Chandra Shekhar

Born On: July 1, 1927
Born In: Ibrahimpatti, eastern Uttar Pradesh
Died On: July 8, 2007
Career: Political Leader
Nationality: Indian

Very few Indian politicians have been successful in understanding the problems of the nation and finding solutions for the same. One such victorious politician was Chandra Shekhar Singh, best remembered as his short but strong impacted tenure as the eighth Prime Minister of India. Despite being in office for a short duration, he chose to display his leadership qualities with perfection and statesmanship. By attending the SAARC conference in Mali and generating a personal rapport with the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, he created a scenario that helped India during its crisis. Such was the tempo and image of this notable personality that issues like foreign exchange reserves dipping to dangerous levels and oil crisis did not even touch his well-established image.

Early Life
Chandra Shekhar Singh was born in a Rajput farmer family, in the village of Ibrahimpatti in Ballia district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was attracted to politics right from his student days and was known as a firebrand idealist with revolutionary fervor. He completed his master’s degree in political science in 1951 from Allahabad University.

Political Career
By the time Chandra Shekhar was out of college, he had gained much interest in politics. As such, he joined the socialist movement and was elected as the secretary of the District Praja Socialist Party (PSP) in Ballia in 1951. He was then appointed as the joint secretary of PSP’s state unit in Uttar Pradesh. Later in 1955, he was elected as the general secretary of PSP in the state. It was during this period that he came under the influence of a fiery socialist leader; Acharya Narendra Dev. Chandra Shekhar plunged into serious politics on being elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh on a Praja Socialist Party ticket in 1962. Since then, he was a Member of Parliament, except for a short period from 1984 to 1989. He served in Rajya Sabha from 1962 to 1967. He quit PSP and joined the Indian National Congress in 1964.

Soon in 1967, he was appointed as the general secretary of Congress Party in the Parliament. He started a weekly titled “Young Indian” in 1969 from New Delhi which he self-edited. As an MP, he was successful in making a mark for himself by arousing the cause of downtrodden and pleading for policies for rapid social change. However, he strongly criticized for the activities carried out by Indira Gandhi despite being a part of the Congress Party. This led to the split of Congress Party in 1975 for which he was even arrested during the Emergency and imprisoned in the Central Jail at Patiala. Further, his “Young Indian” was also forcefully shut down. He was thus nicknamed as “Young Turk” for his courage of his convictions and campaigns against vested interests. Post Emergency, when Chandra Shekhar was released, he joined Janata Dal and became the President of the party in 1977. The same year, he was elected to Lok Sabha. Thereafter, he was re-elected continuously for the President and retained the position until 1988.

Right from 1977, Chandra Shekhar won elections to Lok Sabha eight times from Ballia constituency in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Though he even successfully contested for Maharajganj constituency in Bihar in 1989, he vacated it later on. As the president of Janata Dal, he undertook a marathon walk (Pada Yatra, later known as Bharat Yatra) from Kanyakumari in South India to Raj Ghat in New Delhi, covering a total distance of 4260 kilometers from January 6, 1983 to June 25, 1983. The main aim of carrying out the Bharat Yatra was to highlight the problems of the rural areas and eliminate the social inequalities and disparities prevalent. This exercise gained him national rapport amongst the masses. During this journey, Chandra Shekhar established around 15 Bharat Yatra centers in various parts of India, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.

Tenure as a Prime Minister
After the collapse of the National Front government in November 1990, Chandra Shekhar was sworn as the eighth Prime Minister of India on November 10, 1990 with Rajiv Gandhi’s support. But with the resignation of V.P. Singh leading to the breakup of a part, known as Samajwadi Janata Party, from Janata Dal, the Indian National Congress opted for providing support to Chandra Shekhar’s government to prevent instant elections. But with support from the Communist parties and BJP, Chandra Shekhar managed to get a good majority of votes. However, this relationship survived for just few days as he was accused of spying Rajiv Gandhi. With this, the Congress Party quit the Parliament. Further, Chandra Shekhar had only 60 MPs to support him. Thus, on March 6, 1991, he resigned in a nationally televised address. But he was asked by the then President to resume power and serve as the caretaker until the tenth Lok Sabha elections. He quit from his services on June 20, 1991 giving way for P.V. Narasimha Rao. He was, then, elected for Lok Sabha elections from Ballia constituency and consequently won.

Chandra Shekhar was the first recipient of Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 1995 introduced in the same year by the then Speaker of Lok Sabha, Shivraj Patil. He suffered from multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and was hospitalized on May 3, 2007 due to declining health. Chandra Shekhar succumbed to his critical condition and breathed his last on July 8, 2007. He was 80 years old then.

1927: Born in Ibrahimpatti, Uttar Pradesh
1951: Obtained master’s degree in political science from Allahabad University
1951: Elected as secretary of the District Praja Socialist Party (PSP) in Ballia
1955: Became general secretary of PSP of Uttar Pradesh
1962: Elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh
1964: Quit PSP and joined Congress Party
1967: Elected as the general secretary of Congress Party
1969: Started the weekly “Young Indian”
1975: Arrested by Indira Gandhi and imprisoned. Young Indian was also closed
1977: Joined Janata Dal and became its President
1983: Undertook the Pada Yatra, or Bharat Yatra
1990: Became the eighth Prime Minister of India on November 10
1991: Resigned from Prime Ministership on March 6
1991: Stepped down from Prime Ministership on June 21
2007: Died of multiple myeloma in New Delhi aged 80

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