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'Young Turk' from Ballia no more

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 8: One of the front ranking anti-Congress leaders who vehemently opposed Emergency in 1975, the 'Young Turk' from Ballia ironically became the country's Prime Minister with the help of same party dislodging his bete noire V P Singh to preside over the country's destiny for a brief spell of seven months.

A former socialist, who joined the Congress in 1965, Chandrashekhar strongly opposed the policies of Mrs Indira Gandhi during her prime ministership and was also sent to jail during Emergency.

After his release from the jail, when the emergency was lifted, he joined hands with Jayaprakash Narain to form the Janata Party which became the fulcrum of anti-Congress parties. He was the first president of the outfit that formed the government in the post-Emergency era under Morarji Desai. He remained its president till 1988.

Born on July 1, 1927, in a farmer's family in village Ibrahimpatti in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, Chandrashekhar was known as a fire-brand idealist with revolutionary fervour since his early days in politics.

He was attracted to politics from his student days. After his Master's Degree in Political Science from Allahabad University (1950-51), he joined the Socialist Movement. He was elected Secretary of the District Praja Socialist Party, Ballia. During these days, he was closely associated with Acharya Narendra Dev.

He was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in 1962.

He was also a member of the Lok Sabha from 1977-1979, 1980-1984 and from 1989 until he became the Prime Minister, representing Ballia constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

He rose to become the General Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party in 1967, just two years after joining the party.

Chandrashekhar was against disproportionate and monopolistic growth which led him into conflict with the centres of power on many occasions.

At the time of his arrest during Emergency, he was a member of Central Election Committee and Working Committee of the Congress.

His diary, written in Hindi while undergoing imprisonment during the Emergency, was later published under the title 'Meri Jail Diary'.

He founded and edited Young Indian, a weekly published from Delhi in 1969. Its editorial had the distinction of being among the most quoted ones of the time. During the Emergency the weekly had to be closed down. It resumed regular publication in February 1989. When then BJP president L K Advani was arrested during the Rath Yatra he had undertaken for Ramjanambhoomi movement, the saffron party withdrew support to the V P Singh-led National Front government reducing it to minority and ultimately leading to the resignation of Mr Singh.

Chandrashekhar left the Janata Dal and, with many supporters, set up a new party called the Samajwadi Janata Dal. With 64 MPs and support from the opposition Congress, his party formed the government.

He was sworn in as Prime Minister in 1990. But his government lasted for only seven months as the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi withdrew support which led to his resignation.

As a Member of Parliament he was known for abiding by the parliamentary conventions and was honoured with the inaugural Outstanding Parliamentarian Award.

Chandrashekhar undertook a marathon 'Padayatra' from Kanyakumari Rajghat in New Delhi, covering a distance of nearly 4260 kms from January 6, 1983 to June 25, 1983 to renew rapport with the masses and to understand their pressing problems.

He established about 15 Bharat Yatra Centres in various parts of the country including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to train social and political workers for mass education and grassroot work in backward pockets of the country.

He was married to Duja Devi and had two sons, Pankaj and Neeraj.

He had a protracted battle with Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer.


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Former PM Chandra Shekhar dies of cancer

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