Charan Singh

Last updated

Gayatri Devi
(m. 1925)
Chaudhary Charan Singh
Prime minister Charan Singh (cropped).jpg
Official portrait, 1979
5th Prime Minister of India
In office
28 July 1979 20 August 1979
(caretaker: 21 August 1979 – 14 January 1980)
Children6; including Ajit Singh
Education Bachelor of Science (1923), Masters of Arts (1925), Bachelor of Laws (1927)
Alma mater Agra University
Awards Bharat Ratna (2024)

Chaudhary Charan Singh (23 December 1902 – 29 May 1987), better known as Charan Singh was an Indian politician and a freedom fighter. Singh was principally known for his land and agricultural reform initiatives. He briefly served as the 5th prime minister of India from July 1979 to August 1979 and was Member of Parliament (MP) for Baghpat. During prime ministership he was a member of the Janata Party (Secular). He served as 5th Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh as a member of Bhartiya Kranti Dal. He also briefly served as deputy prime minister of India from January 1979 to July 1979 as a member of the Janata Party. Singh is widely regarded as the "Champion of farmers", after his life has been dedicated to advocating for the wellbeing and rights of farmers. [1]

Contents

Singh was born in Meerut district, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. He graduated from Agra College in 1923 with a Bachelor of Science degree and then he did Master of Arts in history in 1925. In 1927 he did Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Meerut College. Then they shifted to Bulandshahr district of present day Uttar Pradesh after their downfall due to Raja Nahar Sigh Ballabhgarh opposition to the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Singh entered politics as a part of Indian independence movement motivated by Mahatma Gandhi. Singh followed Gandhi in non-violent struggle for independence from the British Government, and was imprisoned several times. In 1930, he was sent to jail for 12 years by the British for contravention of the salt laws. He was jailed again for one year in November 1940 for individual Satyagraha movement. In August 1942 he was jailed again by the British under DIR and released in November 1943. He was a Congress member for most of his life, he later founded his own Lok Dal party. [2] [3] He is the first leader outside the Indian National Congress who formed government in the northern India and became 5th chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. [4] He was awarded with the Bharat Ratna in 2024. [1]

Early life and education

Singh was born on 23 December 1902 to Mir Singh and Netar Kaur in Nurpur village of Meerut district, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. His father was a farmer belonging to the Tewatia Shivi gotra of Jats. Singh started his primary education in Jani Khurd village in Meerut. He did his Matriculation and Intermediate from the Government High School in 1921 and then he went to Agra College to pursue Bachelor of Science in 1923, Masters of Arts in History (British, European and Indian) in 1925. He then did Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Meerut College in 1927. Singh have knowledge about European and Indian history as well as civil laws of British India as it affected the lives of village peoples. [5] His clansmen hail from the Haryana's Gurgaon district, where they were revenue collectors during the Mughal period. But they shifted to Bulandshahr district of the present-day Uttar Pradesh after their downfall due to one of their prominent Raja Nahar Singh Ballabhgarh opposition to the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. [6] [7] Singh entered politics as part of the Indian Independence Movement motivated by Mahatma Gandhi. He was active from 1931 in the Ghaziabad District Arya Samaj as well as the Meerut district Indian National Congress for which he was jailed twice by the British. Before independence, as a member of Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces elected in 1937, he took a deep interest in the laws that were detrimental to the village economy and he slowly built his ideological and practical stand against the exploitation of tillers of the land by landlords.

Between 1952 and 1968, he was one of "three principal leaders in Congress state politics." He became particularly notable in Uttar Pradesh from the 1950s for drafting and ensuring the passage of what were then the most revolutionary land reform laws in any state in India under the tutelage of the then Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant; first as Parliamentary Secretary and then as Revenue Minister responsible for Land Reforms. He became visible on the national stage from 1959 when he publicly opposed the unquestioned leader and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's socialistic and collectivist land policies in the Nagpur Congress Session. Though his position in the faction-ridden Uttar Pradesh Congress was weakened, this was a point when the middle peasant communities across castes in North India began looking up to him as their spokesperson and later as their unquestioned leader. Singh stood for tight government spending, enforced consequences for corrupt officers, and advocated a "firm hand in dealing with the demands of government employees for increased wages and dearness allowances." It is also worth noting that within the factional Uttar Pradesh Congress, his ability to articulate his clear policies and values made him stand out from his colleagues. Following this period, Charan Singh defected from the Congress on 1 April 1967, joined the opposition party, and became the first non-Congress chief minister of UP. [8] This was a period when non-Congress governments were a strong force in India from 1967 to 1971.

As leader of the Bharatiya Lok Dal, a major constituent of the Janata coalition, he was disappointed in his ambition to become Prime Minister in 1977 by Jayaprakash Narayan's choice of Morarji Desai.

During 1977 Lok Sabha Elections, the fragmented opposition united a few months before the elections under the Janata Party banner, for which Chaudhary Charan Singh had been struggling almost single-handedly since 1974. It was because of the efforts of Raj Narain that he became Prime Minister in the year 1979 though Raj Narain was Chairman of Janata Party-Secular and assured Charan Singh of elevating him as Prime Minister, the way he helped him to become Chief Minister in the year 1967 in Uttar Pradesh. However, he resigned after just 23 days in office when Indira Gandhi's Congress Party withdrew support to the government. Singh said he resigned because he was not ready to be blackmailed into withdrawing Indira Gandhi's emergency-related court cases. [9] Fresh elections were held six months later. Charan Singh continued to lead the Lok Dal in opposition until his death in 1987.

Early years – pre-Independence India

Charan Singh's ancestor was a prominent leader of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabhgarh (in present-day Haryana). Nahar Singh was sent to the gallows in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. In order to escape the oppression from the British Government following their defeat, the Maharaja's followers, including Charan Singh's grandfather moved eastward to district Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. [10]

He received a Master of Arts (MA) degree in 1925 and a law degree in 1926 from Agra University. He started practice as a civil lawyer at Ghaziabad in 1928. [11]

In February 1937 he was elected from the constituency of Chhaprauli (Baghpat) to the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces at the age of 34. [11] In 1938 he introduced an Agricultural Produce Market Bill in the Assembly which was published in the issues of The Hindustan Times of Delhi dated 31 March 1938. The Bill was intended to safeguard the interests of the farmers against the rapacity of traders. The Bill was adopted by most of the States in India, Punjab being the first state to do so in 1940. [12]

Charan Singh followed Mahatma Gandhi in non-violent struggle for independence from the British Government, and was imprisoned several times. In 1930, he was sent to jail for 12 years by the British for contravention of the salt laws. He was jailed again for one year in November 1940 for individual Satyagraha movement. In August 1942 he was jailed again by the British under DIR and released in November 1943. [13]

Independent India

Charan Singh opposed Jawaharlal Nehru on his Soviet-style economic reforms. Charan Singh was of the opinion that cooperative farms would not succeed in India. Being a son of a farmer, Charan Singh opined that the right of ownership was important to the farmer in remaining a cultivator. He wanted to preserve and stabilise a system of peasant proprietorship. [8] Charan Singh's political career suffered due to his open criticism of Nehru's economic policy.

Singh is known for piloting pro-farmer legislation such as the Consolidation of Holdings Act of 1953 and the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari and Land Reforms Act, 1952. The latter led to the abolition of zamindari system in the state.He was also strict in dealing with the 'Patwari strike crisis' in 1953. Land reforms resulted in empowering the tillers and providing the landless with ownership of land. It created a conducive atmosphere for the social and economic upliftment of the farmers. During the drought in 1966-1967, Singh offered the agriculturists a much higher procurement price than the prevailing market rates. The infrastructure he laid down led to the Minimum Support Price mechanism. [14]

Charan Singh left the Congress party in 1967, and formed his own political party, Bharatiya Kranti Dal. With the help and support of Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia, he became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1967, and later in 1970. In 1975, he was jailed again, but this time by then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, daughter of his former rival Nehru. She had declared the state of emergency and jailed all her political opponents. In the 1977 general elections, the Indian populace voted her out, and the opposition party, of which Chaudhary Charan Singh was a senior leader came into power. He served as Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister and Finance minister in the Janata government headed by Morarji Desai.

First term as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1967–1968)

Charan Singh for the first time, became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 3 April 1967 with the help of Samyukta Vidhayak Dal coalition. [11] Samyukta Vidhayak Dal was formed after failure of negotiations between Charan Singh and Chandra Bhanu Gupta on the composition of Gupta's ministry. Singh wanted some of his allies like Jai Ram Varma and Udit Narain Sharma to be included in the cabinet and removal of some of the men from the cabinet. As a result of failure of negotiations, Charan Singh with his 16 MLAs defected from Congress. [15]

Samyukta Vidhayak Dal was coalition formed with the help of non-Congress parties like Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Samyukta Socialist Party, Communist Party of India, Swatantra Party, Praja Socialist Party, Republican Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist). [16] Within months of his government formation disputes started to arise in SVD coalition. Samyukta Socialist Party, one of the constituent of this coalition, demanded to completely abolish the land revenue or at least abolish on uneconomic lands but Charan Singh refused to accept this demand as he was worried about the revenue generation and resources. [17] Praja Socialist Party, another constituent in this coalition, demanded for the release of government employees held in preventive detention for their strikes but this demand also Singh refused to accept. [18]

The disputes between Charan Singh and Samyukta Socialist Party became public when SSP decided to launch an agitation of Angrezi Hatao (get rid to English) and during this movement two of its ministers courted arrest. [11] [19] SSP withdrew from coalition on 5 January 1968. [19] On 17 February 1968, Charan Singh submitted his resignation to the governor Bezawada Gopala Reddy and on 25 February 1968, President's rule was imposed on Uttar Pradesh. [20] [21]

Second term as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1970)

After the split in Congress party, Chandra Bhanu Gupta resigned as Chief Minister on 10 February 1970. [22] On 18 February 1970, Charan Singh became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the second time with the help of Indira Gandhi's Congress (R). [23] [24] After three Rajya Sabha members of Bharatiya Kranti Dal voted against the decision of Indira Gandhi to eliminate the Privy Purse, Kamalapati Tripathi announced the withdrawal of the support of Congress (R) for the Singh's government. [25] Charan Singh demanded the resignation of 14 Congress (R) minister but they refused to resign. [25] On 27 September 1970, governor Bezawada Gopala Reddy accepted the resignation of ministers but also asked Charan Singh to resign. [24] [26]

On 1 October 1970, President's rule was imposed on Uttar Pradesh by V. V. Giri from Kiev, who was on tour there. [27] Just two weeks later with the recalling of the Uttar Pradesh assembly, Tribhuvan Narain Singh was elected the leader of the house and became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh with the support of Congress (O), Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Swatantra Party and Samyukta Socialist Party. [28]

Minister of Home Affairs (1977–1978)

Charan Singh became Cabinet minister in Morarji Desai government and took the office as Minister of Home Affairs on 24 March 1977. [11] [29] As a Home Minister, Charan Singh took the decision to dissolve all the state assemblies which were under Congress rule. He argued that these assemblies no longer represent the will of the electorate of their respective states. [30] [31] Charan Singh wrote the letter to nine Chief Ministers to advise their governors to dissolve their state assemblies. [32] Chief Minister of these states went to Supreme Court against this dissolution but the dismissals were validated by Supreme Court. [33] [34]

On 3 October 1977, Charan Singh got Indira Gandhi arrested from her 12 Willingdon Crescent residence. [35] [36] [37] The charges against her were that during 1977 election, she misused her position to get jeeps for election campaigns and another charge was related to contract between the ONGC and the French oil company CFP. [38] [39] But the magistrate before whom she appeared, released her stating that there was no evidence to back up the arrest. [38] By botching up the arrest, Singh prepared his resignation letter but Morarji Desai did not accept it. [40]

On 1 July 1978, Charan Singh resigned from the cabinet of Morarji Desai because of growing differences between them over trial of Indira Gandhi. [11] [41] In December 1978, Singh wanted to undo Janata Party and wanted coalition government in place of Janata Party government. [42] On 24 January 1979, Singh returned into cabinet and held two portfolios of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. [43] [11]

Prime Ministership

Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh addressing the nation from the rampart of the Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day, 15 August 1979 Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh addressing the nation from the Red Fort on Independence Day.png
Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh addressing the nation from the rampart of the Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day, 15 August 1979

When the Janata Party won the Lok Sabha elections in 1977, its MPs authorised the elder guiding lights of the movement, Jayaprakash Narayan and Acharya Kripalani to choose candidate for the post of Prime Minister. Morarji Desai was chosen and he named Singh Home Minister. Singh was asked to resign in June 1978 following disagreements with Desai, but was brought back to the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister in January 1979. In 1979, the Janata government began to unravel over the issue of the dual loyalties of some members to Janata and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the Hindu nationalist, [44] [45] paramilitary [46] organisation. Singh, who as the Union home minister during the previous year had ordered the Gandhis' arrests, took advantage of this and started courting Indira Gandhi's Congress (I) party. After a significant exodus from the Janata party to Singh's faction, Morarji Desai resigned as prime minister in July 1979. Singh was appointed prime minister, by President Reddy, after Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi promised Singh that Congress (I) would support his government from outside on certain conditions. Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister on 28 July 1979, with outside support from Indira Gandhi's Congress (I) party and with Yeshwantrao Chavan of the Congress (Socialist) party as his Deputy Prime Minister. [47] [48]

His name got etched in history as he hoisted the tricolour at the coveted Red Fort on Independence Day, 15 August 1979. In his speech on Independence Day, Charan Singh said:

‘To be able to achieve noble objectives, your means should also be equally noble…A country where people are corrupt, will never be able to progress whosoever may be the leader of the party or whatever be the sound programme he might follow.’ [49]

Indira's conditions included dropping all charges against her and Sanjay. Since Singh refused to drop them, Congress withdrew its support just before Singh was to confirm his majority in the Lok Sabha. He resigned as prime minister on 20 August 1979, after just 23 days in office, becoming the only Prime Minister to never face the Parliament. Singh then advised President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to dissolve the Lok Sabha. Janata Party leader Jagjivan Ram challenged that advice and sought time to cobble support, but the Lok Sabha was dissolved, and Charan Singh continued as caretaker Prime Minister until January 1980. [50]

Later years

On 26 September 1979, he formed Lok Dal by merging Janata Party (Secular), Socialist Party and Orissa Janata Party. [51] He was elected president of Lok Dal and Raj Narain was elected as its working president. [51] [52] In August 1982, a major split occurred in Lok Dal, with one faction of Charan Singh and another consisted of Karpoori Thakur, Madhu Limaye, Biju Patnaik, Devi Lal, George Fernandes and Kumbha Ram Arya. [53] [54]

On 21 October 1984, Charan Singh founded a new party Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Party, by merging Lok Dal, Democratic Socialist Party of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, Rashtriya Congress of Ratubhai Adani and some leaders of Janata Party like Devi Lal. [55] Later it changed its name back to the Lok Dal. [56]

Personal life

Singh had six children with wife Gayatri Devi (1905–2002). Gayatri Devi was elected an MLA from Iglas (Aligarh) in 1969, from Gokul in 1974, then elected to Lok Sabha from Kairana in 1980, and lost Lok Sabha election from Mathura in 1984. His son Ajit Singh was the president of a political party Rashtriya Lok Dal and a former Union Minister and a many times Member of Parliament. Ajit Singh's son Jayant Chaudhary was elected to 15th Lok Sabha from Mathura, which he lost to Hema Malini in the election of 2014.

Death

Singh suffered a stroke on 29 November 1985. He could not completely recover from the condition despite being treated at a hospital in the US. At 11:35 p.m. (IST) on 28 May 1987 doctors were called for to his residence in New Delhi, after his respiration was found "unsteady". Efforts to revive him failed and was declared dead at 2:35 a.m. (IST) the following morning after a "cardiovascular collapse". [57] [58]

Legacy

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh paying floral tribute to the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh on his 104th birth anniversary at Kisan Ghat in Delhi on December 23, 2006 The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh paying floral tribute to the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh on his 104th birth anniversary at Kisan Ghat in Delhi on December 23, 2006.jpg
Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh paying floral tribute to the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh on his 104th birth anniversary at Kisan Ghat in Delhi on December 23, 2006

Singh, often hailed as the ‘Champion of Farmers,’ left behind a rich legacy that continues to inspire and shape the agricultural landscape of India. His contributions to the welfare of the farmers and the rural community were profound and multifaceted.

Singh’s journey as a stalwart for farmers’ rights began with his instrumental role in piloting pro-farmer legislation such as the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act of 1950, which aimed to redistribute land from the zamindars to the tillers, and the Consolidation of Holdings Act of 1953, which sought to prevent the fragmentation of agricultural land. [59]

Singh was the chief architect of land reforms in Uttar Pradesh, where he played a pivotal role in the formulation and finalisation of the Debt Redemption Bill 1939. [59] This legislation brought significant relief to rural debtors, easing the burden of debts that had long plagued the agricultural community. [60]

As Chief Minister of U.P., Singh was instrumental in enacting the Land Holding Act of 1960. This act aimed at lowering the ceiling on land holdings to make it uniform throughout the state, thereby promoting fairer land distribution and addressing the disparities in land ownership. [3]

Singh’s birthday, December 23, was declared as Kisan Diwas or National Farmers’ Day in 2001. This day is celebrated across India to honor his memory and his unwavering dedication to the agrarian community. [61] To commemorate his second death anniversary, the Government of India issued a postage stamp on May 29, 1990. The stamp symbolises the nation’s respect for his contributions as the 5th prime minister of India and a champion of farmers’ rights. [62] His commitment to the agricultural sector were further immortalised with the establishment of Kisan Ghat in 1987 as this memorial in New Delhi serves as a serene place where people pay their respects to the man who was often referred to as the ‘Champion of Farmers.’ [63]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tributes at the portrait of the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh, on his 113th birth anniversary, at Parliament House on December 23, 2015 Narendra Modi paying tributes at the portrait of the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh, on his 113th birth anniversary, at Parliament House, in New Delhi. The Speaker, Lok Sabha.jpg
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tributes at the portrait of the former Prime Minister, Late Ch. Charan Singh, on his 113th birth anniversary, at Parliament House on December 23, 2015

Several monuments and institutions have been named after Singh to honour his legacy which includes the Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and the Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, which was renamed in his honour. On December 23, 2023, a 51-foot statue of Singh was unveiled by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Bilari, Moradabad district coinciding Singh’s birth anniversary. [64]

On 30 March 2024, Singh was posthumously honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award by President Droupadi Murmu, for his exceptional service and contributions to the agricultural sector, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Singh’s multifaceted personality encompassed roles as a patriot, administrator, statesman, and a man of integrity and humanist values. [65] [66]

Charan Singh 1990 stamp of India Charan Singh 1990 stamp of India.jpg
Charan Singh 1990 stamp of India

Kisan Kranti Ke Praneta – Ch. Charan Singh is a 1996 short documentary film directed by Ashok Vazirani and produced by the Films Division of India which covers the life and achievements of the prime minister including his contributions to the Indian agriculture sector. [67] [68] Charan Singh has also been portrayed by Anwar Fatehan in the 2013 television series Pradhanmantri (lit.'Prime Minister'), which covers the tenures of Indian PMs, [69] by Sundaram in the 2019 film NTR: Mahanayakudu which is based on the life of Indian actor-politician N. T. Rama Rao., [70] and by Govind Namdeo in the 2021 film Main Mulayam Singh Yadav which charts the life of former Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh Yadav. [71]

Books

See also

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References

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    • McLeod, John (2015). The History of India (2nd ed.). Greenwood. p. 221. ISBN   978-1-61069-765-1. Singh, Chaudhuri Charan (1902–1987). Politician. Born into a former royal family of the Jat caste; practiced law; joined Mahatma Gandhi's Salt Satyagraha 1930, the Individual Satyagraha against World War II 1940, and the Quit India movement 1942; a member of the Indian National Congress 1930–1967, the Bharatiya Kranti Dal 1967–1974, the Lok Dal 1974–1977, the Janata Party 1977–1979, and the Lok Dal again 1979–1987; chief minister of Uttar Pradesh 1967–1968 and 1970; deputy prime minister of India 1977–1979; prime minister of India 1979–1980.
    • Brass, Paul R. (2013). "Singh, Chaudhary Charan (1902–1987)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/97003. Singh, Chaudhary Charan (1902–1987), prime minister of India, was born on 23 December 1902 in the village of Nurpur, in Meerut district, United Provinces, India, the eldest of five children of Meer (Mukhiaji) Singh (c.1880–1960), a small farmer, of the jat caste, and his wife, Netra Kaur (c.1882–1957).(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
1967–1968
Succeeded by
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
1970
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Prime Minister of India
1977–1979
Served alongside: Jagjivan Ram
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Home Affairs
1977–1978
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance
1979
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of India
1979–1980
Succeeded by
Chairperson of the Planning Commission
1979–1980