Indira Gandhi Biography: Birth, Family, Education, Political Career, Posthumus Awards, Legacy and more 

Indira Gandhi Biography: Indira Gandhi was the central figure of Indian National Congress and is the first and only women Prime Minister of India to date. She was the daughter of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. On this day, 45 years ago, she imposed emergency in India.
Indira Gandhi Biography
Indira Gandhi Biography

On this day, 45 years ago, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India declared Emergency in India in 1975. The proclamation was signed by the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Indira Gandhi was the central figure of Indian National Congress and is the first and only women Prime Minister of India to date. 

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Indira Gandhi: Birth, Family, Education

Indira Gandhi was born on 19 November 1917, to Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru in Allahabad, India. Her father was the leading freedom fighter and was the first Prime Minister of Independent India. After her younger brother died at an early age, Indira was raised by her mother at Anand Bhawan. When Indira was young, Kamala Nehru died an early death after suffering from tuberculosis. 

Indira was taught by tutors at home and she didn't attend school regularly. She attended Modern School in Delhi, St Cecilia's and St Mary's Christian convent schools in Allahabad, the International School of Geneva, the Ecole Nouvelle in Bex, the Pupils' Own School in Poona and Bombay, Vishwa Bharati in Santiniketan. She left Vishwa Bharti to attend her ailing mother in Europe and continued her education at the University of Oxford. After the death of her mother, she attended the Badminton School and then enrolled at  Somerville College in 1937 to study History. 

When Germany rapidly conquered Europe, Indira tried to return to England via Portugal but was stranded there for two months. In early 1941, she entered England and then returned to India without completing her studies at Oxford. Later, she was awarded an honorary degree by the Oxford University. 

Indira Gandhi: Personal Life

When Indira was in Great Britain, she frequently visited her friend and future husband, Feroze Gandhi. They both knew each other from Allahabad. Feroze Gandhi was studying at the London School of Economics. The couple married in 1942 in Allahabad as per Adi Dharm rituals. On August 20, 1944, the couple gave birth to their first son Rajiv Gandhi who later became the youngest Prime Minister of India. On December 11, 1946, the couple gave birth to their second son, Sanjay Gandhi. In 1960, after 18 years of their marriage, Sanjay Gandhi died of a heart attack.

Indira Gandhi: Career in Indian Politics

After her marriage in 1942, Indira Gandhi served her father and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru unofficially. In the late 1950s, she serves as the President of the Indian National Congress. In 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru died and she was appointed as a Rajya Sabha member. She served as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting under the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. 

In 1996, after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, she was elected as the leader by the Congress legislative party. 

In January 1966, Indira Gandhi became the first and only female Prime Minister of India to date. Moraji Desai served as the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister under Indira Gandhi's cabinet. At the beginning of her first term as the Prime Minister, media and opposition parties criticised her as 'Goongi Gudiya'. 

In 1967 General Elections, Congress Party's magic started vanishing due to the widespread disenchantment over the rising prices of commodities, unemployment, economic stagnation and a food crisis. For the first time, Congress lost in the majority of states. Despite this, Indira Gandhi managed to win from the  Raebareli constituency and promised to devalue the rupee. The wheat import from the US fell due to political differences. 

In 1969, she faced differences due to her socialist policies. She supported independent candidate  V. V. Giri for the vacant post of President of India, rather than supporting the official Congress party candidate Neelam Sanjiva Reddy.   

She also announced bank nationalism without consulting the then Finance Minister, Moraji Desai. She nationalised 14 largest banks in India in 1969.  

After all these decisions, the then Congress President S. Nijalingappa expelled her from the INC citing indiscipline. This, in turn, angered Indira Gandhi and she formed her own Congress Party known as Congress (R) with most of the MP's from the party on her side. The other side was known as Congress (O). The Indira Gandhi faction lost its majority in the Parliament, but with the support of several regional parties remained in power. 

In 1971, 'Garibi Hatao' was the slogan for Indira Gandhi's political bid in response to the opposition's slogan as 'Indira Hatao'. The Garibi Hatao slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programs gave her independent national support. These programs were designed to bypass dominant rural castes. The voiceless poor will now gain political worth and weight. The anti-poverty programs were carried out locally and were funded by the Central Government. 

Indira Gandhi after winning the 1971 elections, served as the PM again. In 1971, despite facing pressure from America, Indira Gandhi defeated Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistan War and led to the liberation of East Pakistan into independent Bangladesh. After the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, the then President, V. V. Giri awarded her with India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. Opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee hailed her as 'Goddess Durga'.  

Despite the Indira wave, Congress Government faced several problems in this term due to high inflation (caused by wartime expenses), droughts in India and the 1973 oil crisis. 

On June 12, 1975, the Allahabad High Court declared 1971 elections void on the grounds of electoral malpractice. In 1971, her opponent Raj Narain alleged several major as well as minor instances of the use of government resources for campaigning. She asked her colleague Ashok Kumar Sen to defend her in the court and also provided evidence herself in the court. However, 4 years later, in 1975, the High Court of Allahabad found her guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for party purposes.

The court ordered her to strip off her parliamentary seat and banned her from running the office for the next six years. However, Indira Gandhi refused to resign and announced to move to the Supreme Court. As soon as the news of Allahabad's HC verdict spread, thousands of supporters demonstrated outside Indira's house and pledged their loyalty.   

On June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed a 21-month long emergency across India. The proclamation was signed a day before by the then President of India  Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution because of the prevailing internal disturbance. The emergency was withdrawn on March 21, 1977. The emergency allowed the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to rule by decree. The elections, freedom of the press and constitutional rights were suspended.  

During the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi entered into Indian politics. It is alleged that during Sanjay Gandhi had total control over Indira Gandhi and the government was run by Prime Minister's House rather than the Prime Minister's Office. 

Indira Gandhi: Things named after her

Awards and Competitions

1- Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director

2- Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration

3- Indira Gandhi Boat Race

4- Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar

5- Indira Gandhi Prize


1- Indira Gandhi Arena

2- Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium

3- Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

4- Indira Gandhi Stadium, Alwar

5- Indira Gandhi Stadium, Solapur

6- Indira Gandhi Stadium (Una)

7- Indira Gandhi Stadium, Vijayawada

8- Indira Priyadarshini Stadium

9- Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture, Phoenix, Mauritius

10- Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium


1- Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital

2- Indira Gandhi Co-operative Hospital

3- Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences

4- Indira Gandhi Medical College

5- Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital

6- North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences

Current Government Programmes

1- Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme

2- Indira Canteens

Former Central Government Schemes

1- Indira Awas Yojana 

2- Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme

3- Indira Gandhi Canal Project (Funded by World Bank)

4- Indira Kisan Vikas Patra

5- Indira Gandhi Garib Kalyan Yojna

Former State Government Schemes

1- Indira Gandhi Utkrishtha Chhattervritti Yojna for Post Plus Two Students by Himachal Pradesh Government (Sponsored by Central Government)

2- Indira Gandhi Women Protection Scheme by Maharashtra Government

3- Indira Gandhi Prathisthan by Uttar Pradesh Government

4- Indira Kranthi Patham Scheme by Andhra Pradesh Government

5- Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojana Scheme by Kerela Government

6- Indira Gandhi Vruddha Bhumiheen Shetmajoor Anudan Yojana by Maharashtra Government

7- Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP), Jaisalmer by Rajasthan Government

8- Indira Gandhi Niradhar Yojna by Maharashtra Government

9- Indira Gandhi Kuppam by Kerela Government 

10- Indira Gandhi Drinking Water Scheme, 2006 by Haryana Government

11- Indira Gandhi Niradhar Old, Landless, Destitute women farm labour Scheme by Maharashtra Government

12- Indira Gandhi Women Protection Scheme by Maharashtra Government

13- Indira Gaon Ganga Yojana by Chattisgarh Government

14- Indira Sahara Yojana by Chattisgarh Government

15- Indira Soochna Shakti Yojana by Chattisgarh Government

16- Indira Gandhi Balika Suraksha Yojana by Himachal Pradesh Government

17- Indira Gandhi Garibi Hatao Yojana (DPIP) by Madhya Pradesh Government

18- Indira Gandhi super thermal power project by Haryana Government

19- Indira Gandhi Water Project by Haryana Government

20- Indira Gandhi Sagar Project, Bhandara District Gosikhurd by Maharashtra Government

21- Indira Jeevitha Bima Pathakam by Andhra Pradesh Government

22- Indira Gandhi Priyadarshani Vivah Shagun Yojana by Haryana Government

23- Indira Mahila Yojana Scheme by Meghalaya Government

24- Indira Gandhi Calf Rearing Scheme by Chhattisgarh Government

25- Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana by Haryana Government

26- Indira Gandhi Calf Rearing Scheme by Andhra Pradesh Government 

27- Indira Gandhi Landless Agriculture Labour scheme by Maharashtra Government

Museums and Parks

1- Indira Gandhi Planetarium

2- Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya

3- Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary

4- Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park

5- Indira Gandhi Zoological Park

Transport Infrastructure

1- Indira Gandhi Canal

2- Indira Gandhi International Airport

Universities and Institutes

1- Indira Gandhi Agricultural University

2-Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research

3-Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women

4- Indira Gandhi Institute of Developmental Research

5- Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences

6- Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology (Delhi)

7- Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology (Orissa)

8- Indira Gandhi Medical College

9- Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy

10- Indira Gandhi National Open University

11- Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Akademi

12- Indira Gandhi Institute of Physical Education and Sports Sciences (University Of Delhi)

13- North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences

14- Gandhi Memorial International School

15- Srimati Indira Gandhi State Secondary School, Quartier Militaire, Mauritius

Indira Gandhi: Posthumous Honours

1- The Southernmost point of India 'Indira Point' is named after Indira Gandhi. 

2- Indira Gandhi National Open University is named after her and is the largest university in the world. 

Indira Gandhi: Legacy

1- Despite facing pressure from America, Indira Gandhi defeated Pakistan and led to the liberation of East Pakistan into independent Bangladesh. After the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, the then President, V. V. Giri awarded her with India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.

2- In 1999, she was named as the 'Woman of the Millennium' in an online poll by BBC. 

3- 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution at the time of Emergency can be listed as a part of her legacy. 

4- In 2011, Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona, Bangladesh's highest civilian award was posthumously conferred on Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contributions in the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. 

5- In 2020, she was named among world's 100 powerful women who defined last century by Time Magazine. 

6- Indira Gandhi was amongst the first Indians whose wax statue is at Madame Tussauds, London. 

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