How Nehru prepared Indira for big role!
Indira Gandhi’s 97th Birth Anniversary: How Nehru Prepared Indira For Big Role!. On the night of 19th November 1917, the day the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala was born, Anand Bhavan was brightly lit. The baby was named Indira by Motilal. Jawaharlal and Kamala added Priyadarshini meaning “dear to behold”.
19th November is Indira Gandhi’s 97th Birth Anniversary
On the night of 19th November 1917, the day the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala was born, Anand Bhavan was brightly lit. The baby was named Indira by Motilal. Jawaharlal and Kamala added Priyadarshini meaning “dear to behold”.
Indira’s earliest memories are of cruel separation, as one or the other member of the family was suddenly hauled to prison. It was her grandfather who influenced her more than anyone else in her childhood. On December 6, 1921 little Indira at the age of four shouted at a police man who came to her house to confiscate some priceless carpets. She literally flew at the Inspector shaking her fists at him. Elders had to pull her away and calm her!
Jawaharlal Nehru believed that Indira being intimately associated with eminent men and women would do her good. Nehru in every aspect right from her childhood prepared Indira for a bigger role in the national scenario. In the year 1930, on the New Year’s Day, the draft speech of declaration of Indian Independence, to be delivered by Nehru, was first readout to him by Indira, when she was just 13 years old! Indira changed number of schools. To compensate, Jawaharlal used to order number of books for her. On reading them, Indira was fascinated by stories about Joan of Arc. She believed even at that age, that, some day she will lead her people to freedom just as Joan of Arc did.
Since Indira never had a continuous schooling, Jawaharlal, in prison, supplemented her education by means of correspondence. Indira loved her father’s letters. They stimulated her to read other books too.
After a brief stint at Santiniketan, when she had to leave, Rabindranath Tagore wrote to Jawaharlal: “It is with heavy heart that we bade farewell to Indira, for she was such an asset in our place…..”.
Indira left Santiniketan to take her mother to Germany and to stay with her. There they were joined from time to time by Feroze Gandhi. With Jawaharlal, Indira and Feroze at her bedside, Kamala Nehru died in February 1936.
Indira went to England to enter the Badminton School at BristolW where she saw a great deal of Feroze then. After Bristol she attended Oxford. She worked for the India League under Krishna Menon. However she could always turn for companionship to the ever loyal Feroze. Indira returned home in 1940 from Oxford and stayed in Mussoorie. That time Nehru was in Dehra Dun Prison.
On one of her visits to her father in prison Indira told him that she wanted to marry Feroze Gandhi. Nehru initially was somewhat upset and suggested to Indira that she should postpone a final decision. But Indira had made up her mind. Indira’s wedding was performed with all the Vedic rites.
In August 1942 after attending AICC meet in Bombay, Indira Gandhi left for Allahabad. By then all the elders of Nehru family as well as Gandhiji were arrested. Feroze was in underground in Lucknow. Indira Gandhi gave birth to her first son Rajiv Gandhi on August 20, 1944 in Bombay. In November 1946 Feroze family moved to Lucknow in view of his joining in National Herald as Managing Editor. As Interim Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had to live in New Delhi. Indira had to shuttle to and fro between Delhi and Lucknow. At this juncture, Indira gave birth to Sanjay Gandhi on December 14, 1946. During the Partition days of India, when she heard that a mob surrounded the house of a poor Muslim, Indira went there bravely, and despite protests from Hindu crowd she got the whole family into her jeep and took them to her father’s house.
After India became independent, Jawaharlal became the first Prime Minister and his residence was changed to Teen Murti House. Feroze suggested to his wife that he would make frequent visits to Delhi instead of her travelling to Lucknow with children.
When foreign dignitaries like Khrushchev, Bulganin, Nasser, Chou En-Lai and Roosevelt visited Delhi, for Indira Gandhi it was an opportunity to make acquaintance with them. During the first general elections held in 1952 Indira often campaigned alongside father. In the process, Indira Gandhi made her home in her father’s house in Delhi. Feroze Gandhi, however, was active in politics and even won Lok Sabha seat. He also made a name for himself as an MP. Feroze passed away on September 8, 1960 when Indira Gandhi was on his bedside.
In February 1959 she was elected AICC president. In that capacity she persuaded Parliament to dismiss the Kerala Communist Government. When her father fell ill people started asking questions like “After Nehru, who?” To every one’s surprise Nehru brought Lal Bahadur Shastri into the Cabinet hinting at he was his successor. On May 27, 1964 Nehru passed away and Lal Bahadur succeeded him as PM. Shastri persuaded Indira Gandhi to join his Cabinet. During the night to celebrate the Tashkent pact after the dinner Shastri had a heart attack and died.
There were many in the race for PM post. Chief among them were Morarji Desai, YB Chavan, Guljarilal Nanda, Jagjivan Ram, SK Patil etc. AICC President Kamaraj favored Indira Gandhi. Morarji dissented and wanted an election. The date of the election was fixed for January 19, 1966. Indira Gandhi secured 355 votes against Morarji Desai’s 169 and she was elected the leader and succeeded Shastri as the 3rd Prime Minister of India.
From then it has been a contemporary history and she proved to be the strongest PM of the country and as one of the most powerful leaders of the world!
(From the Book “Dear to Behold” written by Krishna Nehru Hutheesingh)