New Delhi: Indira Gandhi, who was also popularly known as the ‘Iron Lady,’ was the daughter of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. She is also India’s only female Prime Minister till date and held office for around 15 years, across three terms, making her the longest-serving Prime Minister, after her father, who held office for 17 years until his death.
Born on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad, she was the elder child of her parents; her younger brother died at an early age. She assisted her father as his personal assistant and hostess during his tenure as Prime Minister between 1947-1964. She was elected to the Rajya Sabha after his death in 1964 and later became the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister in Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s government. In 1966, she became India’s third Prime Minister after the untimely passing away of Shastri in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Her first term in office witnessed several important events which led to her being called the ‘Iron Lady.’ In 1971, India decisively defeated Pakistan in a war which led to the creation of Bangladesh and in 1974, conducted its first nuclear test. However, in June 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed the country’s first, and thus far only emergency, which led to the imprisonment of several opposition leaders.
The emergency was removed in 1977 and the Indira Gandhi government lost in the subsequent elections. However, she returned for a third term in 1980. In 1984, she ordered a military operation (Operation Bluestar) in Amritsar’s Golden Temple to flush out the Sikh militants who were holed up inside. This led to her assassination by her Sikh bodyguards and anti-Sikh riots across the country.
She was succeeded as the Prime Minister by her son Rajiv, who himself was assassinated, albeit while not in office, in 1991, by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for assisting the Sri Lankan government in the country’s civil war.