take credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.