What qualities of Indira Gandhi made Kamaraj to pitch her for the position of the Prime Minister of India?

By Sunil Kumar

The qualities of Indira Gandhi that made K. Kamaraj pitch her for the position of the PM; her international reputation(as daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru), the ability to attract minority votes(a tactic used by nearly every political dispensation in India); and her supposed pliability(K.Kamaraj probably believed that as a woman; and due to his help; the Syndicate(a Congress core group) could control Gandhi’s actions as most of the state committees were under their control.

Indira Gandhi is elected as the first female P...

Indira Gandhi is elected as the first female Prime Minister of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Nehru’s death in May 1964; K. Kamraj and the other members of the syndicate in the Delhi game of thrones were united by their dislike of a major contender; Morarji Desai. Lal Bahadur Shastri was made the Prime Minister as they again expected that Mr. Shastri would be easy to control; and not thwart their plans. However, Shastri was quite shrewd, resourceful and an intelligent leader himself; he also managed to sideline Indira Gandhi as she was just the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in his cabinet.

At the time of Shastri’s abrupt death in Tashkent; Indira Gandhi was quite dissatisfied and contemplating moving to England for a few years. In 1965; there were language riots in Madras; Kamraj’s home base, weakening him politically. With the next general elections around the corner; the Syndicate needed a leader who could successfully undermine Desai and enjoy popular support.

Kamraj himself declined taking on the mantle of leadership; as he believed that he could not be a national leader with an inadequate grasp over English and Hindi. Also; Indira Gandhi was perceived to be pliable and in famous words that were soon to prove fatally wrong; a “maum ki gudiya(doll of wax)”. They believed that temporarily making Gandhi the leader till the next general election would give them time to plan their next move in the political chessgame, Later on, the wheel turned full circle with a split in the Congress and former foes turned friends; Kamraj and Desai.

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