Some love her and some look at her political trajectory with disdain. But there’s no denying that Indira Gandhi was a force to reckon with. Today is the 33rd death anniversary of the first woman Prime Minister of India. We have put together a list of little known facts about India’s Iron Woman.
Indira Gandhi was always a revolutionary. When she was five years old, she burnt all her dolls because they were made in England.
She is women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi’s mother-in-law. Maneka was married to Sanjay Gandhi. Indira had many skirmishes with Maneka and even ordered her daughter-in law to leave her house because of a misunderstanding between them.
Indira Gandhi was friends with British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, who was also known for nationalisation policies.
She became Indian’s first female Prime Minister on January 19, 1966. During her first term, Indira nationalised four banks.
She was India’s Prime Minister for 16 years. After becoming PM in 1966, she served till 1977. Then she was elected again in 1980 and served until she was assassinated in 1984.
Indira also presided over what’s been called Indian democracy’s darkest hour, imposing the Emergme ency over 21 months between 1975- 1977.
She enrolled at Oxford even after failing her first attempt to clear the entrance exam. She could not complete her studies because of her ill health. Later, she was awarded an honorary degree
She met her husband while she was in England, and married him later in Allahabad.
As Sagarika Ghose writes in her book on Indira, her mother often dressed her as a boy when she was younger. She wore the boy’s uniform as a child member of the Congress. “I think all her life she was more man than woman in the conventional sense, and her identity was defined more by her aristocratic lineage and later by power than by gender,” says Ghose.
There were also rumours about her numerous affairs. In 1966, there were rumours that Dinesh Singh, the raja of Kalakankar and minister in her first cabinet, was her lover. There were also rumours about her affair with Nehru’s secretary M.O. Mathai and of her closeness with her yoga guru Dhirendra Brahmachari.
Also Read: An Extract From Indira: India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister