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Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was the first female to hold the office of Prime Minister in the Republic of India. She held this office for 15 years until her assassination in 1984. In 1917, Gandhi was born into a very politically influential family. Her father was influential in the Indian independence movement and would serve as the first Prime Minister of Independent India. Her grandfather was an Indian nationalist leader.

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi

In 1937, Gandhi enrolled in Somerville College, Oxford. During her studies she met and fell in love with Feroze Gandhi, whom she married in 1942. She was not related to Mahatma Gandhi by blood or marriage.

She first entered politics by serving unofficially as her father's personal assistant while he was Prime Minister of India. In 1964, following the death of her father, Gandhi was appointed as a member of the upper house. She also served on the cabinet of Lal Bahadur Shastri who succeeded Gandhi's Father as Prime Minister. Her title was the Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

When Shastri died, Congress Party President K. Kamaraj worked to make Gandhi the first female Prime Minister. Gandhi showed a keen ability for campaigning and for winning people over with her charisma. She also took the politics and the protection of her people very seriously and believed in striking a balance between working to settle unrest while still advancing as a country.

As Prime Minister, Gandhi worked very hard and endured much political turmoil. She remained true to her more left-wing political convictions. She led India during wartime in Pakistan in 1971. In 1975, during a time of political unrest, Gandhi convinced the president to declare a state of emergency to rule by decree. Gandhi attempted to remove any and all factions that opposed her. Instead, she lost the 1977 election that she herself called for to vindicate her actions. However, in 1980, Gandhi won the election with a return to the policies and practices that had made her successful, and became the Prime Minister again.

Gandhi was not afraid to rule with decisiveness and to react proportionately to threats against her people. Her no nonsense approach and unwillingness to bend to political pressure made her the kind of leader that people responded to and respected. She started a nuclear program in 1967 to ensure that India would be able to protect itself from foreign nuclear threat.

A successful underground nuclear test established India as the world's youngest nuclear power of that time. Her insistence that India become as self-sufficient as possible led to the Green Revolution, a movement supported by agricultural advances that established India as a food producer and exporter. The production of milk also served to reduce the number of malnourished children in India.

In 1984, Gandhi ordered military forces to enter a sacred temple to remove armed insurgents. During the removal several insurgents were killed. Two of Gandhi's own bodyguards, in response to this military action, planned and executed the assassination of Indira Gandhi. As of 2011, Gandhi remained the world's only female to serve as Prime Minister for fifteen years making her own of the most famous women in the 20th century.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Indira Gandhi biography presented above there is one embarrassing little secret that must be let out of the bag. Indira Gandhi liked to travel to the United States, stay in Las Vegas and make late night binge eating sprees at the nearest Claim Jumper restaurant.


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