From 1858 to 1947, India was being held
under British rule. With their freedom stripped from their grip, the country
was in need of a power figure, someone who could restore the independence and
justice of India. Their answer came in the form of a determined woman named
Indira Gandhi and her dedicated family who took control of their country and
guided it to success when it seemed all hope was lost.

On November 19,
1917, Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru welcomed their first child, Indira Gandhi, in
Allahabad, India. Having been born to a family of active members of the Indian
National Congress Party, she was battling for her nation’s freedom practically
from birth. Her father and mother serving as her inspirations, she wanted
nothing more than to be just like them and be able to lead activist movements. At
only 12 years old, Gandhi attempted to become a part of the National Congress
Party, but was denied for being younger than the required age limitations.
Although she was rejected, she refused to watch while her parents were out
fighting for their country. In an attempt to revive her strive to bring back
India’s independence, Gandhi decided to make a new ‘party’ to assist the
preexisting freedom efforts, and thus the Monkey Brigade was formed. Thousands
of India’s children joined and were able to take part in the National Congress
Party’s work in tasks such as running simple errands, wrapping bandages and
even carrying secret messages between groups of protesters, all thanks to Indira’s
determination.

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August 15, 1947
marks the day that India finally gained independence from Great Britain through
the Indian Independence Act. Numerous celebrations were held to honor the
special day, but without British rule, India now needed to define their own
justice system. After some debate, the nation adopted the democratic form of
government and elected Indira’s father, Jawaharlal Nehru, as India’s first
prime minister for his leadership in the many activist protests that were held.
From then on, Indira aspired to just like her father and take on such an
authoritative position. This high political stature and influence provided his
daughter with many opportunities to create and instill change on her new and
impressionable nation. Her first major use of this advantage was in 1955 when she
took up an executive body position in the Congress Party. From then onwards,
she slowly worked her way up the ladder of government officials, going from a
body member to body president in just a matter of 4 years. Eventually a few
more years past, and Gandhi was appointed to Rajya Sabha, an important post in
Lal Bahadur Shastri’s ruling government. After Shastri’s death in 1966, Gandhi received
one of her biggest opportunities yet: being elected as the first female prime
minister of India. Considering how women of this era were given little to any
rights and generally were seen as objects for house chores and pleasing their
husbands, having a female head of government seemed quite insane. The idea
itself could have made a stir of controversy because the people of India were
not yet sure what women were truly capable of, since no women had taken such
leadership yet.

Such a
revolutionary advancement did not go without the discontent of many. Soon after
her election, she had been challenged to a re-election by an opposing right
wing of Congress. Having only won by a narrow margin in the 1967 election,
Gandhi was required to rule with a deputy prime minister for the remainder of
her term because Congress didn’t believe that she could’ve properly handled all
the power she was being given. Two years passed before the Congress Party
tried, once again, to remove Indira from her position for her idea to
nationalize the country’s banks unilaterally. In 1971, Indira won a landslide
victory at her re-election over the opposition thanks to her populist stance,
thus cementing her as the now indisputable head of the Indian government. Now,
with a greater mass of the nation’s support, Gandhi started to make some of
India’s biggest decisions.

The re-election
now allowed for Indira to nationalize the country’s banks which in terms spread
the wealth of the nation. Such a change was long overdue with India’s
unendurable poverty. Gandhi’s plan also rose the budget of public spending
which was used for numerous programs in need of improvement, such including
rural electrification, fisheries, and irrigation. Recognizing the importance of
providing people of all social classes their basic needs of food, shelter, and
jobs, Gandhi proposed the Green Revolution. This program not only largely
increased the amount of wheat, rice, cotton, and milk produced, but also helped
bring India to diversify and trade more of its mercantile crops. Only ten years
later, the Green Revolution managed to triple the production of wheat, greatly
raise the amount of rice produced, and give jobs of farmers and grain
processors to many unemployed Indian citizens. This industrial and economic
expansion allowed the nation to pay off debts from the World Bank, thus providing
India with reliability to foreign countries for future investments or loans. This
geographical impact helped India gain allies in their future war endeavors as
well. Indira Gandhi made it clear that she wanted to use her position to
improve the living standards of her people and make a lasting impact on her
nation.

In spite of her
many achievements, Gandhi had to briefly step down from her role in 1977 after
her first ever electoral loss. Facing the reality of the situation, she
realized that there was not much she could productively get done considering
that all her ideas were meant to be taken into action with the Congress. Yet,
this did not stop Gandhi from running for office the next year. Quickly, voters
began to realize that their preexisting government did have the same foundation
it truly needed without Indira and decided to take their own action, having
been inspired by the way Gandhi did so for numerous years. Voters decided to form
the Congress (I) Party, the ‘I’ standing for Indira, to break away from the
opposing Congress Party currently in power. Re-elections were held in 1980 and,
unsurprisingly, Gandhi was re-elected and along with her came the Congress (I)
Party. She was embraced and re-welcomed by her people who now had a new-found
respect for her strong leadership.

Unfortunately, on
October 31st, 1984, Indira Gandhi’s fourth term became her last. Two
of her bodyguards had successfully assassinated her in New Delhi. Her death
might have seemed to be the end of Indira, but that’s far from the truth.
Today, Indira is remembered as a strong and authoritative female figure who led
her nation to prosperity in times of difficulty. She serves as an inspiration
for women around the world to not be afraid to take on leadership roles, as she
would have wanted to be remembered.

Throughout her
lifetime, Indira Gandhi used her political power to better the lives of her
people and her nation as a whole. From improving the living standards to
raising the amount of industry and trade, Gandhi undeniably made a lasting
influence on India. Her persistence and drive to give all Indian citizens a
brighter future reveals how important Indira was to Indian history. Without the
leadership of Indira Gandhi, India wouldn’t be anywhere near as politically and
economically advanced as they are today.