Chandra Shekhar Singh (1 July 1927 8 July 2007) was an Indian politician who, for a short period of time, served as the 8th Prime Minister of India, between 10 November 1990 and 21 June 1991.
Early life and education
Chandra Shekhar Singh was born on 1 July 1927 in Ibrahimpatti, a village in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh. He came from an agriculturist family. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (graduate) degree at Satish Chandra P.G. College. He attended Allahabad University, obtaining his master’s degree in political science in 1951. He was known as a firebrand in student politics and started his political career with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. After when he had completed his graduation, he became active in socialist politics.
He married Duja Devi.
Start of career
He joined the socialist movement and was elected secretary of the district Praja Socialist Party (PSP), Ballia. Within a year, he was elected joint secretary of the PSPs State unit in Uttar Pradesh. In 195556, he took over as general secretary of the party in the State. His career as a parliamentarian began with his election to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in 1962. He came under the spell of Acharya Narendra Dev, a fiery Socialist leader in the beginning of his political career. From 1962 to 1967, Shekhar belonged to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper house of the Parliament of India. When the Emergency was declared, even though he was a Congress party politician, he was arrested and sent to Patiala jail. He had a nationwide padayatra in 1983 to know the country better, which he claimed gave the jitters to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He was called a “Young Turk”.
Chandra Shekhar was a prominent leader of socialists. He played a vital role in nationalisation of banks and ending of privy purse being given to royal families.He joined Congress in 1964. From 1962 to 1967, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha. He first entered the Lok Sabha in 1967.He came to be known as a ‘young Turk’ for his conviction and courage in the fight against the vested interests. The other ‘young Turks’, who formed the ‘ginger group’ in the Congress in the fight for egalitarian policies, included leaders like Feroze Gandhi, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Mohan Dharia and Ram Dhan As a member of the Congress Party, he vehemently criticised Indira Gandhi for her declaration of emergency in 1975. Chandrashekhar was arrested during the emergency and sent to prison along with o other “young turks”. Immediately after the Emergency, Chandrashekhar kept out of the power structure and became the first President of the Janata Party, formed in 1977 in the flush of electoral success that heralded the first non-Congress government at the Centre.
In Janata Party
After the emergency, he became the President of Janata Party. In the parliamentary elections, Janata Party did very well and formed the coalition government headed by Morarji Desai. In 1988, his party merged with other parties and formed the government under the leadership of V.P. Singh. Again his relationship with the coalition deteriorated and he formed another party, Janata Dal socialist faction. With the support of Congress (I) headed by Rajiv Gandhi, he replaced V.P. Singh as the Prime Minister of India in November 1990.After 1977, he was elected to Lok Sabha in all the elections, except in 1984 when the Congress swept the polls after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The post of Prime Minister, which he thought he genuinely deserved, eluded him in 1989 when V P Singh pipped him at the post and was chosen to head the first coalition government at the Centre.
Chandrashekhar thought that V. P. Singh and Devi Lal entered into a pact to deprive him of the Prime Ministership and used it against Singh at the height of the post-Mandal agitation to break the party and bring the government down in 1990.
Deposing V. P. Singh
Chandra Shekhar seized the moment and left the Janata Dal with several of his own supporters to form the Samajwadi Janata Party/Janata Dal (Socialist). He won a confidence motion with the support of his 64 MPs and Rajiv Gandhi, the leader of the Opposition, and was sworn in as Prime Minister. Eight Janata Dal MPs who voted for this motion were disqualified by the speaker Rabi Ray.
Chandra Shekhar was prime minister for seven months, the second shortest period after that of Charan Singh. He also handled the portfolios of Defence and Home Affairs during this period. His government included preamble and fighting of the Gulf War of 199091. However, it could not introduce a full budget because Congress withdrew support during its formulation. In the spring of 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to precipitate a new election. Chandra Shekhar resigned the office of prime minister on 6 March 1991.
After handing the premiership to P. V. Narasimha Rao, Chandra Shekar’s political importance was reduced, although he was able to retain his seat in the Lok Sabha for many years afterwards. He established Bharat Yatra Centres in various parts of the country and set up a trust in Bhondsi village in Haryana’s Gurgaon to focus on rural development. He died due to jaundice
Chandra Shekhar died on 8 July 2007, a week after his 80th birthday. He had been suffering with multiple myeloma for some time and had been in the Apollo Hospital at New Delhi since May. He was survived by two sons.
Politicians from across the spectrum of Indian parties paid tribute to him and the government of India declared seven days of state mourning. He was cremated with full state honours on a traditional funeral pyre at Jannayak sthal, on the banks of the river Yamuna, on 10 July. In August, his ashes were immersed in the river Siruvani.