Indira Gandhi, who is still the standing ambassador of women empowerment in India has left a shaky legacy. From being called as ‘goongi gudiya’ (dumb doll) by Ram Manohar Lohia to being called as Durga, Indira Gandhi’s term as the India’s first women PM serves as both inspiration and lessons to learn for future politicians and people in general.
On the positive side, Indira Gandhi’s term is co-incided with few of the best progresses India had made in varied dimensions. India achieved food security during Indira Gandhi’s rule. She was the first to have appealed directly to the poor of the country with a slogan – garibi hatao. With her own brand of state socialism, Indira nationalised 14 commercial banks and also abolished privy purses of the erstwhile royals. In science and technology also, India made crucial advances during her regime. The most successful Public sector Organisation ISRO, was started by her. India also became a nuclear power in 1974 with the Pokhran Tests (Operation Smiling Buddha) during Indira’s leadership. Most importantly, India’s military victory over Pakistan in 1971 and liberation of Bangladesh is the most important event that cemented Indira Gandhi’s position as one of the most popular Prime Ministers of India.
However, Indira Gandhi has also left several negative aspects that trouble the country till date. Indira Gandhi had scant respect for internal democracy in the party and the party split of INC had made the party that fought for freedom struggle a dynastic party. She changed the Indian politics by calling for “committed judiciary” and “committed bureaucracy”. Today’s pattern of appointments of top positions in the ministries and other institutions on the basis of personal loyalty or ideological loyalty was sown during the time of Indira Gandhi. Her politics epitomised populism. Her disdain for procedures and parliamentary propriety resulted in the decline of democratic institutions. This reached it’s apex point in the years of 1975-77 when Indira imposed National emergency. Civil liberties were crushed, opposition leaders were jailed, films were censored etc., during this period. Finally, her decision to storm the Golden Temple to execute Operation Blue Star was a historic blunder.
Indira Gandhi is one of the strongest leaders the world has seen. The birth centenary of Indira Gandhi is the right time to reflect on the need to have decisiveness in policy making along with respect for democratic procedures
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