Indira Gandhi birth anniversary: From Pokhran nuclear test to Emergency; 5 decisions taken by 'Iron Lady of India'


India remembers its only female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on her birth anniversary today. Known as the ‘Iron Lady of India’, Gandhi was famous for her decisive and forceful personality. The daughter of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi managed to step out of her father’s long shadow and etch her own mark in history. From the 1971 Indo-Pak War to Operation Bluestar, the Congress leader oversaw several tumultuous events in her decades-long political career. She was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by her bodyguards in retaliation for Operation Bluestar. Years later, she remains a towering figure in Indian politics. On the occasion of her birth anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the major decisions taken by Indira Gandhi during her tenure as Prime Minister:

Nationalisation of banks:

Indira Gandhi was immensely popular for her efforts to eradicate poverty. To empower the agricultural sector and make it easier for farmers to take loans, she nationalised 14 banks in 1969. The decision was taken after a string of failures by private banks and the perception that they only lent money to big businesses.

1971 India- Pakistan War:

Indira Gandhi fiercely supported East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in its struggle against Pakistan. When Pakistan launched a series of air strikes on Indian air bases in retaliation for its support to the secessionist movement in East Pakistan, Gandhi ordered the armed forces to retaliate, marking the start of the third Indo-Pak war on 3 December 1971. Indian forces achieved a decisive victory against Pakistan and the state of Bangladesh was formed.

Pokhran nuclear test:

India conducted its first nuclear test under the aegis of Indira Gandhi. With this successful test, India became the first non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to claim the status of a nuclear power.


In 1975, Indira Gandhi was disqualified by the Allahabad High Court for six years on charges of electoral malpractices. When she could not get the Supreme Court to rule in her favour on the issue, she declared a national emergency on 25 June 1975. Thus began one of the darkest periods in India’s democratic history. Civil liberties were curbed, political opponents imprisoned and freedom of the press was clamped down upon. The decision made Gandhi immensely unpopular. Though she lifted the Emergency in 1977, the upheaval contributed to her downfall in the 1977 general elections.

Operation Bluestar:

After the failure of the Janata Party government, Indira Gandhi was swept back into power. During her tenure in the 1980s, she had to deal with the rising Khalistan movement. When militants demanding the creation of Khalistan occupied the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, Gandhi made the decision to send the army in to oust them. Labelled Operation Bluestar, the move was widely seen as controversial. In October 1984, five months after Operation Bluestar, Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards.

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Indira Gandhi birth anniversary: From Pokhran nuclear test to Emergency; 5 decisions taken by 'Iron Lady of India'
Indira Gandhi birth anniversary: From Pokhran nuclear test to Emergency; 5 decisions taken by 'Iron Lady of India'
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