HONEST POLITICIAN NAMED SHASTRI JI
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Fortyseven years ago tbe second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri breathed his last on 11 Jan 1966 at Tashkent after signing an agreement to end war with Pakistan fought in 1965. USSR had sponsored the Truce. Shastri Ji's sad demise was termed as mysterious by many stalwarts, including his widow, Lalita Shastri and three politician sons. The Indian Nation has not yet been taken into confidence by the government of India about the cause of death of our beloved Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji.
As I recall his image today, I come across a great man, a clean politician of international stature and a saintly person who made no money under the table. Shastri Ji worked for Bharat and succeeded in making the enemy beat a retreat be it battlefield or economic affairs. Many men, not forgetting women, who came to mock, stayed to pray; so disarming style of conversation Shastri Ji had.
JAI JAWAN JAI KISSAN - THAT WAS THE SLOGAN HE GAVE TO ALL iNDIANS TO TIDE OVER PROBLEMS OF DEFENCE AND FOOD SHORTAGE.
Shastri Ji had galvanized the Indian nation that stood behind him to fight and defeat the age-old enemy,Pakistan. Shastri Ji was mocked at in the initial weeks of his Prime Ministership but praised sky high after he beat Pakistan in the 1965 war.
Shastri Ji led the Indian nation so well during his tenure of 18 months as Prime Minister that the common man praised his leadership more than that of Jawaharlal Nehru. No wonder the small time politicians of the Nehruvian Thought demurred in praising Shastri Ji and giving him a high status. Shastri Ji’s widow, Lalita Shastri had to threaten the powers that be with a hunger strike if the late second Prime Minister of India was not cremated on the banks of Yamuna in the area of cremation of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Lal Bahadur Shastri had a sense of humour. He was asked before departure for Tashkent to talk Truce with General Ayub Khan as to how a chat would materialize since the General was so tall and he was so short. Shastri Ji answered wittily in Hindi:
“ Main sar utha kar baat karunga aur who sar jhuka kar baat kareinge.” ( I shall discuss with my head held high whereas the General would bend himself to talk to me.)
Lal Bahadur came of a poor but honest family of Srivastava Kayasth of Benares-Mughal Sarai area of the eastern UP. He plunged into the freedom movement against the British rule and gave up his studies in a govt school to join the Kashi Vidyapeeth from where he graduated with a first class degree of SHASTRI. Thus he came to be known as Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was opposed to system of caste in the society and gave up writing Srivastava. His three sons in politics too write Shastri as a surname although they never toiled to rec eive that degree.
PATRIOTISM HONESTY AND SINCERITY OF SHASTRI JI
Lal Bahadur Shastri climbed up the ladder of his political career rung by rung and what pushed him up was his honesty, sincerity and above all PATRIOTISM. Even in his lifetime Shastri Ji was known as the politician who never made money under the table. Naturally he was always SHORT OF CASH TO RUN THE HOUSEHOLD BUT NEVER BEGGED, LEAVE ASIDE BORROW OR STEAL. Once while he was in a British jail, news came of his daughter’s serious illness. He was released on parole to be by her sick bed. However, he could not give his daughter the medicines that she needed because they were expensiv e and he had no money. He saw his daughter breathe her last sans proper medical treatment bu7t did not ask the British government for monetary help as that would have compromised his political stand on freedom from a foreign power.
GENTLE JACK KILLED BRUTAL GIANTS
Lal Bahadur Shastri was a mild mannered man who never raised his voice to discuss a problem, domestic or political. His father had died when he was just one year old and his mother moved to her mother’s place for sustenance and education of her three sons and two daughters. Lal Bahadur knew that as he was a fatherless child, he could not enter in to a fracas with boys who had the support of grown ups in large families. Nevertheless he had learnt in the school of hardship how to solve problems and thus cultivated a Pragmatic Approach to Problem Solving. This was an asset that held him in good stead when he was called upon to solve national and ticklish problems. Lal Bahadur had won the confidence of Jawaharlal Nehru and the apostle of Peace, Nehru relied upon dimunitive Shastri to play the role of Jack the Giant killer to bring back Peace where strife was thrashing social order. When the holy hair of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, was stolen from the shrine in Srinagar, Nehru asked Shastri Ji to go to Srinagar and restore peace. The small sized problem solver returned abd reported to Prime Minister Nehru, “ Mission Accomplished.”
I must take you, dear Reader, into confidence and narrate how unprepared Shastri Ji was physically to go to the Kashmir valley in winters when snow was there all around and he had no warm clothes worth the name. Jawaharlal Nehru was aghast. He lent for good his own mink overcoat to Shastriji and had it altered to fit him same day. The said borrowed mink coat of Nehru was the only one that Shastriji possessed for a long time. So simple and self-effacing was our Shastriji.
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