By: Er. Prabhat Kishore
Chaudhary Charan Singh, fifth Prime Minister of India is known as the “Kisan Messiah” because he struggled his whole life for the cause of farmers in the country. He was a versatile & multifaceted personality and made significant contribution to social, political, educational, literacy and journalism.
Born on 23rd December 1902 at Noorpur (Uttar Pradesh) in a peasant family, Charan Singh struggled his student life in Meerut and Agra. In 1927, he graduated in Law from Meerut College and started his work as an advocate at Ghaziabad. In 1928, he was married to Gayatri Devi (who was later elected as a member of the Lok Sabha). In childhood, he was highly influenced with the vision of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and associated himself with Arya Samaj. As an Arya Samaji, he did not use caste as a rallying point and performed inter-caste marriages of his two daughters. He was highly influenced by Sant Kabir, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel.
Charan Singh’s political journey started in 1929, when he became a member of the Congress. He was imprisoned in 1930, 1940 and 1942 during the freedom movement. In 1937 he was elected to the United Province Vidhan Sabha. He was the chief architect of land reforms in UP. He introduced the Agriculture Produce Market Bill to safeguard the interests of farmers against the rapacity of traders. Later on most of the provinces of India adopted this bill.
In 1952, he became the Revenue Minister and on 1st July 1952 the Jamindari system was abolished through the Jamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act in the UP Vidhan Sabha. In 1953, the Lekhpal system was introduced in place of the Patwari system and in 1954 the Chakbandi Act was implemented in the state. In 1959, he publically opposed Jawahar Lal’s Soviet-leaning economic and collective land policies at the Nagpur Congress Session. Being the son of the soil, his vision was clear that collective farming was not possible in the country and the farmers must have ownership right as against just a tiller.
Due to opposition of Nehru’s Policy, his political career suffered a lot. His position in the Congress weakened, but the positive thing was that the peasant community started rallying behind him. On 1st April 1967, Chaudhary Saheb parted away from the Congress and formed the Bharatiya Kranti Dal. He joined hands with socialist leaders Raj Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and other opposition parties and became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He served the State as CM since 3rd April 1967 to 25th February 1968 and again since 18th February 1970 to 1st October 1970. He implemented various welfare schemes for farmers and depressed communities. Due to his initiatives, salaries and various privileges of ministers in UP was drastically reduced.
In 1977, the Janata Party was formed with the merger of several non-Congress political parties, of which Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Lok Dal was also a constituent. The Janata Party adopted the Lok Dal’s party symbol “Haldhar Kisan” for the election. The Janata Party and its allies got 345 seats in the Lok Sabha election, out of which the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh faction got 102, Bharatiya Lok Dal faction 64, Socialist groups 35, Congress for Democracy 28 and rest others factions like Congress (O). Charan Singh was a strong contender for the post of Prime Minister as the number of MPs from his faction was next to that of the Jan Sangh and the leaders of Jan Sangh were not in the race. Jagjivan Ram was also trying to be elected as the leader of the party with the help of Jan Sangh and socialist groups and pressed for open election. But Jai Prakash Narayan and Acharya Kripalani, who were authorized to nominate the PM candidate, went in favour of Congress (O) leader Morarji Desai with Charan Singh to hold the heavyweight portfolio of the Home Ministry.
Following disagreement with PM Morarji Desai, Charan Singh resigned in June 1978; but was brought back to the Cabinet in February 1979 as Deputy PM along with Finance Ministry. Shortly there was rebellion in the Janata Party and in July 1979 break up in the Janata Party took place when 64 MPs, supporting Charan Singh, formed a separate group in the Lok Sabha. Chaudhary Charan Singh became the Prime Minister on 28th July 1979 when a coalition of the Janata Party (Charan faction) and the Congress (Socialist)-led by Y. B. Chauhan formed the government with outside support of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress (I). When he was to prove vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha; Indira Gandhi withdrew support and Charan Singh had to resign without facing the House. The Lok Sabha was dissolved and Singh worked as caretaker PM till 14th January 1980. Charan Singh said that he resigned because he was not ready to be blackmailed into withdrawing emergency-related court cases against Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.
Between 1946 to 1986, Charan Singh wrote several books namely “Abolition of Zamindari : Two Alternatives” (1947), “Joint Farming X-rayed: The Problem and Its Solution” (1959), “India’s Poverty and Its Solution” (1964), “India’s Economic Policy: The Gandhian Blueprint” (1978), “Economic Nightmare of India: Its Cause and Cure” (1981), and “Land Reforms in UP and the Kulaks” (1986). All his books and most of the articles written during his lifetime focused on villages and agriculture in India’s political economy and planning.
Charan Singh was a true champion of farmers and whenever he got opportunity in various governments and organizations, he tried his best for the well-being of the Annadata. He was a thinker, fearless writer and agriculturist who used to inspire people. He took his last breath on 28th May 1987 after a long illness. On enlightening the path of Indian politics for decades through his determination, constructive leadership, nationalist vision, strong willpower, political proficiency and popularity, Chaudhary Charan Singh will always be memorable for the Indian masses. (The author is a technocrat and academician. He can be reached at [email protected])