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Chandra Shekhar - a firebrand idealist

Chandra Shekhar - a firebrand idealist

delhi Updated: Jul 08, 2007 10:36 IST

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 LK Advani.

The image that he had of a man of principles suffered a dent when he split with VP 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. (MORE)

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 VP 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 VP 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.