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  • Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar dies


    File photo of former Prime Minister Chandra Sekhar. He died after a prolonged illness today. Photo: V.Sudershan

    New Delhi, July 8 (PTI): Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar died here today after a prolonged illness. He was 80. Chandra Shekhar breathed his last at 8:45 am at the Apollo Hospital here where he was admitted for the last three months, a doctor attending on him said.

    "He was suffering from multiple myloma (blood disease)," Dr Rakesh Chopra, senior consultant (oncology) said.

    The Lok Sabha MP is survived by two sons. The body would be kept at his official residence here to enable people to pay last respects, his son Pankaj Singh said.

    PM condoles death

    The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today condoled the death of former premier Chandra Shekhar, calling him a truly secular nationalist who was committed to people's welfare and national development.

    The former premier died today at the Apollo Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment for the last three months.

    Chandra Shekhar - a firebrand idealist

    Called a "young turk" for his conviction and courage, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar stood against politics of personality and stoutly opposed policies of liberalisation, reflecting the socialist ideology he strongly espoused.

    So blunt were his views that he incurred the wrath of his party leader late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who jailed him during Emergency in 1975 along with other leading lights of the Opposition like Morarji Desai, Jayaprakash Narayan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.

    The image that he had of a man of principles suffered a dent when he split with V P Singh and formed a minority government with Congress support only to be pulled down within a few months in 1991.

    Born on July one, 1927 in a farmer's family in Ibrahimpatti in Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chandra Shekhar was attracted to politics from student days and was known as a firebrand idealist.

    After his student days in Allahabad University, he joined the socialist movement in the early 1950s. An associate of Acharya Narendra Dev, Chandra Shekhar was with the Praja Socialist Party for long and was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1962.

    He joined the Congress party three years later and was elected General Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

    As a member of Parliament, Chandra Shekhar made a mark opposing policies he thought were harmful and was strongly against growth of monopolies with state patronage.

    He came to be known as a 'young turk' for his conviction and courage in the fight against the vested interests.

    The other 'young turks', who formed the 'ginger group' in the Congress in the fight for egalitarian policies, included leaders like Mohan Dharia and Ram Dhan who were also imprisoned during Emergency. Late Feroze Gandhi also used to be a part of the 'ginger group' during the undivided Congress days.

    Immediately after the Emergency, Chandra Shekhar kept out of the power structure and became the first President of the Janata Party, formed in 1977 in the flush of electoral success that heralded the first non-Congress government at the Centre.

    After 1977, he was elected to Lok Sabha in all the elections, except in 1984 when the Congress swept the polls after Indira Gandhi's assassination.

    The post of Prime Minister, which he thought he genuinely deserved, eluded him in 1989 when V P Singh pipped him at the post and was chosen to head the first coalition government at the Centre.

    Chandra Shekhar always held a grouse that V P Singh and late Devi Lal entered into a pact to deprive him of the Prime Ministership and used it against Singh at the height of the post-Mandal agitation to break the party and bring the government down in 1990.

    For long, Chandra Shekhar headed the Janata Party and merged it with Janata Dal before the 1989 elections. He formed the Samajwadi Janata Party when he broke away from V P Singh's Janata Dal and remained its head till the end.

    Chandra Shekhar was known for his flawless oratory and a matter-of-fact style in which he held no punches. He would be hard-hitting in his criticism when occasion demanded.

    In all he was Prime Minister for seven months and his government could not bring out a full-fledged budget because Congress withdrew support during the budgetary process.

    The country at that time was passing through a grave economic situation with foreign exchange reserves dipping to dangerous levels that forced the government to pledge gold at the international market.

    He was strongly opposed to getting loans from international financial institutions but the crisis during his time left the country with no choice but to fully embrace World Bank and IMF and the liberalisation policies.

    The former Prime Minister also never shied away from controversies.

    Coming to power with the Congress help, he was asked about progress in investigations in the Bofors case. "It is a job of a police inspector to monitor it," he snapped back, a comment that was attacked by non-Congress parties. He would not disown friends however controversial they may.

    Chandra Shekhar undertook a cross-country marathon walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi in 1983 to highlight the problems of rural India and establish a rapport with the masses.

    He established Bharat Yatra Centres in various parts of the country and set up a trust in Bhondsi village in Haryana's Gurgaon to focus on rural development but got into controversy when he was accused of indulging in land grabbing.




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