Indu vs Pinky

Osama Siddiqui

These nicknames belong to two former prime ministers of India and Pakistan – Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto. Competitive, intelligent, charismatic, and authoritative – these traits define these towering women personalities. Indu was the nickname of Indira Gandhi, India’s first female prime minister, while Pinky was the nickname of Benazir Bhutto.

Indira Gandhi was the daughter of legendary freedom fighter Jawaharlal Nehru, and Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of Pakistan’s charismatic leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Both the fathers had immense faith in their daughters and were educated at Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge Universities). Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a book, titled “Glimpses of World History” while in prison, originally as letters to his daughter, and Bhutto wrote letters to Benazir from his death cell, later compiled into the booklet “My Dearest Daughter”. Bhutto compared the two women and praised Indira Gandhi, yet he also boosted his daughter’s confidence by affirming she was superior to Indira. Benazir demonstrated great courage after her father’s death, proving herself as brave as Indira Gandhi, if not better.

Indira Gandhi was born in the house of Pandit Motilal Nehru in Allahabad – a highly successful lawyer and prominent figure in the elitist circles who also socialized with the British. Raised in a politically charged environment, Indira received considerable attention from her legendary father, Jawaharlal Nehru. Initially homeschooled, she later attended missionary schools and spent some time while studying in Geneva. Although she began her studies at the Cambridge University, but she did not complete her degree over there.

Benazir Bhutto was born in the house of Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto – a landlord and former Diwan of Junagarh. She attended Karachi Grammar School and Convent of Jesus and Mary in Murree. Subsequently, Benazir pursued higher education at the Harvard University and the Oxford University, where she not only completed both her degrees but also served as president of the Oxford Students Union. Her father held exceptional confidence in her abilities.

Indira married Feroz Gandhi, who was a Parsi by religion. Initially, her family did not accept or approve the marriage due to their different economic and social backgrounds. However, Indira was adamant about her choice. The pivotal moment came when Feroz took care of Indira during her mother Kamala Nehru’s illness, undergoing treatment in Europe. They had two sons, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv later became prime minister after Indira’s assassination.

Over the time, differences emerged between Indira and Feroz, but they did not divorce. Feroz Gandhi, known for his moral stance, opposed his father-in-law Jawaharlal Nehru in parliament and exposed corruption in the party. He even criticized Indira Gandhi, accusing her of authoritarianism during her efforts to rally her father against the Communist Party of India, which had a government in Kerala. Unfortunately, the CPI government was removed in 1959. Later, Indira and her children moved to Teen Murti House, the residence of her father, who was then prime minister.

Benazir Bhutto married Asif Ali Zardari, whose father Hakim Ali Zardari belonged to a wealthy business community. Hakim Zardari was initially involved in politics and was a member of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party before leaving due to differences and joining the National Awami Party (NAP). Asif Ali Zardari and Benazir Bhutto had three children – Bilawal, Asifa, and Bakhtawar.

Indira Gandhi experienced firsthand the freedom movement in India. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad, and Bacha Khan, she embraced a secular style of politics. During the Quit India Movement before the partition, she was imprisoned alongside her husband Feroz Gandhi, marking her entry as a freedom fighter. Unlike current trends in India, she did not engage in right-wing politics.

After the death of Prime Minister Shastri, Indira Gandhi was viewed as a potential prime minister, facing skepticism over whether a woman could lead the world’s largest democracy. Nevertheless, she proved to be a symbol of grace and served India as prime minister for 15 years. Her political ideology was rooted in socialism, though her tenure was marred by controversial decisions such as the declaration of emergency and Operation Blue Star, which deeply affected the Sikh community.

Indira Gandhi faced formidable opposition from Morarji Desai – a stalwart of the Indian freedom movement, who nearly became prime minister after Shastri’s death. Despite challenges, Indira Gandhi emerged as a strong leader, earning slogans like “Indira is India” and being recognized as the “Iron Lady”.

Benazir Bhutto entered politics following her father’s death, becoming a vocal opponent of dictatorship and was known for her decisive actions. She endured imprisonment and significant challenges but persisted, eventually becoming prime minister after an 11-year gap in elections. In the late 1990s, she became an icon for the youth, reminiscent of her father’s influence on the youth of his era.

Benazir famously remarked, “Democracy is the best revenge”. However, during the 1990s, political instability prevented her from completing her elected term as prime minister. Her emotionally resonant slogan, “Dushmano ke dil pe teer….Benazir Benazir”, underscored her electrifying appeal and widespread admiration among the people of Pakistan. Despite her popularity, Benazir faced various challenges within her party, such as Mustafa Khar and Mumtaz Bhutto, who ultimately left due to differences.

In short, Indira Gandhi’s decision to conduct Operation Blue Star sparked significant controversy and made her highly unpopular within the Sikh community. Tragically, she was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguard, marking one of the most unfortunate events in South Asian history. Similarly, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a terrorist organization in Pakistan in 2007. Both the daughters faced tragic ends, yet their resilience showcased their unwavering determination. Benazir and Indira remained iconic leaders of India and Pakistan.

The writer attended Cardiff University and completed his Masters of Science in Business Management. He has great passion for modern South Asian history, politics, political marketing, and films. He may be reached at: He tweets @osamasidd97.

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