Indira Gandhi: The Greatest Indian Leader Post Independence
The heading may raise many eyebrows from those,who do not read history and politics or who follow national events only superficially. I was once a critic of her working style. But her sudden death to petty bullets of her own sentries on 30th October1984 filled me with great sorrow and grief, which took months to weather.
When her body was kept for public viewing, waves of people marched past at Teen Murti weeping and wailing, a scene when remembered even today brings tears to my eyes. The nation missed her and grieved her spontaneously. The nation mourned her so much that when her son Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress Party in elections to parliament, the party won by highest ever margin of 415 seats out of 523.
None of the present-day leaders even match half her quality. She even surpassed her famous father Jawaharlal Nehru in almost every field of performance, which no other leader in Indian history (except Mahatma Gandhi) matched. The following analysis would conclusively establish my contentions.
She became the prime minister of India in 1966 after the sudden death of Lal Bahadur Shatri in Taskent (USSR) under doubtful circumstances. She was Indian PM from January 1966 to March 1977 and then again from January 1980 to till her death in October 1980.
Her first success was the green revolution in India, which saw food production scaling to new heights wiping out food scarcity once and for all in India. In 1961, India was on the brink of a famine. Introduction of high yield variety of seeds (like IR8 etc.) coupled with increased irrigation and use of fertilizers changed the complexion of food production in India and by 1971 India was self sufficient in food. This ended the dependence on the USA for food, imported under much-criticized PL-480 and India started exporting food. Operation flood to provide milk to every body also started during her time and met with great success making us one of the largest producer of milk in the world, probably just behind USA.
She nationalized the big banks in 1969, paving the way for upliftment of the rural economy. Previously banks were mainly located in metros and big towns. The rural masses were deprived of banking facilities like deposit accounts, drafts, loans etc.
This followed the greatest success of her life when banking on the atrocities of Pakistani army in East Pakistan and taking Soviet Union on her side by a treaty of friendship for 20 years, Indian forces decimated the Pakistani Army conclusively. Five divisions (some 90000 plus soldiers) of the Pakistani Army surrendered to Indian forces on 16th December 1971 in Dhaka and were taken prisoners of war. It was just not a war. The political fall out was much greater with the birth of a new nation Bangladesh. India was free from a powerful enemy on its eastern borders.
She started atomic weapons research program in 1967 to safeguard against China in the light of invasion by them in 1962. This resulted in the test of an underground nuclear weapon at Pokhran in the Rajasthan desert in 1974. The test took India to a global club of 4 countries who had tested nuclear weapons by that time. It was because of her effort that the first atomic power plant at Tarapur started supplying power to the grid in 1969.
Her next success was in Sikkim. Taking advantage of the popular uprising against King Namgyal, she managed to accede and integrate Sikkim into India in 1975, a rare feat in the international arena.
One of her success points was empowerment of youth. Prior to her, politics was only the domain of elderly, gentle and subdued persons. But she brought flambuoyant youths into the mainsream of politics changing the thrust of politics. She herself was barely 47 when she took over the reins of India. Her son Rajiv became prime minister at the mere age of 40. It is because of her that a large number of youths are found now daily in Parliament, Assemblies, and Local Bodies.
Before ending, a tribute to her: one of her senior ministers advised her not to keep ‘Sikh’ guards at her residence, as those were the times when Sikh terrorism was at its height, particularly in the aftermaths of ‘Operation Blue Star’ ordered by her to flush out terrorists from the Golden temple precincts. But she declined saying, “What will happen to secularism then?” She died a hero’s death at the age of 67 protecting secularism by her blood.
I salute her for her secularism, pragmatism, empowerment of youth and her broad visions and great actions.
Tags: Indira Gandhi , Green Revolution , Operation Flood , 1971 War , Bank Nationalization , Nuclear Test , Pokhran
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