Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the Prime Minister of India, serving from 1984 to 1989. He took office after the 1984 assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, to become the youngest Indian Prime Minister at the age of 40.
Rajiv Gandhi’s period in office was mired in controversies; perhaps the greatest crises were the Bhopal disaster and the Shah Bano case. In 1988 he reversed the coup in Maldives, antagonising militant Tamil groups such as PLOTE, intervening and then sending peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka in 1987, leading to open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In mid-1987 the Bofors scandal damaged his corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 election.
Gandhi remained Congress President until the elections in 1991. While campaigning for the elections, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the LTTE.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi ( 19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician and central figure of the Indian National Congress party, and to date the only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. She served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, making her the second-longest-serving Prime Minister of India after her father.
She went to war with Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of independence in East Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh, as well as increasing India’s influence to the point where it became the regional hegemon of South Asia. Gandhi also presided over a controversial state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 during which she ruled by decree.
After leading India to victory against Pakistan in the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, President V. V. Giri awarded Mrs. Gandhi India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. In 2011, the Bangladesh Freedom Honour (Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona ), Bangladesh’s highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred on Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contributions to Bangladesh’s Liberation War. She was assassinated in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards a few months after she ordered the storming of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar to counter the Punjab insurgency. Gandhi was cremated on 3 November near Raj Ghat. The site where she was cremated is today known as Shakti Sthala. In 1999, Indira was named “Woman of the Millennium” in a poll organised by the BBC.
Chaudhary Charan Singh (23 December 1902 – 29 May 1987) was the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, serving from 28 July 1979 until 14 January 1980. Charan Singh opposed Jawaharlal Nehru on his Soviet-style economic reform. Charan Singh was of the opinion that cooperative farms would not succeed in India. Being a son of a farmer, Charan Singh opined that the right of ownership was important to the farmer in remaining a cultivator. Charan Singh’s political career suffered due to his open criticism of Nehru’s economic policy.
Charan Singh left the Congress party in 1967, and formed his own political party, Bharatiya Kranti Dal. With the help and support of Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia, he became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1967, and later in 1970. In 1975, he was jailed again, but this time by then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, daughter of his former rival Nehru. She had declared the state of emergency and jailed all her political opponents. In the 1977 general elections, the Indian populace voted her out, and the opposition party, of which Chaudhary Charan Singh was a senior leader came into power. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in the Janata government headed by Morarji Desai.
Morarji Desai(29 February 1896 – 10 April 1995) was an Indian independence activist and the Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979. He was also the first Prime Minister to head India’s first non-Congress Government. He held many important posts in the Government of India such as: Chief Minister of Bombay State, Home Minister, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.
On the international scene, Desai holds international fame for his peace activism and made efforts to initiate peace between two rival South Asian states, Pakistan and India. After India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974, Desai helped restore friendly relations with China and Pakistan, and vowed to avoid armed conflict such as Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Domestically, he played a crucial role in the Indian nuclear program after it was targeted by major nuclear powers after conducting a surprise test in 1974. Morarji Desai closed down much of India’s premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), and reduced its budget and operations.
Desai remains the only Indian national to be conferred with Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, which was conferred on him by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 in a colorful ceremony. Later, his policies promoted social, health and administrative reforms in the country. It is rumored that he was a mole of CIA in Indira Gandhi led cabinet. He also revealed the R&AW is well aware of Pakistan’s Nuclear activity in Kahuta to the Pakistani general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in a telephonic conversation, killing all agents of R&AW.
In retirement, he lived in Mumbai and died in 1995 at the age of 99. He was much honoured in his last years as a freedom-fighter of his generation.
Gulzarilal Nanda was an Indian politician and economist. He was the Prime Minister of India for two short periods following the deaths of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964 and Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1997.
Nanda worked as a research scholar on labour problems at Allahabad University (1920–1921), and became a Professor of Economics at National College in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1921. The same year, he joined the Indian Non-Cooperation Movement against the British Raj.
In 1922, he became secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association where he worked until 1946. He was imprisoned for Satyagraha in 1932, and again from 1942 to 1944. He was honored with “Proud Past Alumni” in the list of 42 members, from “Allahabad University Alumni Association”.
In March 1950, Nanda joined the Indian Planning Commission as its vice-chairman. In September 1951, he was appointed Planning Minister in the Indian Government. He was also given charge of the portfolios of Irrigation and Power. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay in the general elections of 1952, and was reappointed Minister for Planning, Irrigation, and Power. Nanda was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1957 elections, and was appointed Union Minister for Labour, Employment and Planning, and later, as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
Nanda was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1962 elections from the Sabarkantha constituency in Gujarat. He initiated the Congress Forum for Socialist Action in 1962. He was Union Minister for Labour and Employment during 1962 – 1963, and Minister for Home Affairs during 1963 – 1966.
Lal Bahadur Shastri (2 October 1904 – 11 January 1966) was the Prime Minister of the Republic of India and a leader of the Indian National Congress party.
Shastri joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. Deeply impressed and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (with whom he shares his birthday), he became a loyal follower, first of Gandhi, and then of Jawaharlal Nehru. Following independence in 1947, he joined the latter’s government and became one of Prime Minister Nehru’s principal lieutenants, first as Railways Minister (1951–56), and then in a variety of other functions, including Home Minister.
Shastri as Prime Minister continued Nehru’s policies of non-alignment and socialism. He led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. His slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) became very popular during the war and is remembered even today. The war formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement of 10 January 1966; he died of a heart attack the following day, still in Tashkent.
He was the first Prime Minister of India to die overseas. He was eulogised as a national hero and the Vijay Ghat memorial established in his memory.
Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964) was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence.
He emerged as the paramount leader of the Indian independence movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and ruled India from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in 1964. He is considered to be the architect of the modern Indian nation-state: a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community while many Indian children knew him as “Uncle Nehru“.
As Prime Minister, he set out to realise his vision of India. The Constitution of India was enacted in 1950, after which he embarked on an ambitious program of economic, social and political reforms. Chiefly, he oversaw India’s transition from a colony to a republic, while nurturing a plural, multi-party democracy. In foreign policy, he took a leading role in Non-Alignment while projecting India as a regional hegemon in South Asia.