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Gandhi, Indira

Gandhi, Indira

Gandhi, Indira, 1917-84, Indian political leader; daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. She served as an aide to her father, who was prime minister (1947-64), and as minister of information in the government of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964-66). On Shastri's death in 1966, she succeeded as prime minister. Her first administration, marked by her increasing personal control of the Indian National Congress party, led to a party split. Her faction, New Congress, won overwhelming electoral victories in 1971 and 1972. She triumphed in foreign affairs with India's 1971 defeat of Pakistan, which resulted in the establishment of the state of Bangladesh. Found guilty in June, 1975, of illegal practices during the 1971 campaign, she refused to resign, declaring a state of emergency. Her administration arrested opponents and imposed press censorship. In November the Supreme Court overruled her conviction. In 1977 her faction in the Congress party lost the parliamentary elections; she lost both her seat and her position as prime minister. In 1980, she again became prime minister, this time as leader of the Congress (Indira) party, and held the office until assassinated by her security guards in 1984. Her son Rajiv Gandhi succeeded her as prime minister.

See biographies by K. Bhatia (1974) and D. Moraes (1980); T. Ali, Nehru and the Gandhis, (1985); I. Gandhi, Letters to an American Friend, 1950-1984 (1985).

orig. Indira Priyadarshini Nehru

Indira Gandhi

(born Nov. 19, 1917, Allahabad, India—died Oct. 31, 1984, New Delhi) Prime minister of India (1966–77, 1980–84). The only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, she studied in India and at the University of Oxford. In 1942 she married Feroze Gandhi (d. 1960), a fellow member of the Indian National Congress. In 1959 she was given the largely honorary position of party president, and in 1966 she achieved actual power when she was made leader of the Congress Party and, consequently, prime minister. She instituted major reforms, including a strict population-control program. In 1971 she mobilized Indian forces against Pakistan in the cause of East Bengal's secession. She oversaw the incorporation of Sikkim in 1974. Convicted in 1975 of violating election laws, she declared a state of emergency, jailing opponents and passing many laws limiting personal freedoms. She was defeated in the following election but returned to power in 1980. In 1984 she ordered the army to move into the Golden Temple complex of the Sikhs at Amritsar, with the intent of crushing the Sikh militants hiding inside the temple; some 450 Sikhs died in the fighting. She was later shot and killed by her own Sikh bodyguards in revenge.

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