But for its tragic ending, Indira Gandhi’s life reads like a fairy tale. She was born into an illustrious family. She had a difficult upbringing with an ailing mother and her father often in jail. She made a controversial choice for a husband and was pitchforked into the highest political office in the land.
She fumbled at first attracting the epithet of goongi goodia (dumb doll), relied for a time on what came to known as the kitchen cabinet before shaping herself into a consummate politician practising realpolitik with flair getting the better of hardened Congressmen at their own game.
After the unexpected death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, on 10 Jan 1966, the search for new successor started. There were 7 aspirants for the post of 2nd Prime Minister – Desai, Indira, Nanda, Chavan, S.K.Patil, Sanjiv Reddy and Kamaraj. Kamaraj for reasons better known to himself he withdrew from the contest. Desai insisted on the secret ballot.
Finally, there was a straight contest between Desai and Indira Gandhi. On 19th Jan 1966, the secret ballot was held in the meeting of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), in which Indira won with 355 votes against Desai with 169. She owned her triumph to Kamaraj.
Indira Gandhi, the first and the only woman Prime Minister of India had her own aura. She was fierce and determined and was a pioneer in redrawing the maps of the partitioned subcontinent. Even though she relied on her kitchen cabinet for long, she emerged as a consummate politician with a flair for the rule. She was murdered by her own bodyguards on 31st October 1984 leaving a trail to follow towards leading India.
What is Kitchen Cabinet?
Inner Cabinet or Kitchen Cabinet (where decisions are cooked and placed before the Cabinet for formal approval) is an informal body consists of Prime Minister(PM) and few influential ministers/colleagues/friends in whom he/she has faith and with whom he/she can discuss every issue. It then becomes the “real centre of power” and advises PM on important political and administrative issues and assist him/her in making crucial decisions.
Advantage — The most important advantage of Kitchen Cabinet is that it is much more efficient in decision-making and helps in maintaining secrecy.
Indira Gandhi’s ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ was the expanded version of the ‘Back-Benchers Club’, formed during the Shastri years. Her Kitchen Cabinet, a wheel within the wheel, comprised of Dinesh Singh, I.K.Gujral, Nandhini Satpati and Ali Ahmed. This ‘Nucleus of Power’ assisted and advised the prime minister Indira Gandhi crucial decision making.