Lal Bahadur Shastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri

Date of Birth : 2 October 1904
Date of Death : 11 January 1966

Mini Biography :

Lal Bahadur was born in the year 1904 inRam nagar Mughalsarai, United Provinces, British India as Lal Bahadur Srivastava. His father Sharada Prasad was a school teacher who died when Lal Bahadur Shastri was only a year and half old. His mother Ramdulari Devi , still in her twenties, took her three children to her father’s house and settled down there.He was sent to live with an uncle in Varanasi so that he could go to high school. Nanhe, or ‘little one’ as he was called at home, walked many miles to school without shoes, even when the streets burned in the summer’s heat.

As he grew up, Lal Bahadur Shastri became more and more interested in the country’s struggle for freedom from foreign yoke. He was greatly impressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s denunciation of Indian Princes for their support of British rule in India. Lal Bahadur Sashtri was only eleven at the time, but the process that was end day to catapult him to the national stage had already begun in his mind.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was sixteen when Gandhiji called upon his countrymen to join the Non-Cooperation Movement. He decided at once to give up his studies in response to the Mahatma’s call. The decision shattered his mother’s hopes. The family could not dissuade him from what they thought was a disastrous course of action. But Lal Bahadur had made up his mind. All those who were close to him knew that he would never change his mind once it was made up, for behind his soft exterior was the firmness of a rock.

Lal Bahadur Shastri joined the Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi, one of the many national institutions set up in defiance of the British rule. There, he came under the influence of the greatest intellectuals, and nationalists of the country. Shastri was the bachelor degree awarded to him by the Vidya Peeth but has stuck in the minds of the people as part of his name.

In 1927, he got married. His wife, Lalita Devi, came from Mirzapur, near his home town. The wedding was traditional in all senses but one. A spinning wheel and a few yards of handspun cloth was all the dowry. The bridegroom would accept nothing more.

In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi marched to the sea beach at Dandi and broke the imperial salt law. The symbolic gesture set the whole country ablaze. Lal Bahadur Shastri threw himself into the struggle for freedom with feverish energy.

When the Congress came to power after Independence, the sterling worth of the apparently meek and unassuming Lal Bahadur Shastri had already been recognised by the leader of the national struggle. When the Congress Government was formed in 1946, this ‘little dynamo of a man’ was called upon to play a constructive role in the governance of the country. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in his home State of Uttar Pradesh and soon rose to the position of Home Minister. His capacity for hard work and his efficiency became a byeword in Uttar Pradesh. He moved to New Delhi in 1951 and held several portfolios in the Union Cabinet – Minister for Railways; Minister for Transport and Communications; Minister for Commerce and Industry; Home Minister; and during Nehru’s illness Minister without portfolio. He was growing in stature constantly. He resigned his post as Minister for Railways because he felt responsible for a railway accident in which many lives were lost.

In between his Ministerial assignments, he continued to lavish his organising abilities on the affairs of the Congress Party. The landslide successes of the Party in the General Elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962 were in a very large measure the result of his complete identification with the cause and his organisational genius.

Jawaharlal Nehru died in office on 27 May 1964 and left a void. The then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Shastri as Prime Minister on 9 June. Shastri, though mild-mannered and soft-spoken, was a Nehruvian socialist and thus held appeal to those wishing to prevent the ascent of conservative right-winger Morarji Desai.

He commanded a great deal of respect in the Indian populace, and he used it to advantage in pushing the Green Revolution in India; which directly led to India becoming a food-surplus nation, although he did not live to see it. During the 22-day war with Pakistan, Lal Bahadur Shastri created the slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”), underlining the need to boost India’s food production. Apart from emphasizing the Green Revolution, he was instrumental in promoting the White Revolution. Greatly impressed by a visit to the Kaira district in October 1964, he urged the rest of the country to learn from the successful experiment at Anand. The National Dairy Development Board was formed in 1965 during his tenure as Prime Minister.

Though he was Socialist, Shastri stated that India cannot have a regimented type of economy. During his tenure as Prime Minister, he visited Russia, Yugoslavia, England, Canada and Burma in 1965.

The chief problem for Shastri’s administration was Pakistan. Laying claim to half of the Kutch peninsula, Pakistan sent incursion forces in August 1965, which skirmished with Indian tank divisions.The Indo-Pak war ended on 23 September 1965 with a United Nations-mandated ceasefire.

After the declaration of ceasefire, Shastri and Pakistani President Muhammad Ayub Khan attended a summit in Tashkent (former USSR, now in modern Uzbekistan), organised by Kosygin. On 10 January 1966, Shastri and Khan signed the Tashkent Declaration.

The next day Shastri, who had suffered two heart attacks earlier, died of a heart attack at 1:32 AM. He is the only Indian Prime Minister, and indeed probably one of the few heads of government, to have died in office overseas.

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