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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 19.11.2016

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee delivered today (November 19, 2016) in New Delhi the Indira Gandhi Centennial Lecture.

In his lecture, the President said the best tribute we can pay to Indira Gandhiis to dedicate ourselves totally and completely to the welfare of India and service of its proud people.

The President said it was not the family name or Nehru’s legacy that brought Indira Gandhi to power but her determination to focus on the problems of the people and her ability to mobilise them behind her. Indira Gandhi was voted out by an unforgiving populace after the Emergency. But the people of India brought her back to power in 1980, within a short span of three years.

The President said once the people of India saw Indiraji’s commitment to the poor and the disadvantaged, they were filled with admiration and love for her. Her ability to take the rough with the smooth and not waver, resulted in them embracing her whole heartedly. Her return to power was the result of hard work, persistent raising of issues that concern the public and effective communication of her vision of development and progress to the people at large.

The President said Indiraji’s biggest strength was her connect with the common people, especially the grass-roots Congress worker. People found in her the promise of undaunted struggle and iron will.Demonstrating her fighting spirit, Indiraji adopted an attitude of challenge and confrontation. She argued that it was immaterial whether the Congress Party won or lost an election, what was important was continued and uninterrupted service to the people.

The President said courage, fearlessness in action and boldness in decision making was the unique hallmark of her character. She remained throughout her life, as her father had wanted, a person of the light: brave, unafraid, serene and unruffled. Indiraji despisedthe cowardice of perpetrators of communal violence and fought against it relentlessly. During her life, she rose above all divisions of religion, caste, community and creed. As a result, she was loved universally by all sections of people and across the length and breadth of our country. The President recalled how when the decision to undertake ‘Operation Bluestar’ was taken, she was cautioned that it would bring her the hatred of extremist elements and the anger of a large section of the Sikh community. He said that he remembered vividly her sombre but determined words, "I know of the consequences.” Indiraji was clear that she and the Government had no other option. She was fully aware that her own life was at risk. However, she took a decision to go ahead keeping in mind the best interests of the nation, especially the need to maintain the unity and integrity of our country.

The President said Indiraji was unwavering and resolute in her support for the liberation struggle in East Pakistan. She took tremendous risk given the fact that Pakistan was being supported by the United States and China. In an act of sabre rattling, the US sent its seventh fleet into the Bay of Bengal. Indiraji neither buckled under pressure from the US nor fell victim to the posturing of China. She showed that she was a leader with nerves of steel, fully equipped to lead India through any challenge. Indiraji combined bold and quick decision making with careful planning, adequate preparations and single-minded focus to liberate Bangladesh. She scripted thereby a unique chapter in the world and India’s history.

The President said Indiraji was a confident and far-sighted leader, insightful regarding people as well as electoral politics—a combination which made her a rare politician. Her short period in the political wilderness revealed her true strength. For one used to a comfortable life, she wasn’t fazed at having to sleep under the open sky during the Azamgarh bye-election campaign or when, during her electioneering in Andhra Pradesh, her circuit house reservation was found to be cancelled. Under her inspiring leadership, it took Congress workers just about a year to regain courage, conviction and confidence in the future.

The President said the lessons that must be learnt from the life and legacy of Indiraji is that every defeat can be turned into a stepping stone for success. Even the impossible can become possible. What is important is not victory or defeat but the effort that we make to achieve our goals in the service of our nation. We must be relentless in our striving for the welfare of our people.There was perhaps none who loved India and worked for her glory as vigorously as did Indiraji.

This release issued at 1825 hrs.