The freedom fighter who damaged Indira Gandhi, mainstream socialism and the BJP in North India

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On this very day in 1979, Jaya Prakash Narayan, veteran freedom fighter and leader of the 1974-75 JP movement against the government of Indira Gandhi, passed away.

Forty-two years after his death, BJP President JP Nadda took to Twitter early Friday morning to pay tribute to JP in Hindi. Roughly translated, his tweet said: “Tributes on the anniversary of the death of Loknayak Jaya Prakash Narayan, who called for a ‘Total Revolution’ to rid the nation of an unfettered government that has ended the emergency. Such a leader who has devoted his whole life to defending the homeland and democracy will always be a model for us. “

Indeed, the credit for the rise of Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, to the status of dominant political party goes to his collaboration with JP, a longtime socialist who had taken a Gandhian turn, in the 1970s and the socialists. from Lohia. and Lok Dal in the 1960s.

“Participation in the JP movement is widely seen as Jana Sangh’s entry into the cherished space of civil liberties,” political scientist Sajjan Kumar told Outlook.

In 1963, the Socialists and the Jana Sangh presented common candidates for four seats in the Lok Sabha secondary ballots to challenge the formidable congressional vote bank of the so-called upper castes, Muslims and Dalits. The new alliance had an alternative voice bank: the small support base of the largely urban Jana Sangh and the “upper castes” and the rising base of the Hindu “backward castes” of the socialists. Ram Manohar Lohia won the ballot as Farrukhabad’s joint opposition candidate in UP. However, Jana Sangh’s Deen Dayal Upadhyaya lost her election despite the alliance.

In 1967, socialists, Jana Sangh, Rashtriya Kranti Dal of Charan Singh – who had left Congress the same year – and even the CPI (M) met in states like the UP and Bihar in assemblies. legislative to form short-lived governments on the board of “anti-Congress”.

“The anti-Congress alliances that Jana Sangh and the socialists forged together also marked the rise of the backward castes as an electoral force. These groups and the small Hindutva base of Jana Sangh could together become electorally viable, ”argues Sajjan Kumar.

However, JP, who had long been out of politics, was involved in social and constructive work at the time.

His return to public life came in 1974, when a large student opposition group, Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti, which was protesting against the Congressional government in Bihar, met with him to seek his leadership for their movement.

KN Govindacharya says this happened just after students attempted to storm the Legislative Assembly in Patna on March 18, 1974. Police resorted to shooting, which killed some students.

Speaking to Outlook at VP House in the nation’s capital, he refreshes his memory to recall the details of the fateful day, which would lead to the iconic JP movement against Indira Gandhi. Govindacharya was there as the pracharak RSS.

“The police seemed to be gaining the upper hand. At this point, a young activist named Akshay Singh, a resident of Palamu, pushed a bus full of stones into the ground that separated the road from the assembly building. This once again tipped the scales in favor of the students, ”recalls Govindacharya. He remembers a girl from Maharashtra, Lata Kamat, who placed herself right between the police and the conflicting students, not fearing for her life. However, in the police fire, three students were killed.

After that, Govindacharya went to meet Jaya Prakash Narayan, with whom he had worked in Bihar a few years ago, asking him to join the movement. A delegation of 13 young people met JP for the second time.

JP first said, Govindacharya recalls, that the protesters were violent people. Govindacharya defended them, saying Congress ally CPI and the ruling party were behind the chaos. As “proof,” he asked JP why only the offices of Pradeep and Searchlight, both pro-Agitation, were set on fire, and not those of pro-government publications Aryavarta and Indian Nation.

JP agreed to lead the movement, making non-violence a condition.

JP’s entry added a spark to the movement, from Patna to Delhi. The tide was starting to turn against Indira Gandhi, as JP addressed gigantic gatherings. To add to the prime minister’s disappointment, the Allahabad High Court declared his election to Rai Bareli null and void. The Supreme Court gave her limited relief: she could attend Parliament but not vote.

As the situation deteriorated, Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency on June 25, 1975 at midnight and the opposition leaders were jailed. The precensorship of the press has also started. Controversial policies like forced vasectomy and the Turkman Gate bulldozer in Delhi have been carried out.

New elections were ordered in 1977 and the state of emergency was revoked.

For the 1977 polls, the Jana Sangh, Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Lok Dal, the dissident Congress faction (O) and the Swatantra Party merged to form the Janata Party, which defeated Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. held after the emergency.

Internal ideological struggles, however, ensured that the Janata government did not sail smoothly. JP himself died in 1979.

The party was rocked by demands that Jana Sangh’s ministers could not be part of the RSS at the same time. Eventually the party broke up and Indira Gandhi returned to power. The Jana Sangh component of the Janata Party formed the BJP in 1980, and Vajpayee, as party chairman, sought to evoke the JP’s legacy as the party’s flagship for a few years. But, the massive defeat of 1984 convinced the BJP that its ideological specificity could not be dismissed.

However, the intoxicating 1970s weren’t all JP was talking about. He was one of the architects of the Socialist Party of Congress formed within Congress in 1934 to steer it in a more socialist direction. He acquired an aura of his own during the Quit India movement. When the top leadership was arrested, JP and Aruna Asaf Ali continued to keep the movement alive in hiding.

Jawaharlal Nehru invited JP to join his cabinet, but JP was not interested in taking a position. Within a few years, he announced his retirement from politics and became a full-fledged political activist, practicing Gandhian Sarvodaya and lending a helping hand in constructive work.

JP’s lasting political impact, however, has been to act as a bridge between the socialists and the Jana Sangh.

Initially, he had “apprehensions” that RSS was “community-based,” Govindacharya told Outlook. “He asked me why there were no Muslim RSS pracharaks and I replied that even his Sarvodaya only had two Muslim volunteers. Does that make you community, I asked him? “

Later, however, JP, at the height of the Congress-JP movement’s duel, even said on a broadcast: “If the RSS is fascist, so am I.

Nadda’s tweet is the most recent reminder of the debt that not only the socialist parties but also the BJP owe JP.


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