‘Lal Bahadur Shastri: Politics and Beyond:’ A fitting tribute by Dr Sandeep Shastri
Bengaluru, Oct 29: On the day, India's second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri signed the Tashkent Agreement, he had told his aides that this is one of the greatest tribute he could pay to Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr Sandeep Shastri, leading psephologist and pro-vice-chancellor, Jain University captures the life and times of India's second prime minister in his new book 'Lal Bahadur Shastri: Politics and Beyond.'
Dr Shastri manages to tap almost every aspect of Lal Bahadur Shastri's life. Shastri's prime ministership saw India ensuring respect for the farmer and the soldier through his iconic slogan, 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.' In a brief and yet eventful tenure of 19 months, Shastri resolved some of the most contentious problems that the country faced. His key was taking all segments along.
The book also takes a closer look at the pioneering efforts of Shastri. It also highlights the manner in which Shastri motivated the soldiers to respond to Pakistan's misadventures by giving the green signal to the military to enter Pakistan soil.
Born on the same day as Mahatma Gandhi, he first saw the father of the nation when he was just 11 years old in the year 1915. Gandhi had left a lasting impression on him and Shastri had said at the time of signing the Tashkent Agreement that it would be a negation of the values that the Mahatma stood for if he did not work for an environment to foster peace and non-violence.
On the morning of signing the agreement, he had told bureaucrat L P Singh that he had chosen to seek peace and friendly relations with Pakistan. If relations between India and Pakistan remained strained, holding the potential of another armed conflict, India would take the path of military glory, and our unique heritage, the ideals of non-violence, truth and human brotherhood bequeathed to us by Gandhiji would be lost, Singh had said while quoting Shastri.
Tracing his modest beginnings, Dr Shastri says that as a student at the Harish Chandra School in Varanasi, he was unable to afford an English textbook. He would borrow from his peers, making notes before returning them.
Another incident narrated with regard to his integrity. His daughter fell ill while Shastri was in jail. He was granted parole for two weeks. Sadly his daughter did not survive. Shastri returned to jail and when the inmates asked him, why he returned early, he said that parole was granted to me to look after my daughter. She is no more and hence it was my duty to return to jail.
As Home Minister, he had his hands full. He had to deal with the crisis in Assam and Punjab. Further, he also had to deal with the problems in the Madras state which was witnessing language hostilities.
One of the toughest challenges was the food crisis in India. He went on to urge the people to give up one meal so that there would be more to distribute. The response was an overwhelming one and it must be noted that he implemented this at his home first. The response was such that even restaurants downed shutters on Monday evenings.
Dr. Sandeep Shastri's book is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever seen. Published by Rupa Publications, the book is thought-provoking and focuses on the greatest strengths of the late former prime minister- integrity, humility, simplicity and his self-effacing nature. It is undoubtedly a great tribute to the life and times of the great leader, written by one of India's most respected political commentators, Dr Sandeep Shastri.