Nehru-Gandhi family

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Jawaharlal Nehru, with his daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi

The Nehru-Gandhi (नेहरू-गान्धी परिवार) family is a political dynasty in India, which has been dominant in the Indian National Congress for much of India's independent history. Three members of the family have been Prime Minister of India, and two of these have been assassinated. A fourth member of the family, Sonia Gandhi, is President of the Congress party and was Leader of the Opposition from 1999-2004.

The Nehru family is of Kashmiri Brahmin descent. The name "Nehru" is derived from the Hindi "nehar" meaning canal. Pandit Raj Kaul was the ancestor of Jawaharlal Nehru who moved to Delhi from Kashmir at the behest of the then Mughal emperor Farrukhsiar in the early 18th century. A "jagir" (estate) with a house on the banks of a canal was presented to Raj Kaul by the emperor, as it was the custom in those days to donate land to Brahmin scholars (Raj Kaul was a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit). Because of the canal, the family came to be known as Kaul-Nehrus. Later Kaul was dropped and the surname became "Nehru". Jawaharlal's grandfather, Ganga Dhar Nehru was the kotwal or constable of Delhi for some time. After the 1857 mutiny, the Nehru family moved to Allahabad, and settled there.

The family's political fortunes were founded by Motilal Nehru (1861-1931), who was a prominent lawyer and early activist in the Indian independence movement. Motilal was succeeded as President of the Congress by his son, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), in 1929. Jawaharlal then became the most prominent Indian nationalist leader, in close alliance with the movement's spiritual leader, Mohandas Gandhi (who was not related to the Nehru-Gandhi family).

In 1947 India became independent and Jawaharlal Nehru became Prime Minister, holding this post until his death in 1964. Nehru's sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990) was also prominent in Congress politics and was an Indian diplomat, serving as President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953.

Nehru promoted his only child, Indira Gandhi (1917-84) (who acquired this surname through her marriage to Feroze Gandhi) to his Cabinet, and in 1966, following the brief leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri, she became Prime Minister, holding the position until her defeat in the 1977 elections. During her Prime Ministership she placed her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi (1946-80), in senior positions, and his alleged abuse of power was one of the reasons for the government's 1977 defeat. Sanjay was killed in a stunt plane crash in 1980.

Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 and remained in office until her assassination in 1984. She was succeeded by her elder son, Rajiv Gandhi (1944-91), an airline pilot who was initially reluctant to enter politics, but was persuaded by the Congress that no-one else could lead it. He was defeated at elections in 1989, but was about to return to office when he was assassinated in 1991. He was survived by his widow Sonia, and two children, Rahul and Priyanka.

Arun Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi's cousin, was Minister for Power and then Minister for Internal Security in Gandhi's government, but later defected to the rival Janata Dal.

After Rajiv Gandhi's death, the Congress was led by P. V. Narasimha Rao, but the party loyalists always wanted a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to lead the party. Despite her reluctance, Sonia Gandhi was eventually persuaded to accept the leadership in 1998. Despite the fact that she is not of Indian birth, Sonia was eventually accepted by the Congress's traditional base among the rural poor and won the May 2004 elections. However, she later declined the Prime Ministerial position, passing it on to Dr. Manmohan Singh. At these elections Rahul Gandhi was elected to the Parliament for the first time, representing a fifth generation of the family in politics.

Sanjay Gandhi's widow Maneka and their son Varun were excluded from power in the Congress after Sanjay's death, and are now members of the BJP.

The Nehru-Gandhis are the most prominent example of the tradition of dynastic leadership in Asian democratic countries. Nearly all of these dynasties involve male political leaders being succeeded by their widows or daughters, as was the case with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and then with Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi. Other well-known examples in the region include:

See also

de:Nehru-Gandhi-Familie zh-cn:尼赫鲁-甘地家族

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