• Somya Maan

Indira Gandhi: The Iron Lady of India

46 years after the bleakest moment of democratic freedom in India-the emergency, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi continues to be viewed solely through these tainted glasses. However, her presence in Indian politics is more widely felt, from being the first and only female prime minister, to challenging democracy, all while carrying the heftiest surname in Indian politics.

19th November 1917: She was born to Kamala & Jawaharlal Nehru.

1966: She got elected as the First Female Prime Minster of India

First-term (1967-71)

  • She held the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of External Affairs, and Home Ministry in conjunction with the PM’s office despite fierce criticism.

  • She was expelled from the party for indiscipline which in turn caused a split of INC into Congress(O) and Congress(R)

Second-term (1971-77)

  • The opposition raised the slogan “Indira Hatao”; she replied with “Garibi Hatao” which ultimately was the reason for her victory.

  • India won the Bangladeshi Liberation War which is one of her biggest achievements.

  • 1971: She was honoured with the highest civilian award; the Bharat Ratna.

A black dot in Indian Democracy: The Emergency (1975-1977)

  • 1975: In June, the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha in 1971 void on the grounds of electoral malpractice.

  • She refused to resign.

  • 25th June 1975: President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a State of Emergency, based on the provisions of Article 352 of the Constitution.

  • She ordered the arrest of almost all opposition leaders causing disarray. Amnesty International estimated 140,000 people were arrested without trial.

  • Mini Constitution/The 42nd amendment: It reduced the power of judicial review and empowered the Centre to manage states’ orderliness.

  • 1977: Janta Alliance defeated Congress in Lok Sabha elections. The leaders released from jail had achieved this by their “Democracy or Dictatorship?” campaign.

  • 1979: Indira Gandhi was re-elected in the by-election. However, Ch. Charan Singh ordered her and her son Sanjay’s arrest. In response, Gandhi's supporters hijacked an Indian Airlines jet and demanded her immediate release.

  • 1980: She was re-elected as PM of India for the third time.

Operation Blue Star

  • 1984: In June, Gandhi ordered the Indian army to enter the Golden Temple and remove militants.

  • The army used heavy artillery. The operation damaged parts of the Temple complex and led to about a thousand casualties.


  • 31 October, 1984: Two of Gandhi's bodyguards, Satwant & Beant Singh, shot her in New Delhi.

  • Following her cremation, millions of Sikhs were displaced and nearly 3000 were killed in anti-Sikh riots.

2020: Gandhi was named by Time magazine among the world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century.

Being at the forefront of Indian politics for decades, Gandhi left a powerful but controversial legacy on Indian politics.


Sources - TOI, BBC Written by Somya