Chaudhary Charan Singh was the 5th Prime Minister of India, and held office from 28 July 1979 until 14 January 1980. He is known as the ‘Champion of India’s Peasants’.
He had participated in the freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi and became a very prominent leader of the farmers and peasants in Uttar Pradesh from the 1950s onwards.
Charan Singh was born on 23 December 1902 in a Jat family in village Noorpur of District Hapur in Uttar Pradesh. He did his Master of Arts (MA) degree in 1925 and law degree in 1926 from Agra University. From 1928, he began practicing as a civil lawyer at Ghaziabad in 1928.
Charan Singh entered politics, influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent struggle for independence, and in 1930, was jailed by the British government. He was jailed again in November 1940, and August 1942 during the Quit India movement.
In 1937, when he was 34; he was elected the Member of Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces from the constituency of Chhaprauli (Baghpat).
In 1938, he introduced an Agricultural Produce Market Bill in the Assembly, to safeguard the interests of the farmers. The Bill was adopted by most of the States in India.
Political Life Post-Independence
After Independence in 1947, Charan Singh opposed Jawaharlal Nehru on his Soviet-style economic reforms, and helped transform the agricultural economy of North India. Charan Singh felt that cooperative farms would not succeed in India, and the right of ownership was important to the farmer in remaining a cultivator. He was in favour of peasant proprietorship.
In 1959, he publicly opposed Nehru’s socialistic and collectivist land policies in the Nagpur Congress Session. Between 1952 and 1967, he was one of the most influential leaders of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.
In 1967, he formed his own political party, Bharatiya Kranti Dal after leaving Congress. He became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1967, and later he again became CM in 1970. In 1975, during Emergency, he was jailed again.
In the 1977 general elections, the Janata Party, in which Chaudhary Charan Singh was a senior leader, came into power. He was made Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in the government headed by Morarji Desai.
As Prime Minister of India
In 1979, Charan Singh became the Fifth Prime Minister of India. This was with the active support of Raj Narain who was the Chairman of Janata Party-Secular. However, the Congress Party withdrew support to the government, and he resigned after just 24 days in office.
Fresh elections were held six months later, till that time he remained the care-taker PM. Later, Charan Singh continued to lead the Lok Dal in opposition till his death in 1987.
Charan Singh died on 29 May 1987, survived by his wife Gayatri Devi, who later died in 2002, and six children including Ajit Singh, who later became a prominent leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, a Union minister and MP.
Quotes by Chaudhary Charan Singh
“The true India resides in its villages.”
“Have patience! In time, even grass becomes milk.”
“Even for our enemies in misery, there should be tears in our eyes.”
“Simplicity doesn’t mean to live in misery and poverty. You have what you need, and you don’t want to have what you don’t need.”
“The first thing our leadership in 1947 should have done was to delegalize all communal bodies. All organizations whose membership was confined to a particular caste or religion should have been disallowed from the political field.”
- Chaudhary Charan Singh’s birthday is celebrated as Kisan Diwas in Uttar Pradesh.
- Government of India issued a commemorative postage stamp in 1990.
- For his support to the farming communities in India, his memorial in New Delhi was called Kisan Ghat.
- Lucknow airport was renamed Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport.
- The University of Meerut was also named Chaudhary Charan Singh University in his honour.
His rich legacy lives on in the heart of the farmers of India.