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How Indira came out of Nehru’s shadow to rule India

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New Delhi, Oct 31: Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, India's third prime minister, was assassinated by her own bodyguards at her residence in Akbar Road on this day in 1984. Indira Gandhi served as the first and only woman prime minister of India from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984.

The death anniversary of Indira Gandhi is marked as Rashtriya Sankalp Diwas or National Pledge Day. The occasion is dedicated to Indira Gandhi and her service to India.

Former prime minister Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was one of the most prominent leaders who led the country. She was known for many things.

Indira Gandhi was an astute and shrewd politician who waded her way through the political corridors dominated by males through sheer grit and what some say as ruthlessness. The way she handled foreign policy to the role India played in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 under her rule, Indira Gandhi has left an indelible mark on India's post-independence history.

Did Nehru groom her to be his heir or was it the circumstances?

From where did Indira get her political lessons or who groomed her to enter politics? Was it Nehru or were it the circumstances? These questions have been debated for a long time. Some even say that Indira becoming the Prime Minister was the beginning of the dynastic politics in India because after Indira her son Rajiv Gandhi became PM. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress projected her grandson Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate. So where did it all start and did Nehru really want it to be this way.

Indira Gandhi served as her father's personal assistant during his tenure as prime minister between 1947 and 1964. She was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

Dr Anil Rajvanshi writes in a blog that Nehru may not have wanted to groom Indira, but she was so much around him during important meetings and trips that she got politically involved.

"..it was Govind Ballabh Pant the home minister who persuaded Nehru to bring Indira Gandhi into active politics so she could help Nehru. He would constantly remind Nehru that she has learnt so many political lessons by observing her father and also being with Gandhi ji and so would be a natural choice to become a Congress Working Committee member. Though Nehru outwardly showed that it was unethical but was never forceful enough to oppose it and so he was the one who really started the dynastic process. Naturally, Indira Gandhi took it to its logical conclusion and till today we are still suffering the Nehru-Gandhi family!," Dr Anil Rajvanshi writes.

Many, however, argue that it was not Nehru but Indira who sowed the seeds of dynastic politics in India. Nehru in fact never wanted that Indira Gandhi becomes the prime minister. Indira Gandhi, on the other hand, groomed Sanjay Gandhi to be her political heir, while Rajiv Gandhi was kept out of it.

But, in the end, it so turned out that Sanjay Gandhi got killed in a plane crash and Indira had to force Rajiv Gandhi to enter politics. Why did she force Rajiv Gandhi to quit his career as a pilot and enter politics? A logical answer to this would be that she did not want her family to lose a grip on Congress. Nehru may not have envisioned Indira as the next prime minister, but he also did not object to her growing powerful within the Congress while he was alive.

[Congress remembers Indira Gandhi on her 35th death anniversary][Congress remembers Indira Gandhi on her 35th death anniversary]

The grooming of Indira Gandhi was so perfect that she started talking and giving speeches just like her father. In the book Six Thousand Days, Amiya Rao and B G Rao, write that six months after she was nominated to the Working Committee, Nehru resigned from the powerful Central Parliamentary Board and nominated Indira Gandhi. This was the committee which picked the candidates for elections and decided on the political fate of thousands of Congressmen and women.

The book 'Six thousand days: Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister' also argues that Nehru had moulded the party to accept Indira Gandhi as the prime minister. "He skillfully removed all the strong contenders to the post like Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai by making statements that Congress does not encourage people getting addicted to power. He kept people like Gulzarilal Nanda, who would not be a strong contender, but would be a stop-gap arrangement. All of Nehru's actions indicated that he was promoting the dynasty, but it is strange that modern historians have no recollection of all these events," the book says.

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