Chaudhary Charan Singh

Chaudhary Charan Singh (23 December 1902 – 29 May 1987) served as the 5th Prime Minister of India between 28 July 1979 and 14 January 1980. Historians and people alike frequently refer to him as the ‘champion of India’s peasants.’Charan Singh was born on 23 December 1902 in a rural peasant Jat family of village Noorpur, District Hapur (Erstwhile District Meerut), Uttar Pradesh (Erstwhile United Provinces of Agra and Oudh). Charan Singh entered politics as part of the Independence Movement motivated by Mohandas Gandhi. He was active from 1931 in the Ghaziabad District Arya Samaj as well as the Meerut District Indian National Congress for which he was jailed twice by the British. Before independence, as a member of Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces elected in 1937, he took a deep interest in the laws that were detrimental to the village economy and he slowly built his ideological and practical stand against the exploitation of tillers of the land by landlords.
Between 1952 and 1967, he was one of “three principal leaders in Congress state politics.” He became particularly notable in Uttar Pradesh from the 1950s for drafting and ensuring the passage of what were then the most revolutionary land reform laws in any state in India under the tutelage of the then Chief Minister Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant; first as Parliamentary Secretary and then as Revenue Minister responsible for Land Reforms. He became visible on the national stage from 1959 when he publicly opposed the unquestioned leader and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s socialistic and collectivist land policies in the Nagpur Congress Session. Though his position in the faction-ridden UP Congress was weakened, this was a point when the middle peasant communities across castes in North India began looking up to him as their spokesperson and later as their unquestioned leader. Singh stood for tight government spending, enforced consequences for corrupt officers, and advocated a “firm hand in dealing with the demands of government employees for increased wages and dearness allowances.” It is also worth noting that within the factional UP Congress, his ability to articulate his clear policies and values made him stand out from his colleagues. Following this period, Charan Singh defected from the Congress on 1 April 1967, joined the opposition party, and became the first non-Congress chief minister of UP. This was a period when non-Congress governments were a strong force in India from 1967–1971.
As leader of the Bharatiya Lok Dal, a major constituent of the Janata coalition, he was disappointed in his ambition to become Prime Minister in 1977 by Jayaprakash Narayan’s choice of Morarji Desai.
During 1977 Lok Sabha Elections, the fragmented opposition united a few months before the elections under the Janata Party banner, for which Chaudhary Charan Singh had been struggling almost single-handedly since 1974. It was because of the efforts of Raj Narain that he became Prime Minister in the year 1979 though Raj Narain was Chairman of Janata Party-Secular and assured Charan Singh of elevating him as Prime Minister, the way he helped him to become Chief Minister in the year 1967 in Uttar Pradesh. However, he resigned after just 24 weeks in office when Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party withdrew support to the government. Charan Singh said he resigned because he was not ready to be blackmailed into withdrawing Indira Gandhi’s emergency-related court cases. Fresh elections were held six months later. Charan Singh continued to lead the Lok Dal in opposition until his death in 1987.

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