Vol.No. XLIV 07March 2001 B. No.35 (16Phalguna 1922)
This service provides brief biographical sketch of Indrajit Gupta, an outstanding Parliamentarian who passed away early this year.
RESEARCH, REFERENCE AND TRAINING DIVISION
(Ministry of Information and Broadcasting)
Website - www.nic.in/rrtd
Indrajit Gupta, who died of cancer in Kolkata on 20th February 2001 at 82, was one of the last of a generation of privileged Indians who sacrificed the advantages of birth to serve the nation.
First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1960, Gupta had been its member almost without break except for a brief period between 1977 and 1980.His stature as the oldest member gave him the position as protem Speaker in 1996, 1998 and 1999, a ceremonial office mainly to conduct the swearing in of the newly elected members.
Known for his outspokenness and clarity of thought and impeccable language, Gupta was a journalist's delight. As an Opposition stalwart and Leader of the CPI Group, Gupta's speeches in the Lok Sabha were marked by force with moderation, criticism with reason, and earned him the admiration of even his political opponents.
Though not enamoured of office, Gupta accepted the Cabinet berth in the United Front Government during 1996-98. As Home Minister, Gupta was still blunt about government's failures and raised many an eyebrow among the Treasury Benches with his frank observations.
Rising from the grassroots level in the Communist Party of India. Gupta was made General Secretary of CPI in 1990 at the age of 71. He held the office for six years till 1996. An active trade unionist, Gupta had earlier been General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress during 1980-90. He was also Vice-President of the World Federation of Trade Unions and elected its President in 1998.
Gupta's Lok Sabha victories have always been marked by big margins. During his long years with the Lok Sabha, he had worked in a number of Parliamentary Committees and chaired the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence.
Born on March 18, 1919 at Calcutta, Indrajit Gupta had his education from St. Stephen's College, Delhi and King's college, Cambridge University.
Drawn to the Communist movement during his student days in Britain, he went underground in India during 1948-50 when there was a crackdown on Communists.
With special interest in economics, defence and foreign affairs, Gupta penned a few books on these subjects. These include 'Capital and Labour in Jute Industry' and 'Self-Reliance in National Defence'. Married to Suraiya, Gupta had a son and three daughters. His favourite pastime included reading, walking and games. Widely travelled, Gupta had been a member of the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to several countries, including Britain and Spain.
Indrajit Gupta was a very successful parliamentarian. In 1960 he was elected to the Lok Sabha in a by-election from West Bengal and continued to be a member till his death, with the exception of the period between 1977-1980. In 1996, Gupta became the first Communist to occupy the powerful office of the Union Home Minister. That was a dramatic reversal of roles, as the Ministry of Home Affairs had, since Independence, banned the Communist Party thrice, with many of its members, including Gupta, being sent to prison or pushed underground for long stretches.
Indrajit Gupta was also one of the country's blue-blooded elite--his grandfather, father and brother were members of the Indian Civil Services. He was schooled in Shimla, where his father had served as the first Indian Secretary to the Council of States
Gupta's real contribution is more to the values of political India than to the leftist universe. In his 37 years as a Lok Sabha member, he stood for principles that can be encapsulated in the three simple phrases that President K.R. Narayanan used in his condolence message: "Gandhian simplicity, democratic outlook and deep commitment to values". When he was the Home Minister and the BJP the main opposition party, his favourite phrase on meeting the more vocal opposition members after a stormy day was: "If I were in the Opposition I'd have done what you did."
Not much of a Marxist theoretician in the mould of the CPI(M)'s E.M.S. Namboodiripad or the CPI's Bhupesh Gupta, Indrajit Gupta was every inch a disciplined soldier. After returning to India, he wrote to the party, offering his services "in any suitable capacity". In 1948, when the party entered a sectarian phase as it questioned, under the leadership of B.T. Ranadive, the newly- earned Independence, Gupta dutifully performed his underground tasks under the alias Surya, given to him by the party's "technical cell". In 1964, when the party split on the China issue, Gupta was among the 35 members of the National Council who swore by the parent organisation led by S.A. Dange. In fact, he drafted the main resolution of the Dange loyalists. Always sceptical about the Congress, he formally opposed the idea of his party joining the United Front cabinet in 1996 with its support, but caved in as the majority demanded it.
In his personal life too, he was a stickler for decency. After joining politics he accepted the official code of conduct of the Communist Party from which he never deviated. He lived in a two-room quarter at the Western Court, and walked to Parliament till he became a minister. During his ministerial days, he never allowed the official car to enter the airport tarmac for him after a flight. Instead he would take the airline coach. He had a long enough span though to prove the point that decency and grace in public life still mattered, and that it is possible to be a gentleman and a Communist at the same time.
On his death President Hon.K.R.Narayanan paid homage to this 'Outstanding Parliamentarian' (an award conferred on Indrajit Gupta in 1992):"It was with deep sorrow that I learned of the tragic death of Shri Indrajit Gupta in the early hours of today at Kolkata. A brilliant and veteran Parliamentarian and a true leader of the people, Shri Gupta remained at the vanguard of the Communist movement in our country and fought for the rights and freedoms of the people, especially the underprivileged, till the very end of his life. He enriched parliamentary proceedings and debates with his passionate espousal of public causes, his eloquent oratory and subtle and penetrating wit. In his long and eventful public life, marked by disarming simplicity, uncompromising integrity and honesty, Shri Gupta earned the affection and respect of all people who came into contact with him, cutting across the political parties and ideologies. Shri Indrajit Gupta also made his mark as an able administrator as Union Home Minister.
I was fortunate to have known him for many years, both inside and outside Parliament and was struck by his Gandhian simplicity, democratic outlook and deep commitment to values. I join all citizens of the country in paying homage to this outstanding personality who served the nation with dedication and distinction, and extend my heartfelt condolences to all the members of his family and his innumerable admirers and followers."
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