The ‘Silence’ of Indira Gandhi: The Facts Behind

An expert politician with great years of legacy behind, late PM Indira Gandhi is famous for her most lethal political weapon-the silence. Contemporary politicians from Indira era is reminiscent of the infamous grave silence of Indira. To put further, Indira’s silence can either welcome or assuage a political observer.

The hardships of early childhood, tumultuous relationship with parents and her spouse defined the real personality of Indira Gandhi. Indira transformed from a vivid, boisterous and lively girl to a withdrawn and secretive personality who learnt to interiorize her inhibitions in private. However, her most lethal political weapon, the great silence, severed its purpose in diplomatic missions.

On the contrary, Indira learnt the use of silence as a weapon from childhood. Recognizing her mother’s struggles to adjust with the dominant Motilal family, the little Indira rushed to her mother’s aid with her weapon. Indira learnt that silence can exasperate people around her. The lessons from childhood, turned purposeful for her future political career.

The exasperating silence of Indira even intrigued foreign diplomats who felt awed by the lady’s domineering presence. To the western world, Indira perpetuated a different legacy of India. Though poor and developing, Indira broadcasted a domineering personality which even left US President Nixon speechless.

The Silent Indira

Former British High Commissioner, Michael McDonald, had a bitter taste of Indira’s legendary silence. Desperately, McDonald pursued Indira for a reply to his Prime Minister. Indira’s pride, an heirloom of the Nehru family, treated him with silence. Indira’s personality crafted by Nehru himself allowed her to employ silence as a political weapon to either-win or persuade.

However, long periods of withdrawn silence also affected the lioness’ attitude towards others. Moreover, Indira did not brook negative remarks and could not forgive her political opponents. Atal Behari Vajpayee had observed on Indira, “She was unable to take criticism, saw in every opposition move a foreign hand. She felt everyone whispering against her – something going on behind the bush, on the other side of the wall.”


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