Indira Gandhi

By: Mick Yates
In 1964 she became Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the Lal Bahadur Shastri Government. She helped make radios inexpensive and created a family planning program.

In 1966 after Shastri's sudden death, Indira became Indian Prime Minister. Her adversaries believed her to be easily manipulated, but she won the election in 1967 and again in 1971 - becoming the first woman ever elected to lead a democracy.

In 1971 she was at her peak popularity, gaining victory in the war with Pakistan. She gained the backing of the middle class, despite implementing a very unpopular voluntary sterilization program. Following allegations of rigged elections (later declared "clean" by the Supreme Court), Indira declared a state of emergency, and limited personal freedom "for the good of India". Voted out in 1977, she made a comeback in 1980.

In an attempt to crush the Sikh secessionist movement, she authorised the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. As a direct result she was assasinated the same year by her Sikh bodyguards. Whilst Indira Gandhi brought much harm to Indian democracy, she also improved relations with the Soviet Union, exploded India's first nuclear device, sent India's first satellite into space and led the Country to have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Pete Yates