Biography and Achievements of Lal Bahadur Shastri

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Biography and Achievements of Lal Bahadur Shastri


Lal Bahadur Shastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of Independent India from 9th June, 1964 to 11th January, 1966.

The second Indo-Pakistan war took place during his tenure as Prime Minister. Shastriji is remembered for launching the inspirational campaign of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, which became very popular throughout the country.

He was a freedom fighter and actively participated in the Indian Independence Movement against the British rule. He was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehruji.

After Independence

He was a member of Indian National Congress and served the country under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru. He hold several prestigious positions under Nehruji. After the death of Nehruji on 27th May, 1964, Shastriji was chosen by the party for the post of Prime Minister.

Character

Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri was simple man who had been asked to assume the position of the Prime Minister. The problems he was expected to grapple with were enough to break the back of the most tenacious and determined man, but Mr. Shastri weathered the storm with his abundant rugged common sense and almost imperturbable calmness.

Difficulties

When Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri assumed charge as the Prime Minister of India, he started with many initial disadvantages. The most obvious one was that he had stepped into the shoes of a colossus like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who, commanded the spontaneous affection of the masses of India and was also a front-ranking world statesman.

Even though Mr. Shastri had been active in the political life of his country for nearly four decades, he had never visited any foreign country and was, therefore, not a well-known figure in important world capitals.

In addition, there was the problem of rising prices and food-shortage in India.

India’s relations with its neighbors were not of the best. It appeared that the people’s faith in the country’s future had been badly shaken.

Comparison with Nehru

It was but natural that people everywhere should mentally compare Mr. Shastri in his new role to the Pt. Nehru. Many people thought that he may at best be a competent stop-gap Prime Minister.

But Mr. Shastri suffered from no such inhibitions. He saw his duty clearly. While maintaining and strengthening he basic framework of national policy built by his illustrious predecessor, he had to chalk out his course of action by his own lights. He had enough strength as an individual to see the danger inherent in trying to be anyone but himself.

Mr. Shastri could not be another Nehru. He was a person in his own right and, called upon to lead the nation at a particularly difficult time in its history, he had to do his best. Therefore, he told the people, ‘Nobody can succeed Nehru; we can only try to carry on his work in a humble way’.

Achievements

As Prime Minister of India, Mr. Shastri actually got into stride sometime in October, 1964 when he had sufficiently recovered from a heart-attack which had kept him largely inactive during the first four months of his stewardship.

The second Non-aligned Nations Summit conference in Cairo was the first important international meeting which he attended as India’s chosen leader. While in Cairo, he raised his voice in favor of peace. He had taken the first opportunity to show that under his leadership, India would continue to be a force on the side of peace in the world.

The talks with Ceylon’s Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike towards the end of October, 1964, resulted in an agreement that was hailed as a magnificent achievement of Mr. Shastri as it removed a persistent cause of unpleasantness between India and Ceylon.

China’s debut as a nuclear power was perhaps the most important development from India’s point of view. The first test of Nuclear weapon by China was done on 16th October, 1964. It gave rise to vociferous demands in India in favor of manufacturing an Indian atom bomb. The demand had considerable popular backing and India had the capacity to make the bomb. But, he insisted on using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

War with Pakistan

The Indo-Pakistan war begun in April, 1965. The war continued till September, 1965.

When Pakistan launched the invasion of Kashmir, he hit back hard. His call galvanized the whole nation to rise as one man to meet the challenge. Thus this man of peace was forced to lead his people into a fierce conflict for preserving India’s honor and sovereignty.

Addressing the nation on 13th August, 1965, he said, ‘When freedom is threatened and territorial integrity is endangered, there is only one duty – the duty to meet the challenge with all our might’.

His inspiring words infused new life into the people, and heartened India’s brave army. Against superior equipment and heavy odds, the Indian soldiers, airmen and sailors gave a glorious account of their courage and prowess. The countless deeds of unparalleled heroism performed by the jawans during the time of war were enough to make every Indian feel proud of belonging to this country. The nation gained a new confidence in itself. Even though the conflict lasted for a few weeks only, it served to show India how she stood vis-à-vis other nations.

Even though the Indian Army scored victories, but the destruction and bloodshed made his heart bleed, and in keeping with the honor of the motherland, he bent his energies towards bringing the conflict to a close. After cease-fire, while mentioning those who had lost their lives on the battle-field, he broke down. That was indicative of the anguish which he must have undergone while the conflict lasted. But in spite of it, he did not spare himself in his relentless quest for peace.

Tashkent Declaration

After the India-Pakistan war of 1965, a peace agreement was signed at Tashkent, USSR, between India and Pakistan on 10th Jan, 1966. It was this untiring quest for peace which took him to Tashkent where he made sure that a beginning in the right direction was made.

Death

However, he died after signing the Tashkent declaration. Though, it is reported that the cause of his death was heart-attack, some people believe that he was poisoned. His death is still a subject of mystery. He didn’t returned back to India from Tashkent.

Estimate:  Mr. Shastri held charge of the country for a brief period of 18 months. Even during this period he made to the country’s heritage a contribution which can compare with the best in its richness and variety. He not only preserved but also strengthened the legacy of Gandhi and Nehru.

His composed calmness in the midst of turmoil and excitement, and his cool determination showed his countrymen where their strength lay. In fact, these were the qualities which enabled him to grapple with the multifarious problems which confronted the country at the time he was called upon to wear the mantle of the Late Pt. Nehru. The world has acknowledged that he wore it well.

Conclusion: It would be futile to speculate to what further heights Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri would have risen, had he been allowed some more time to serve the country. But none will easily forget that it was that simple, unassuming man who rehabilitated his countrymen’s belief in the destiny of India and restored the country’s image abroad when almost the whole world predicted for it nothing but confusion and chaos. He left India and the world much better than he found them, and although he shone on the Indian firmament for a brief period, he blazed a new trail for others to follow.

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