Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904-1966)

Lal Bahadur Shastri became the second Prime Minister of India after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru on 27 May 1964. He served the nation as Prime Minister for 19 months and two days i.e. from 9 June 1964 to 11 January 1966, at a very crucial period of independent India.

Shastri was born on 2 October 1904 at Mughalsarai, a railway colony about seven miles from Varanasi. At the age of ten he came to Benares to stay with his maternal uncle and started his studies. In 1921, responding to Gandhiji’s call for non-cooperation he gave up his studies and joined the freedom struggle.

As a schoolboy, he had read the speeches of Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai and Gokhale. He enrolled himself as a life member of the Servants of the People Society and began to work for the upliftment of the Harijans at Muzaffarpur. In 1951 he was made the General Secretary of the A.I.C.C., with Jawaharlal Nehru as the President. From 1951 to 1956 he served as Minister of Railways and Transport in the Central Cabinet. He accepted moral and constitutional responsibility for the Aliyalur railway accident in 1956 and resigned. From 1957 to 1961 he was again in the Central Cabinet and held several portfolios successively as Minister of Transport and Communications, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister for Home.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was simple and unassuming in his behaviour, kind and gentle in his dealings and his ever-modest qualities endeared him to the masses of India. He was one of those few leaders, who, born in poverty, won recognition by their talent and sacrifice. Rising from the rank of an unknown worker, churning out cyclostyled copies of political leaflets at Anand Bhavan, to the position of highest authority as the Prime Minister of India.

Shastriji successfully led the nation during 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965. He gave the slogan of "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan", which led to a rare display of unity in the country during Indo-Pak war. During 1965 he visited Russia, Yugoslavia, England, Canada and Burma. On January 10, 1966 he signed the historic Joint communiqué with President Agha Khan of Pakistan at Tashkent. Within few hours of the signing of the Declaration, the Hero of Tashkent passed away at Tashkent. The end came in the early hours at 1.32 a.m. on 11.1.1966. The great little man of masses died at the height of his career.