Early Life of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was born on 18th August 1900 at Allahabad. She was the daughter of Motilal Nehru and Swarup Rani Nehru. At a very early age Vijaya Lakshmi was very much interested in politics. At the age of 16 years, she attended her first political meeting, organized by her cousin Rameshwari Nehru at Manyo Hall of Allahabad University to assemble women in a protest against the treatment of Indian labourers in South Africa. She also wished to join Annie Besant's Home Rule League but being too young; she was allowed to enrol only as a volunteer.
Political Career of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
In 1934 Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s long career in politics officially began with her election to the Allahabad Municipal Board. She was arrested and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for presiding over a crowded public meeting where the Independence pledge was taken. This was the first of her three imprisonments. When the Indian National Congress took part in provincial elections she and her husband, Ranjit S. Pandit, were elected to the U.P. Assembly. Vijaya Lakshmi was appointed as the Minister for Health and Local Self-Government.
For two continuous years, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was the President of the All India Women's Conference. Along with other Congress leaders, she was imprisoned after the Congress Quit India Resolution of August 1942. Tragedy struck her with the death of her husband after his last imprisonment in 1944. As he had left no will, she was left virtually penniless, as Hindu widows had no inheritance rights. His brother claimed all his investments and earning and made everything in his custody. Shaken by her grief and without knowledge of future and with no source of support from her brother, as he was imprisoned she left for Bengal to work, where cholera had spread in the wake of famine, and to set up a Save the Children Fund. During this time, Gandhiji was released from jail and he asked her to go to America to speak about actual conditions in India. This became possible when Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, President of the Indian Council for World Affairs included her in an Indian delegation to the Pacific Relations Conference to be held in Virginia.
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution. After Independence, she was twice elected to Parliament and she led India’s first Goodwill Mission to China and served as Governor of Maharashtra. She resigned her post to stand for election to Parliament from the constituency of Phulpur that was vacated as a result of Jawaharlal Nehru’s death. Four years later, she resigned from the Lok Sabha as it was difficult for her to serve her party under Indira Gandhi. During the Emergency, she stepped out of retirement to speak out against dictatorship and dynasty. She could not find a place in the power structure under Indira Gandhi.
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit breathed her last on 1 December 1990 at Dehradun.
Personal Life of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was married to Ranjit Pandit, who was a cultured litterateur, aristocrat and barrister from Kathiawar. They married on May 10, 1921, when she was about 21 years old. Three children were born to her – Chandralekha, Nayantara and Rita Vitasta. Her husband died on January 14, 1944.