Chandrashekhar's death shocks Ballia
The death of former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar on Sunday stunned Ballia, the eastern most Lok Sabha constituency of Uttar Pradesh, which he represented continuously since 1967, barring one term from 1984 to 1989.
Ballia town was plunged into grief as the news of his death spread.
People remember him as a "fearless and courageous" leader. "The Young Turk of Ballia has left an indelible mark on the Indian politics", said Govindji, president of the local chamber of commerce.
"Chandrashekhar never liked slogans like 'zindabad' raised in his name," Govindji recalled. "He used to snub listeners if, during his election rallies, they interrupted his speech with slogan shouting. But no one minded. The people loved him for his outspoken and straigthforward attitude. "
Many Ballia organisations, including the chamber of commerce and traders' mandal passed resolutions condoling Chandrasekhar's death.
Chandrasekhar was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1962. In 1967 he fought and won his first Lok Sabha poll from Ballia. Only once was he defeated, by Jagganath Chaudhury of the Congress in 1984, during the 'Rajiv wave' following Indira Gandhi's assassination which won the Congress all but one of UP's then 85 seats.
It was here in Ballia that Chandrasekhar was born, in the remote village of Ibrahimpatti on July 1, 1927 into a poor Thakur family.
Chandrashekhar drew inspiration from Acharya Kripalani and took active part in student politics. He initially joined the Prajatantrik Socialist Party (PSP) and rose to become Ballia district secretary. In 1962 he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. In 1965 he joined the Congress.
"The people will always remember him for his courage," said senior Samajwadi Party leader Ambika Chaudhury. "Everybody was eager to listen to him and take his guidance," said top Ballia traders Shiv Kumar.