Shastri joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. Deeply impressed and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi (with whom he shared his birthday), he became a loyal follower, first of Gandhi, and then of Jawaharlal Nehru. Following independence in 1947, he joined the latter’s government and became one of Prime Minister Nehru’s principal, first as Railways Minister (1951–56), and then in a variety of other functions, including Home Minister.
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 and is remembered even today. The war formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement of 10 January 1966; he died the following day, still in Tashkent, the cause of death was said to be a heart attack but there are various reasons to think that it was a planned murder by the CIA.
Family and descendants
On 16 May 1928, Shastri married Lalita Devi a lady from Mirzapur. The marriage, which was arranged by their parents in the traditional Indian way, was harmonious and conventional. The couple were blessed with four sons and two daughters, namely
- Kusum Shastri, the eldest daughter
- Hari Krishna Shastri, eldest son, who was married to Vibha Shastri
- Suman Shastri, second daughter, married to Vijay Nath Singh. Her son, Siddharth Nath Singh, is a spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party
- Anil Shastri. He is married to Manju Shastri. Alone in his family, he remains a member of his father’s Congress Party. His son Adarsh Shastri gave up his corporate career with Apple Inc to contest the General elections of 2014 from Allahabad on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket. He lost that election.
- Sunil Shastri. He is married to Meera Shastri. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
- Ashok Shastri, the youngest son. He worked in the corporate world before his untimely death at the age of 37. His wife Neera Shastri and his son Sameep Shastri are members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ramachandra Guha argued that Shastri shared little in common with his predecessor Jawaharlal Nehru. While Shastri preferred peace with Pakistan, writing to a friend after the Indo-Pakistani War in 1965 that the problems between both countries should be settled amicably, he had previously displayed a knack for taking quick and decisive actions during the war. He swiftly took the advice of his commanders, and ordered a strike across the Punjab border. This was in stark contrast to Nehru who in a similar situation in 1962, had refused to call in the air force to relieve the pressure on the ground troops. At the end of the conflict, Shastri flamboyantly posed for a photograph on top of a captured US-supplied Pakistani M48 Patton tank.
However, in common with Nehru, Shastri was a secularist who refused to mix religion with politics. In a public meeting held at the Ram Lila grounds in Delhi, a few days after the ceasefire, he complained against a BBC report which claimed that Shastri’s identity as a Hindu meant that he was ready for a war with Pakistan. He stated:
“While I am a Hindu, Mir Mushtaq who is presiding over this meeting is a Muslim. Mr. Frank Anthony who has addressed you is a Christian. There are also Sikhs and Parsis here. The unique thing about our country is that we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and people of all other religions. We have temples and mosques, gurdwaras and churches. But we do not bring all this into politics. This is the difference between India and Pakistan. Whereas Pakistan proclaims herself to be an Islamic State and uses religion as a political factor, we Indians have the freedom to follow whatever religion we may choose, and worship in any way we please. So far as politics is concerned, each of us is as much an Indian as the other.”
Kuldip Nayar, Shastri’s media advisor from 1960 to 1964, recalls that, during the Quit India Movement, his daughter was ill and he was released on parole from jail. However, he could not save her life because doctors had prescribed costly drugs. Later on in 1963, on the day when he was dropped from the cabinet, he was sitting in his home in the dark, without a light. When asked about the reason, he said as he no longer is a minister, all expenses will have to be paid by himself and that as a MP and minister he didn’t earn enough to save for time of need.
Although Shastri had been a cabinet minister for many years in the 1950s, he was poor when he died. All he owned at the end was an old car, which he had bought in instalments from the government and for which he still owed money. He was a member of Servants of India society (which included Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhle) which asked all its members to shun accumulation of private property and remain in public life as servants of people. He was the first railway minister who resigned from office following a major train accident as he felt moral responsibility.
He inaugurated the Central Institute of Technology Campus at Tharamani, Chennai, in November 1964.
He inaugurated the Plutonium Reprocessing Plant at Trombay in 1965. As suggested by Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Shastri authorized the development of nuclear explosives. Bhabha initiated the effort by setting up the nuclear explosive design group Study of Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes (SNEPP).
He inaugurated the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University at Hyderabad on 20 March 1965 which renamed as Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University in 1996 and was separated into two universities after formation Telangana State. The University in Telangana was named in July 2014 as Professor. Jayashanker Agricultural University.
Shasstriji also inaugurated the National Institute of Technology, Allahabad.
Lal Bahadur Shastri inaugurated the Jawahar Dock of the Chennai Port Trust & starts the construction work of Tuticorin Port (Now VOC Port Trust) in November 1964.
He inaugurated Sainik School Balachadi, in State of Gujarat. He laid the foundation stone of Almatti dam during the year ——– . Now the commissioned dam bears his name.
Several educational institutes, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (Mussorie, Uttarakhand) is after his name.
Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management was established in Delhi by the ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri Educational Trust’ in 1995 as is one of the top business schools in India.
The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute was named after Shastri due to his role in promoting scholarly activity between India and Canada.
Lal Bhadur Shastri Memorial run by Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust, is situated next to 10 Janpath his residence as Prime Minister, at 1, Motilal Nehru Place, New Delhi.
In 2011, on Shastri’s 45th death anniversary, Uttar Pradesh Government announced to renovate Shastri’s ancestral house at Ramnagar in Varanasi and declared plans to convert it into a biographical museum.
Varanasi International Airport is named after him.
The Almatti Dam is renamed as Lal Bahadur Shastri Sagar in Northern Karnataka built across the River Krishna. The foundation stone was laid by him.
MV Lal Bahadur Shastri a Cargo Ship is named after him.
RBI released coins in the denomination of Rs.5 during his birth century celebrations.
All India Lal Bahadur Shastri Hockey tournament is held every year since 1991 a major tournament in the field of Hockey.
The Left Bank Canal form the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in AP is named Lal Bahadur Shastri Canal which is 295 km in Length.
Life size statues of Shastri are erected at Mumbai, Bangalore(Vidhana Soudha), New Delhi(CGO Complex), Almatti Dam Site, Ramnagar-UP, Hisar, Vizagapattinam, Nagarjuna Dam site,Warangal.
Life size bust of Shastri are erected at Thiruvandram, Pune, Varanasi(Airport), Ahmedabad (lake side), Khrushetra, Shimla, Kasargod, Indore, Jalandar, Mhow, Uran.
Some major roads in the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Puduchery, Lucknow, Warangal and Allahabad bearing the name of the legend.
Lal Bahadur Shastri Medical College in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.
Shastri Bhavans in Newdelhi, Chennai, Lucknow
In 2005, the Government of India created a chair in his honour in the field of democracy and governance at Delhi University.