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Her First Term


Indira Gandhi was chosen to be the first woman Prime Minister of the Congress Party o


of India in 1966 when Prime Minister Lai Bahadur Shastri

Translation of Indira Gandhi’s speech in Hindi at the Congress Party meeting following her election as leader, January 19, 1966.

My heart is full today and I do not know how to thank you. As I stand before you, my thoughts go to the great leaders—Mahatma Gandhi, at whose feet I grew up; Pandit Pant who brought me into politics after Independence and persuaded me to continue whenever I wanted to quit politics. These leaders have shown us the way, and I want to go along the same path. Shri Bahadur Shastri gave his life for peace. It should be our effort to advance the cause of peace and, at the same time, make the country strong and safeguard its security. I have always considered myself a desh sevika

[servant of the nation] even as my father regarded himself as the first servant of the nation. I also consider myself a servant of the great people of this country. Ours is an ancient country with a great tradition and heritage. There is something in this country which enables its people, for all their illiteracy and backwardness, to rise to the occasion when face to face with mighty challenges. died of a heart attack. I have every hope that with unity we shall be able to tackle the difficult problems facing us. I want to thank Shri Morarji Desai in particular for pledging himself to work for unit. Elections are a normal feature in politics. Once elections are over, however, it is only fit and proper that differences are forgotten and all of us work together, especially at a time when the country is facing so many difficulties. I hope it will be possible for me to fulfill the trust that you have reposed in me. I thank you all once again.


January, 1966 Being sworn in as Prime Minister.


March, 1966 With General Ne Win, Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Burma during his visit.


April, 1966 With the British Prime Minister in London.


July, 1966 At the Lenin Mausoleum during her visit to the Soviet Union.


October, 1966 With President Nasster of the U.A.R. and President Tito of Yugoslavia at the Tripartite Meeting between India, U.A.R. and Yugoslavia in New Delhi.


Speech on re-election as Leader of the Congress Party, New Delhi, March 12, 1967

I am overwhelmed by the confidence which all of you have placed in me at this extremely difficult period of our history. I feel that of the many challenges we face, we have already met the first challenge, and that is the challenge which threatened the unity of our party. We have taken the first step in unison, and I hope and pray, and indeed I am confident, that the other steps will also be taken in unity. Unity has meaning only if it goes with understanding of the objectives and methods of working together towards a common goal. The congress has had high objectives before it. Many times we have faltered and made mistakes. We have many shortcomings. But it has been and should be our endeavour to work towards our objectives. We do not want to be caught up in Indira Gandhi won the re-election by a slim majority in 1967. any whirlpool of ‘isms’. When we use the word “socialism”, we use it to mean primarily the welfare of the entire Indian people, of the vast masses who live in the villages, of those who are called landless labour and who, perhaps bear the heaviest brunt of poverty. We must do our best to work for their welfare and that of those who work in factories. But at the same time, we must not cut ourselves off from the growing youth of the country


and from the intelligentsia. We must also look to the problems of those who work in government offices and other offices, of those who man our essential services; all these are the people of India. Towards all these we must direct our attention, and see how we can find quicker solutions to the many problems and difficulties which they face. Today, no responsible person or party can make very spectacular statements. In the years since Independence we have made much progress. But problems have also been mounting up and today the demand is not only for right policies but for quick and efficient implementation of those policies and for quick results. We must realize that it is not possible to provide overnight solutions, no matter how much we may desire to do so. It is a question of hard work, of discussing together and of being in tune with the masses and all sections of the people. If we can regain this mass contact and if we can retain a contact among ourselves, then we will lay the foundation of our future work. We face a changed situation. I am told, and I hope this figure is correct, that since 1952 there has been only a 5 per cent fluctuation in the voting and yet it has created a tremendously changed picture. We are today not only in the Government but, in some States, in the Opposition. We have to create, and we have to show, good standards of democratic functioning. We have to deal and work with the Opposition wherever they work for the good of the country, wherever we feel that they are going in the right direction. We must not oppose them merely for the sake of opposition, as sometimes we ourselves have been opposed. In our organization, we must renew our faith in the path of democratic socialist functioning. I do not want to go at this time into matters of policy. We shall have many occasions to discuss these matters. Today I should like to welcome all those who are new members. We welcome them here and hope that they will make valuable and interesting contributions to Lok Sabha and that their being here will enrich our party. At the same time, I should like to give my good wishes to those who will no longer be with us. They have been valued colleagues. They have played a very significant part in the debates in the House and in the functioning of the party. We shall miss these familiar faces, and we hope that no matter where they are or what work they are doing, their advice will always be available and that they will keep up their interest in

the affairs of the party. Much work has to be done not only in the legislature but at all levels. And this, again, is something which we must all work out under the guidance of the Congress President and other leaders. When I got up, I had many things to say to you. But I must confess I am so moved that I have no words really except to thank you once again for the confidence which you have placed in me. I should like to tell you that this burden is a tremendous burden. And it is a burden which cannot be borne by one person alone, not even by one person and a few colleagues in the Cabinet, but by the entire party here and the entire party all over the country. We must treat these problems as our problems. As I said, we have made a good beginning Let us continue in this way; let us not hesitate to give advice or suggestions; let no one feel isolated. There should always be opportunity for all to express themselves. I know in the last session, many were a little unhappy that, although we had long party meetings, everyone did not get the chance to speak. But there are many ways of expressing thoughts and of conveying suggestions. My plea to you is that you should never feel that we are not interested in your advice or suggestions, and even if you are not called, you should take the first step and come and place your views before us. I assure you that your views and suggestions will always receive serious consideration. Once again I thank you all. I thank Shri Kamaraj who made, in spite of his ill-health, such a tremendous effort towards this first step of unity. I thank Shri Morarjibhai who also contributed to that unity. Today, if we have had any misunderstandings, let them be a thing of the past. Let us open a new page and try to work together in mutual trust and confidence. Only thus will we be able to build up the strength of the party. This is necessary, as Shri Morarjibhai said, not for the sake of the party, but for the sake of our country and the high ideals for which the Congress has stood. As Gandhigi often said, in the midst of darkness there is light. Today we do see darkness, but in the midst of darkness we see much vitality, we see much that gives hope, much that gives opportunity for work. Let us look at the bright side, and I am sure that we shall be able to show, not merely through our talk or decisions or resolutions but by our achievement and performance, that the Congress is a party that is alive, and that is undaunted by defeat or setbacks, that will always march forward for the welfare of the country and the people of India.


March In the lawns of her house at Safdarjang Road, at a press conference after her re-election.


This book was created by Abby Pribble in Fall 2012 as a biography project for Visual Information at Washington University in St. Louis. Sources

Gandhi, Indira. The Years of Challenge. (New Delhi): Publ.Div., 1973. Print Vasudev, Uma. Indira Gandhi. Gurgaon: Shubhi Publications, 2011. Print


Indira Gandhi: Her First Term  
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