At the midnight on 14-15th August 1947, India attained independence which hailed the country years’ long, non – violent campaign against British rule. The famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech was delivered by First Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru at midnight while declaring India an independent country.  With freedom, people hoped for two major things, one is democracy and another is the welfare of poor and socially disadvantaged groups. Since then, Indian had around 15 Prime Ministers who lead the country as de facto head and contributed towards nation-building. This Article will provide a list of Prime Minister with their achievements and challenges faced by them.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (August 15, 1947-May 27, 1964)

He is the first and longest-serving Prime Minister in India. Chacha Nehru held his office for 17 years and died in his office. The three major challenges faced by nation after Independence were; the immediate challenge was to shape the nation that was united, next was establishing diversity and the last was to ensure the development and well being in the entire society. The initiatives were taken by the government to cure these challenges –

  • Set up global institutes like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, etc.
  • Abolished large landholdings which resulted in agricultural growth.
  • The economy was increased by 4 percent whereas the world trade share was decreased by 0.5 percent.
  • Various social practices were abolished such as caste–based discrimination.
  • Primary Education was made compulsory for every child.

Gulzari Lal Nanda (May 27, 1964 – June 9, 1964) (January 11, 1966 – January 24, 1966)

He served as an acting Prime Minister twice during his lifetime. Firstly, after the death of Nehru, he held this designation for 13 days. Later, after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, he again held the office of Prime Minister for 13 days. He served as an acting Prime Minister during a very critical time and political instability. During his first tenure, he served just after the Indo-China War and the second time after Indo–Pakistan War. Moreover, during his brief tenure, he bought major Labor Reforms.

Lal Bahadur Shastri (June 09, 1964 – January 11, 1966)

He is remembered for his slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisaan’ as the slogan cheered soldiers and farmers. Before becoming a Prime Minister he served as a Railway Minister and Home Minister. During his tenure of around 2 years, he bought some key achievements which are as follows-

  • He introduced the Green Revolution.
  • He provided opportunities to the Diary industry to produce more.
  • Helped country harness Nuclear Power.
  • He succeeded in maintain International Relations such as signing the Tashkent Agreement.

Initially, Shastri was criticized for his poor economic policies, later he won great popularity for his firmness on the outbreak of hostilities with Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. After signing a ‘no-war agreement’ with the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan, he died of heart attack in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (then the Soviet Union). Thereafter, Gulzari Lal Nanda became the acting Prime Minister for 13 days.

Indira Gandhi (1st January 24, 1966-March 24, 1977) (2nd time; January 14, 1980 – October 31, 1984)

She is the first and the only female Prime Minister of India, who is generally known as Iron Lady. She served for three consecutive years i.e. from 1966-1977 and her fourth term began in the year 1980 until she was assassinated in the year 1984. The Iron Lady bought major changes in the country; some of her remarkable achievements are as flows –

  • She remained successful in nationalizing the banks.
  • She helped in reducing unemployment.
  • She insisted on equal pay for equal work.
  • She remained successful in strengthening International and Domestic policies.
  • The National Security was augmented.
  • Sikkim was introduced as an Indian State.
  • She supports East Pakistan in her secessionist conflict and sends Indian Armed Forces resulting in a decisive victory that led to the creation of Pakistan.
  • She authorized ‘Operation Meghdoot’ in 1984 wherein the Siachen Glacier became the Highest Battle Field in the world, and Indian Troops won that Battle.
  • She sanctioned ‘Operation Blue Star’ wherein the militant religious leader and his followers were removed from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). This army action on Sikhs in the religious place was criticized worldwide. Five months after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikhs bodyguard which led to Sikh-Riots in 1984

Morarji Desai (March 24, 1977 – July 28, 1979)

He is the first Prime Minister who is not from Congress Party as he formed his party known as the ‘Janata Party’ with the coalition of four small parties. He served as Prime Minister for 2 years 4 months and was the oldest to hold Prime Minister Office yet. Later, when the Janata coalition began to unravel, Desai announced his resignation to avoid a vote of no-confidence.  The major reforms bought by him are-

  • He tried to build relations with both China and Pakistan.
  • Currency Notes worth Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 was banned by him.

Charan Singh (July 28, 1979 – January 14, 1980)

Chaudhary Charan Singh in 1977 allied his agricultural-based Indian Revolutionary Party with the Janata Party of Morarji Desai. Moreover, Charan Singh served as Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister as well in 1979. After a quarrel between the Janata Party, the collision broke and Singh became the Prime Minister with the help of former opposition Indira Gandhi. Later, within a month Gandhi withdrew her support and Singh, headed the Government as caretaker only. Thereafter, Gandhi returned to power in January, 1980 and Charan Singh never held the high office ever in future. The targets on which Singh, worked on-

  • Presented Alternate Development Strategies for the development of Nation.
  • Focused on the upliftment of Backward Classes.

Rajiv Gandhi (October 31, 1984 – December 01, 1989)

Rajiv Gandhi sworn as Prime Minister the same day her mother was assassinated. Later, the congress party achieved a landslide victory in elections of the Lok Sabha in December 1984. Gradually his administration took vigorous measures to liberalize the country’s economy. Gandhi resigned his post as Prime Minister in November 1989 but remained leader of the Party after his party was defeated in elections. Gandhi while campaigning in Tamil Nadu state for the elections in May 1991 was killed with 16 others through a bomb concealed in a basket of flowers. The basket was offered by a woman associated with the Tamil Tigers.

  • He controlled the crises which are faced by the country after Indira Gandhi’s Death.
  • His focus was to reduce License Raj.
  • Brought reforms in Economic Policies of the country.
  • Built relation with USA and USSR.
  • The Contribution made towards IT reforms.
  • Before this, Punjab was not governed under Martial Law.
  • Due to these policies Civil Liberties, Commerce and Tourism were strongly affected.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh (December 02, 1989 – November 10, 1990)

He was the Principal Founder of the party Janata Dal which was formed by the merger of three small centrist opposition parties. Later, he formed the largest nationwide opposition coalition known as National Front (NF). The Coalition was soon driven by the religious and caste disputes and after receiving No-Confidence Vote in Lok Sabha he resigned.

  • He is known for the formation of Mandal Commission.
  • Handled domestic controversies, including the kidnapping of his Home Minister’s daughter.
  • Passed a law allowing 27% reservation in all Government Jobs as recommended by Mandal Commission.
  • Apologized for operation Blue Star and curbed the insurgency in Punjab.
  • Stopped Pakistan’s attempt to border war with India.

Chandra Shekhar (November 10, 1990 – June 21, 1991)

Chandra Shekhar’s tenure lasted for seven months after Charan Singh. Shekhar joined Congress Party in 1964 and later split with the party. Further, he became president of the Janta Party under Prime Minister Morarji Desai from 1977 to 1979. Later in 1988, he merged with various parties to form the Janata Dal Party under the leadership of V.P. Singh. Thereafter, he formed the Janata Dal-Socialist Faction with the support of Rajiv Gandhi. He became Prime Minister in 1990 and has to resign within seven months after the congress party withdrew its support.

  • Moved Gold reserves abroad to solve the Balance of Payment Crises in the year 1991.
  • Couldn’t introduce the Budget because Congress withdrew its support.

P.V. Narasimha Rao (June 21, 1991 – May 16, 1996)

Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao is the leader of Congress (I) Party which is a faction of the Indian National Congress. After Gandhi’s assassination, Congress chose Rao as their leader and he became the 10th Prime Minister. Rao focused on structuring the Indian economy by converting the quasi-socialist structure into a free-market system. His efforts to liberalize the Indian economy resulted in trade deficits and heightened inflation.

The Hindu fundamentalism became a vital force in national politics as manifested in the growing electoral strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party with other political alliances. The Babri Masjid dispute leads to Hindu-Muslims riots leading to violence throughout the term of Rao’s as Prime Minister. Thereafter, corruption scandals affected the Congress Party which resulted in losses in control. In 1966 after losing the election he resigned as party chief and the following year he was charged with corruption and bribery. He is known as the father of Indian Economic Reforms, his other achievements are as follows-

  • Managed Economic crises of 1991 very efficiently.
  • Abolished Licenses Raj, which protected the Indian Economy.
  • Opened Equity Market for foreign investments.
  • Increased Passive Friendship with China.
  • Boosted India’s Nuclear Program.
  • Increased Military Spending to handle terrorism.
  • He built strong domestic policies, as he invited a team from the UK and US to study Pakistan’s involvement and used modern technology in Latur Earthquake  Relief etc.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1st May 16, 1996 – June 01, 1996) (2nd March 19, 1998 – October 13, 1999) (3rd October 13, 1999 – May 22, 2004)

In the year 1977, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), joined three other parties to form the Janata Party which led a government that lasted until July 1979. Later in the year, 1980 BJS reorganized itself as BJP after a split. Bajpayee became Prime Minister for the first time in the year 1996 for 13 days as he failed to attract support from other parties. The second time, he won an election in the year 1998, and thereafter, he increased its seats in parliament and consolidated its hold on government. He was the first Non-Congress prime minister to hold office for a full term. Under his tenure, India experienced a new era with a lot of changes. Some of the achievements are-

  • He encouraged the Private Sector and Foreign Investment.
  • He implemented the National Highway Development Project.
  • He implemented Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojna.
  • He implemented Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan wherein he aimed of providing Quality Education for Primary and Secondary both.
  • Maintained foreign relations especially with Pakistan, as he started bus service between India and Pakistan.
  • He became successful while fighting with terrorism as India won the Kargil War under his tenure.
  • His government passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

H.D. Deve Gowda (June 01, 1996 – April 21, 1997)

Gowda was sworn as the new Prime Minister for very short tenure around 10 months. He formed the United Front government as dependent upon on Congress Party and later the Congress Government withdrew its support from the coalition. The reason for withdrawing was that the Prime Minister did not consult the party regarding significant matters.

I.K. Gujral (April 21, 1997 – March 18, 1998)

Gujral was the first Finance Minister of India appointed during the tenure of V.P Singh. He was an eminent leader of the Janta Dal-led United Front Party. With the support of Congress, he was appointed as Prime Minister on April 21, 1997. Later Congress Party withdrew its support and Gujaral have to resign. His major achievement was-

  • He formed a Gujaral Doctrine, where he stresses the importance of maintaining friendly relations with the neighboring countries.  

 Dr. Manmohan Singh  (May 22, 2004 – May 26, 2014)

In the year 1991, when the country’s economic condition was on the verge of collapse, Singh rescued the economy by lowering tax, privatizing state-run industries, encouraging foreign investment, etc. Then finally congress won the election in 2004 and the party nominated Singh’s name for this designation. Subsequently, he formed Government and started working towards his goals. The glimpses of his wonderful achievements are-

  • Highest GDP growth since Independence.
  • Became the world’s second-fastest-growing economy.
  • Launched the National Rural Healthcare Mission.
  • Improved Diplomatic relationships.
  • Passed RTI Act.
  • Partnered with US on Nuclear Deal.
  • Implemented 27% reservation in IITs, IIMs and AIIMS and opened 8 more IITs.
  • Introduced Mid-Day Meal in government schools.

Narender Modi (May 26, 2014 – Incumbent)

Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when he fought the election for being the Prime Minister in the year 2014. He always remained in controversy on the grounds that he condoned the communal violence in the year 2002. Moreover, the United States declined to issue him a Diplomatic Visa on the aforementioned ground only. Modi scored two consecutively diplomatic achievements and created history by becoming the most popular Prime Minister. He introduced many schemes and the list of his achievements are –

  • Implementation of Goods and Services tax and kept all indirect taxes in one bucket.
  • Progressing towards Make in India and Digital India.
  • Providing reservation to Economic Weaker Section of the society.
  • Successful in fighting Terrorism.
  • Improved relationships with different countries.
  • Demonetization of Rs 500/1000 Notes in circulation to crack down on Corruption and Black Money.
  • Reduced Tax i.e. Tax cascading.
  • Bought Economic Policies and Schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc.
  • Introduced Swacch Bharat Abhiyan for clean streets and infrastructure.


India has conducted 17Lok Sabha elections among which Prime Minister Narender Modi is the 15th Prime Minister of India. The shortest-serving Prime Minister is Gluzari Lal Nanda, as he served as acting Prime Minister for a period of 13 days twice. Moreover, Narender Modi is the fourth Prime Minister who served two consecutive terms and he is the first Non-Congress Party Prime Minister who would complete two consecutive terms.