Eleven years as Prime Minister
Her first eleven years serving as prime minister saw Gandhi evolve from the perception of Congress party
leaders as their puppet to a strong leader with the iron resolve to split the party over her policy
positions or to go to war
with Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh. At the end of 1977, she was such a dominating figure in Indian
politics that Congress party president D. K. Barooah had coined the phrase "India is Indira and Indira is
Gandhi formed her government with Morarji Desai as deputy prime minister and finance minister. At the
beginning of her first term as prime minister, she was widely criticised by the media and the opposition
as a "Goongi goodiya" (Hindi for a "dumb doll"
or "puppet") of the Congress party bosses who had orchestrated her election and then tried to constrain
Indira Gandhi with Australian Prime Minister John Gorton in 1968 The first electoral test for Gandhi was
the 1967 general elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The Congress Party won a reduced
majority in the
Lok Sabha after these elections owing to widespread disenchantment over the rising prices of commodities,
unemployment, economic stagnation and a food crisis. Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha from the
She had a rocky start after agreeing to devalue the rupee which created hardship for Indian businesses and
consumers. The importation of wheat from the United States fell through due to political disputes.
For the first time, the party also lost power or lost its majority in a number of states across the
country. Following the 1967 elections, Gadhi gradually began to move towards socialist policies. In 1969,
she fell out
with senior Congress party leaders over several issues. Chief among them was her decision to support V. V.
Giri, the independent candidate rather than the official Congress party candidate Neelam Sanjiva Reddy for
the vacant position
of president of India. The other was the announcement by the prime minister of Bank nationalisation
without consulting the finance minister, Morarji Desai. These steps culminated in party president S.
Nijalingappa expelling her
from the party for indiscipline. Gandhi, in turn, floated her own faction of the Congress party and
managed to retain most of the Congress MPs on her side with only 65 on the side of the Congress (O)
faction. The Gandhi faction,
called Congress (R), lost its majority in the parliament but remained in power with the support of
regional parties such as DMK. The policies of the Congress under Gandhi, before the 1971 elections, also
included proposals for
the abolition of the Privy Purse to former rulers of the princely states and the 1969 nationalization of
the fourteen largest banks in India.
Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi's 1971 political bid. The slogan was developed
in response to the combined opposition alliance's use of the two word manifesto—"Indira Hatao" (Remove
Garibi Hatao slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programs that came with it were designed to give Gandhi
independent national support, based on the rural and urban poor. This would allow her to bypass the
dominant rural castes
both in and of state and local governments as well as the urban commercial class. For their part, the
previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight. The programs
created through Garibi Hatao,
though carried out locally, were funded and developed by the Central Government in New Delhi. The program
was supervised and staffed by the Indian National Congress party. "These programs also provided the
central political leadership
with new and vast patronage resources to be disbursed ... throughout the country."
Gandhi's biggest achievement following the 1971 election came in December 1971 with India's decisive
victory over Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War that occurred in the last two weeks of the Bangladesh
which led to the formation of independent Bangladesh. She was said to be hailed as Goddess Durga by
opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the time. In the elections held for State assemblies across
India in March 1972, the
Congress (R) swept to power in most states riding on the post-war "Indira wave".
Despite the victory against Pakistan, the Congress government faced numerous problems during this term.
Some of these were due to high inflation which in turn was caused by wartime expenses, drought in some
parts of the
country and, more importantly, the 1973 oil crisis. Opposition to her in the 1973–75 period, after the
Gandhi wave had receded, was strongest in the states of Bihar and Gujarat. In Bihar, Jayaprakash Narayan,
the veteran leader
came out of retirement to lead the protest movement there.
Verdict on electoral malpractice
Indira Gandhi with U.S. President Richard Nixon, 1971 On 12 June 1975, the Allahabad High Court declared
Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha in 1971 void on the grounds of electoral malpractice. In an
filed by her 1971 opponent, Raj Narain (who later defeated her in the 1977 parliamentary election running
in the Raebareli constituency), alleged several major as well as minor instances of the use of government
resources for campaigning.
Gandhi had asked one of her colleagues in government, Ashoke Kumar Sen, to defend her in court.[citation
needed] She gave evidence in her defence during the trial. After almost four years, the court found her
guilty of dishonest
election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for
party purposes. The judge, however, rejected the more serious charges of bribery against her.
The court ordered her stripped of her parliamentary seat and banned her from running for any office for
six years. As the constitution requires that the Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha
or the Rajya
Sabha, the two houses of the Parliament of India, she was effectively removed from office. However, Gandhi
rejected calls to resign. She announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court and insisted that the
conviction did not undermine
her position. She said: "There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our
experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments." And she
dismissed criticism of
the way her Congress Party raised election campaign money, saying all parties used the same methods. The
prime minister retained the support of her party, which issued a statement backing her.
After news of the verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging their
loyalty. Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Braj Kumar Nehru said Gandhi's conviction would
not harm her
political career. "Mrs Gandhi has still today overwhelming support in the country," he said. "I believe
the prime minister of India will continue in office until the electorate of India decides otherwise"
State of Emergency (1975–1977)
Gandhi moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the
unrest. Her Cabinet and government then recommended that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a state of
of the disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court decision. Accordingly, Ahmed declared a
State of Emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352 of the
Constitution, on 25 June 1975.
Rule By Decree
Within a few months, President's rule was imposed on the two opposition party ruled states of Gujarat and
Tamil Nadu thereby bringing the entire country under direct Central rule or by governments led by the
party. Police were granted powers to impose curfews and detain citizens indefinitely; all publications
were subjected to substantial censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Finally, the
assembly elections were postponed indefinitely, with all opposition-controlled state governments being
removed by virtue of the constitutional provision allowing for a dismissal of a state government on the
recommendation of the
Indira Gandhi used the emergency provisions to change conflicting party members:
Unlike her father Jawaharlal Nehru, who preferred to deal with strong chief ministers in control of their
legislative parties and state party organizations, Mrs. Gandhi set out to remove every Congress chief
had an independent base and to replace each of them with ministers personally loyal to her...Even so,
stability could not be maintained in the states...
President Ahmed issued ordinances that did not require debate in the Parliament, allowing Gandhi to rule
Rise of Sanjay
The Emergency saw the entry of Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, into Indian politics. He wielded
tremendous power during the emergency without holding any government office. According to Mark Tully, "His
did not stop him from using the Draconian powers his mother, Indira Gandhi, had taken to terrorise the
administration, setting up what was in effect a police state."
It was said that during the Emergency he virtually ran India along with his friends, especially Bansi Lal.
It was also quipped that Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the government was run
PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).