Former PM Indira GandhiImage Credit source: Twitter
While mentioning the return of Congress in 1980, the Belchhi incident of 27 May 1977 is remembered. In this village of Bihar Sharif, the landlords of the dominant middle class caste had burnt eleven Dalits alive in a land dispute. This incident became much discussed in the country and abroad after two and a half months. Congress was wiped out in North India in the anti-Emergency wave. There was Morarji’s government at the center and Karpoori Thakur’s government in Bihar.
Indira Gandhi reached Bihar Sharif on 13 August 1977. He decided to reach Belchhi that evening during the rainy season. Supporters cited bad weather. Sonia Gandhi also stopped him while leaving Delhi. Indira did not agree. The jeep got stuck in the rough road of mud and water. Help of tractor was taken. Still the work was not done. There was a river in the middle. An elephant was brought from a nearby temple. There was no pit. Blankets and sheets were spread and Indira Gandhi was made to sit on the elephant. Scared Pratibha Patil was clinging to him.
This three and a half hour long visit of Indira had made headlines in the country and abroad. The workers, dejected and dejected by the defeat, had come out on the streets. The way for Congress to come back in 1980 was through a shovel.
The period of struggle after 1977
After 21 months of Emergency, the election results of 1977 were disappointing for Indira Gandhi and Congress. Not only the party, he himself and his younger son Sanjay Gandhi were defeated in their constituencies Rae Bareli and Amethi. It was assumed that the return of Indira and Congress would not be easy. The Janata Party government was leaving no chance to settle scores with them. He was also arrested.
He won the by-election from Chikmagalur but his membership of the Lok Sabha was abolished. Initially Indira was in shock of defeat. But then Sanjay Gandhi’s struggle from streets to courts started gaining momentum. Indira entered the field for struggle. His visit to Belchhi proved to be a turning point. Indira’s strategy played a major role in fueling the infighting within the Janata Party government. Indira was once again in power with tremendous success in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.
Not just family: I had talent in myself
Of course, Indira Gandhi got a lot of benefits from being the daughter of Pandit Nehru. But his skill in maintaining the family legacy should not be forgotten. After the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. The leaders who made her the Prime Minister, including Kamaraj, expected that she would follow their instructions. Indira had quickly brought them all down to earth. Indira had made the senior Congress leaders realize her potential by supporting and winning the independent candidate VV Giri against the party’s official candidate Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy in the 1969 presidential election. He proved his mettle in political maneuvering by defeating the syndicate in the historic split of the party in 1969.
They say remove Indira…. we say eliminate poverty
Indira had registered victory in the internal turmoil of the party, but in a democracy, the real test of a leader’s popularity lies in the elections. Indira Gandhi’s tremendous success in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections amidst the fanfare of progressive steps like nationalization of banks and abolition of privy purses of former kings gave the message that she had a deep grip on the pulse of not only the party but also the public.
This was the election in which the opposition tried to block Indira Gandhi’s path by forming a grand alliance. While assuming the post of Prime Minister, she was called a dumb doll, but after that, Indira kept making her opponents realize again and again that their assessment of her was far away from the ground realities. She was a challenger in this election, “They say remove Indira. We say eliminate poverty.” Poverty may not have gone away but this slogan had filled Indira’s bag with seats.
The victory of 1971 created history
In 1971, another major success registered Indira Gandhi’s name in history. The repression by the Pakistani army created an explosive situation in East Pakistan. The migration of the population there created serious problems for India. By November 1971, the number of refugees who reached India crossed one crore. Among the refugees was also the rebel Bengal Regiment of the Pakistani Army, which later became the Mukti Bahini. The dangerous conditions there became a cause of trouble for India. American Security Advisor Henry Kissinger came to India on 7 July 1971 but his attitude was hostile. On 9 August 1971, the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was signed. After this Indira went on a 21-day tour of Europe and America.
Showed thumb to America
He addressed many meetings and seminars to present his stand on the problem of Pakistan, which has become a headache for India. BBC asked him, “Why should India not be more patient in the matter of Bangladesh?” Indira said bluntly, “When Hitler attacked, why didn’t you say let us tolerate it?” Keep quiet. Maintain peace with Germany. Let the Jews die.” In a decisive tone, he said, “I do not think that we can keep our eyes closed about the situation in the neighboring country… We are in danger from the military rule of Pakistan. The situation of indirect attack continues. Pakistan will not be able to continue as it was.”
In response, Yahya Khan said, “That woman cannot scare me.” Indira retorted, “The comment reflects the mentality of that person.” The meeting between Indira and US President Nixon was very disappointing. In reality, both of them strongly disliked each other. Nixon’s comments about Indira were ridiculous and shameful.
Bright chapter of political life
Indira Gandhi had understood that India would have to fight this battle on its own. The brave forces of the country did this under his leadership. Certainly the victory of 1971 was the result of the unprecedented cooperation of the people of Bangladesh along with Indian military prowess. But the biggest contribution in this was the strong political will of Indira.
This is the brightest chapter of his life. Only nine years had passed since the 1962 defeat by China, but they blew away superpower America’s warning. Didn’t care about the anger of the Seventh Fleet. In 1969, he showed his political skills by sidelining the party’s opponents. With its landslide victory in the elections in 1971, it showed the bravery of the Indian Army to the world’s major powers along with its diplomatic skills, determination and women power.
specter of emergency
If the Indira of 1971 was glowing with victory, the Indira of 1975 was covered by the dark shadow of the eclipse of Emergency. On June 12, 1975, Allahabad High Court had canceled his Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli. Indira could have resigned and won the election again. But in his insistence to remain on the chair, he imposed emergency. The 21-month emergency became a permanent eclipse in his political career. Indira could not free herself from this responsibility during her lifetime. Even today, through this, opponents get an opportunity to corner his party as a shameful chapter in the usurpation of democracy.
The opposition is also convinced
But even people who disagree with Indira Gandhi remember her as a leader who had immense ability to take risks and take decisions. If he made the mistake of imposing emergency in 1975, the 1977 elections will be remembered as his attempt to recover from it. The 1980s wrote a common story of their rise and fall. While victory in the elections brought him back to power, the death of his younger son Sanjay Gandhi on 23 June 1980 devastated him. Later, the rebellion of daughter-in-law Maneka further troubled them by bringing their domestic disputes onto the streets.
In this innings, questions have been raised on his role in the Punjab crisis and the rise of militancy. But at the peak of this crisis, once again the courageous face of Indira Gandhi comes to the fore. Operation Blue Star in the Golden Temple was a difficult decision. But Indira Gandhi is remembered for her decisions and she took a decision on this question also. He paid the price for this decision with his life. Many innocent Sikhs were killed in retaliation. , But Punjab survived. The integrity of the country remained intact.
Also read: ‘Treasure’ of white hydrogen found under the ground, read its features