Born into a Jat family in 1902, Charan Singh entered politics as part of the Independence Movement. After independence he became particularly notable in the 1950s for opposing and winning a battle against Nehru’s socialistic and collectivist land use policies, for the sake of the Indian Farmer, which endeared him to the agrarian communities throughout the nation, particularly in his native Uttar Pradesh.
The leader of the Bharatiya Lok Dal, a major constituent of the Janata coalition, he was disappointed in his ambition to become Prime Minister in 1977 by Jayaprakash Narayan’s choice of Morarji Desai. He settled at the time for the largely honorary post of Deputy Prime Minister of India.During 1977 Lok Sabha Elections, there was not a single party, hence it was problem, which symbol has to be adopted (many parties joined the front to contest the elections after emergency was over). Hence, a request was made to Chaudhary Charan Singh (Lok Dal) and he agreed to release his party-Lok Dal’s symbol “HALDHAR’. This symbol was locked in that elections, but a promise was made to Chaudhary Charan Singh that he would be Prime Minister if the front won that election, but this promise was never kept by other party leaders, hence,Chaudhary Charan Singh had a knot in his heart, resulting in a revolt; when the time came he became Prime Minister. However, the internal stresses of the coalition’s government caused him to leave the government with the former Lok Dal, after being promised by Indira Gandhi the support of the Congress Party on the floor of the House in any efforts to form a government. He was sworn in as Prime Minister with the support of just 64 MPs.
Charan Singh holds the record of the sole Prime Minister of India who did not face the Loksabha even for a single day during his short tenure of just a month. The day before the Lok Sabha was due to meet for the first time the Indian National Congress withdrew their support from his Bharatiya Lok Dal Government. Choudhary Charan Singh resigned and fresh elections were held six months later.
He continued to lead the Lok Dal in opposition till his death in 1987, when he was succeeded as party president by his son Ajit Singh. His association with the causes dear to farming communities in the North caused his memorial in New Delhi to be named Kisan Ghat. (In Hindi, Kisan is the word for farmer.)
The Amausi Airport in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh is also called as Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport after him. The university of Meerut city in Uttar Pradesh, India, is also named after him (Chaudhary Charan Singh University).
Early Years – Pre Independence India
Charan Singh’s ancestor was the prominent leader of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabhgarh (in present day Haryana). Maharaja Nahar Singh was sent to the gallows in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. In order to escape the oppression from the British Government following their defeat, the Maharaja’s followers, including Charan Singh’s grandfather moved eastward to district Bulandshaher in Uttar Pradesh.
Charan Singh was born on 23 December 1902 in the village of Noorpur, Hapur, Uttar Pradesh. He was a good student, and received a Masters of Arts degree in 1925 and Law degree in 1926 from Agra University. He started practice as a Civil Lawyer at Ghaziabad in 1928.
In February 1937 he was elected Chhaprouli (Baghpat) to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh (United Provinces) at the age of 34. In 1938 he introduced an Agricultural Produce Market Bill in the Assembly which was published in the issues of The Hindustan Times of Delhi dated 31 March 1938. The Bill was intended to safeguard the interests of the farmers against the rapacity of the traders. The Bill was adopted by most of the States in India, Punjab being the first state to do so in 1940.
Charan Singh followed Mahatma Gandhi in non-violent struggle for independence from the British Government, and was imprisoned several times. In 1930 he was sent to jail for 6 months by the British for contravention of the salt laws. He was jailed again for one year in November 1940 for individual Satyagraha Movement. In August 1942 he was jailed again by the British under DIR and released in November 1943.
In 1952, he became the Revenue Minister of state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in independent India. He was dedicated to enforcing and implementing the provisions of the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act of which he was the major architect. It has been argued by leading political scientists that success of Indian Democracy lies in successful implementation of this reform. Pakistan on the other hand did not have similar reforms, and the power is concentrated amongst the few powerful landlords or Zamindar who run their lands as their private fiefdom, and use their influence to further their wealth.
Charan Singh opposed Nehru on his Soviet Style Economic reform. Charan Singh was of the opinion that cooperative farms would not succeed in India. Being a son of a farmer, Charan Singh opined that the right of ownership was important to the farmer in remaining a cultivator. Charan Singh’s political career suffered due to his open criticism of Nehru’s economic policy.
Charan Singh left the Congress party in 1967, and formed his own political party. With the help and support of Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia, he became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1967, and later in 1970. In 1975, he was jailed again, but this time by then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, daughter of his former rival Nehru. She had declared the state of ‘Indian Emergency (1975-1977)’ and jailed all her political opponents. The Indian populace voted her out, and the opposition party, of which Chaudhary Charan Singh was a senior leader came into power. He served as Deputy prime minister and home minister in Janata government headed by Morarji Desai.
Chaudhary Charan Singh became Prime Minister in 1979 after Morarji Desai. His speech to the nation on India’s Independence Day (15 August 1979) was very prophetic in which he identified Pakistan’s nuclear ambition as a major threat to India. He also mentioned that Indian labour laws had to be refined if India were to become competitive in world economy. He also opened high level diplomatic relations with Israel, which Indira Gandhi’s government which took office following the 1980 elections curtailed.’
Charan Singh died on 29 May 1987. He was survived by his wife, Gayatri Devi and 5 children. His son Ajit Singh is currently the president of his political party Bharatiya Lok Dal. His grandson Jayant Chaudhary is recently elected to 15th Lok Sabha from Mathura.
Charan Singh has written several books. Some of them are:
India’s Economic Policy – The Gandhian Blueprint
Economic Nightmare of India – Its Cause and Cure
Cooperative Farming X-rayed
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