Dr Jagannath Mishra, last Congress CM in Bihar who couldn’t complete even one of his three terms
Former chief minister Dr Jagannath Mishra will be known for sharp political acumen and bold decision-making, which he demonstrated during the peak of his career. But his political rise was quick and unplanned, coinciding with the death of his elder brother Lalit Narayan Mishra, railway minister in the cabinet of the then prime minister (late) Indira Gandhi, in 1975.
Dr Mishra, a first-time MLA, was picked by Indira Gandhi as Bihar’s chief minister, which was then perceived as an attempt to calm things down.
Later, he became the chief minister for a second time in 1980 and for the third time in 1989. However, he could not complete his full term even once. Dr Mishra was the last Congress CM of Bihar, after which Mandal politics took over. In the 1990s, he also served as union minister.
Having started his career as a lecturer, he went to become professor of economics, but his natural inclination was towards politics. In his heyday, he was regarded as the tallest leader in Bihar. However, the Bihar Press Bill during his time created a big furore and ultimately he had to retract.
In 1983, while speaking in the Bihar Assembly, he took on the policies of his own Congress government at the Centre for paying the state a meagre royalty for its mineral resources. He said he had sought change in the policy for the sake of Bihar. It was seen as a very bold move for a Congress CM to speak against the party high command.
A widely read man, Mishra was known for his political acumen and ability to take decisions without fear. It was to his credit that Muslims became a crucial vote bank for the Congress post-1977 debacle, as he declared Urdu the second language of the state. Many prefixed ‘Maulana’ before his name after the move, but it only worked to his advantage till the emergence of Lalu Prasad.
He is credited with several initiatives in the field of education, including setting up of Sanskrit schools, madarsas and takeover of colleges. It was during his tenure that the Sanskrit Shiksha Board, Bihar Intermediate Council and academies of various languages were set up. His tenure saw the setting up of five state universities in undivided Bihar. The famous Sudha Dairy in the state was also established during his time.
He was also convicted in the infamous fodder scam along with Lalu Prasad. He also served jail sentence, but was later granted bail due to his failing health.
Though he spent most of his life in the Congress, the party’s slide and his growing irrelevance in the later stages prompted him to join the National Congress Party and later the Janata Dal-u.
The LN Mithila University, Darbhanga has declared the closure of university offices, all post graduate departments, constituent and affiliated colleges on Tuesday as mark of respect to former Bihar CM Dr Jagannath Mishra. He was a life long member of LNMU senate.