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Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM

Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM

Introduction [Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM]

  • Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2nd October 1904 (a date of birth he shares with Mahatma Gandhi) in Mughalsarai near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
  • His father Sharada Prasad Srivastava was a school teacher who died when Shastri was not yet two years old. After his father’s death, he grew up with his mother and siblings in his maternal grandfather’s house.
  • When he was about 13, his family moved to Varanasi. At this time, he dropped his caste surname. The name ‘Shastri’ was actually the degree he was awarded by the Kashi Vidyapith, a nationalist educational institution established to defy the British. He had graduated in 1925 with a degree in philosophy and ethics.

Lal Bhadur Shastri as Prime Minister

  • When Jawaharlal Nehru died in office in 1964, Shastri became the Prime Minister. In his first broadcast, he said, “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a secular mixed-economy democracy at home with freedom and prosperity, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with select nations.”
  • He promoted both White Revolution and Green Revolution which aimed to increase milk and food production in the country.     (Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM)
  • In 1964, he signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in concern with the status of Indian Tamils in Ceylon.
  • This agreement is known as Srimavo-Shastri Pact.
  • He led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965.
  • His slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) became very popular during the war.
  • The war formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement on 10 January 1966; he died the following day, still in Tashkent, with the cause of his death in dispute and it was reported to be a cardiac arrest but his family was not satisfied with it.   (Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM)
  • He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award posthumously in 1966.

Why he was chosen PM?

  • Lal Bahadur Shastri was not in the race at all when Pandit Nehru died in 1964. Indira Gandhi had not shown open interest to succeed her father. At any rate, all stalwart leaders in the party were senior to her.
  • Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram, Kamraj, Sanjeeva Reddy and Gulzari Nanda were all there as possible contenders. They had no clue about how strong Shastri was. So they chose him, thinking that they could control him and do backseat driving.
  • How wrong they were! It is a pity that he died so early in power in January 1966. He should have lived. He was a truly great leader in all respects.

Life-lessons from his Life [Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM]

  • Simple living, high thinking: When he married in 1928, at the insistence of his in-laws to accept dowry, he took a charkha (spinning wheel) and some khadi cloth. Even when he passed away, he reportedly had no property in his name and left behind a few books and a dhoti-kurta. As a child, Shastri is known to have swum across the river to reach school to save his impoverished family money to pay for a boat ride.
  • Protested against the caste system: Since he didn’t believe in the caste system (he was a Kayastha from birth), he gave up his surname as a young schoolboy. The title “Shastri” was bestowed on him upon graduating from Kashi Vidyapeeth, as a mark of scholarly achievement.
  • Patriotic from a young age: As a patriotic young boy, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his call to join the Non-Cooperation Movement at the young age of 16. In his maiden Independence Day speech in 1964, Shastri told the youth to strive for moral strength and character, “I appeal to our young men to inculcate discipline in themselves discipline and work for the unity and advancement of the nation.”
  • Honesty was always the best policy: Since the children were rarely allowed to use the official car to go to school when their father was Prime Minister, the family decided to buy a Fiat car for Rs. 12,000. A bank loan for Rs. 5,000 was taken, which Shastri’s widow had to clear after his sudden death, from his pension. On a visit to a textile mill as Prime Minister, when the owner offered to gift him expensive sarees, Shastri insisted on buying and paying for only those he could afford. He also had an undue promotion for his son overturned.
  • A compassionate, forward-thinking leader: He had many pioneering initiatives to his credit, such as using water jets to disperse crowds instead of a lathi-charge and making it possible for women to be appointed as conductors in public transport facilities. He also raised the slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 and paved the way for India’s food self-sufficiency. (Lal Bahadur Shastri as a PM)


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