Indrajit Gupta: longest serving Parliamentarian

  • PTI
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 13, 2002 12:16 IST

This veteran CPI leader, often referred to as the "Father of the House", was the longest-serving member of the Lok Sabha and the Union Home Minister in I K Gujral’s Cabinet.

Elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time from the Calcutta South West constituency in a 1960 by-election, Indrajit Gupta has been a member of the House since, except for a three-year break due to his defeat in the 1977 elections.

He stormed back to Parliament in 1980, defeating Congress rival Abdul Quazi by about 95,000 votes from the Basirhat Parliamentary constituency. Since then, Gupta was able to retain his seat.

Revered for his fine oratory, his erudition, his wit and knack for swashbuckling repartee, Gupta was never the one to breach decorum or to storm the well of the House.

His political career, post-Cambridge, began in Kolkata, where he began working for the jute and the port and dock workers. This was to be a life-long commitment with Gupta, plunging him into the thick of the trade union movement.

When the Communist Party split in 1964, Gupta went in for a compact with the "national bourgeoisie", which ended up endorsing Indira Gandhi’s controversial Emergency regime. In the elections following the Emergency, Gupta suffered his only defeat-this was his only break during his four decades in Parliament.

After the Left again found its feet and the Rightist forces started building steam, Gupta emerged as one of the most trenchant critics in Parliament.

In 1992, Gupta took charge as the general secretary of the CPI. And as the Congress sank into a morass of corruption, Gupta became one of the prime movers of the "Third Force", lending valuable support to V P Singh and HarKishan Singh Surjeet’s efforts.

Though the CPM opted out of joining the coalition Government of 1996, the CPI decided to send Gupta to the Cabinet as Union Home Minister.

When the 1996 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh threw up an indecisive outcome, Gupta opposed the extension of President's Rule, since there was no constitutional mandate to deny a State an elected government for more than a year. His stand was upheld by the Allahabad High Court, though the matter was referred to the Supreme Court, where it lies undecided even now.

In 1997, when Laloo Prasad Yadav was indicted for involvement in the fodder scam, Indrajit Gupta took the stand in Parliament that he should resign from his chief ministership in Bihar. However, he also ruled out the BJP demand that he should be dismissed under Article 356 of the Constitution. Later, when the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh was dismissed by Governor Romesh Bhandari, as meddlesome and unprincipled, Indrajit Gupta as Home Minister opposed him, even at the risk of offending his partners in the United Front.

As a man who had seen things from both sides, Indrajit Gupta's last three years in the Lok Sabha set a distinct tone. The scathing wit and occasional sternness were set aside in favour of a more reflective, almost paternal attitude. He was invariably heard by the members with the respect and deference due to his moral authority, his uncompromising integrity and his deeply held convictions.

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