Today I remember Indiraji, one of the most dynamic Prime Ministers of modern India, a tall leader acclaimed internationally, whose dedication and commitment to the people was unparalleled. Her strong nationalism never detached her from common humanity. She was convinced of the need to create “a new international order of humanity where power is tempered with compassion, where knowledge and capability are at the service of all humanity.”
In her 16 years as the Prime Minister of India (1966-77, 1980-84), she never wavered from her commitment to the cause of those on the margins. She realised that India had to fight poverty and become self-reliant to maintain its dignity in the comity of nations. Her call for “Growth with Social Justice” became an article of faith for her Government and ran through her policy formation which always had the poor and vulnerable at its core. She believed that peace and development are intrinsically linked to one another and human beings have a collective destiny to work jointly to establish and maintain peace and progress. Indiraji had an easy charm which helped her to connect instantly with the people. She also had the unique quality of learning quickly from her mistakes and used each failure as a stepping stone to success.
As a young parliamentarian, I watched with awe her immense capacity for hard work, apply her people-first approach, fearless attitude and tenacity to take tough calls when required which she displayed during the war of liberation and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
She will forever be my mentor and her ideas and philosophies my guiding principles.