Arvindar Singh’s book gives a deep insight of life of Morarji
Doon-based writer and freelance journalist Arvindar Singh’s biography of Morarji Desai gives the readers a deep insight into the life and times of the first non-Congress prime minister of the country.
Singh says that in a recent edition of his radio broadcast ‘Mann Ki Baat’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to pay tribute to Morarji Desai. “Even though he belonged to the Janata Party he was a Gandhian at heart and wedded to the original Congress ideology,” says Singh whose work will be published later this year.
He has written in the book that Morarji had a long and chequered record of public service. He had been in the Provincial Civil Service during the Raj, participated in the freedom movement, been a Minister and Chief Minister of the erstwhile Bombay State, Finance Minister at the Centre, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader in the Opposition and finally the first Non-Congress Prime Minister in 1977.
He was Prime Minister only for two and a half years (March 1977 to July 1979), but the circumstances in which he assumed office and the permanent impact of the executive action and laws passed by his government will be remembered as a landmark in India’s political and constitutional history. He committed himself to ‘rectify the constitution so that the emergency as imposed in 1975 can never be imposed again’. He stuck to his word and the 44th Amendment his government enacted implemented the necessary safeguards so that the internal emergency could now only be imposed on ‘internal armed rebellion’ and on ‘written advice of the cabinet’ among other things. He got even Indira Gandhi’s party to vote in parliament for this amendment despite differences between them.
Singh further writes that Morarji was a staunch prohibitionist and remained steadfast to this ideology of his throughout his public career. “It did not make him popular among the elite but it was a matter of deep conviction for him and he remained true to his belief.”
Writes Arvindar Singh,“Morarji had a good sense of humour as well. Those of us who knew him well were often surprised that a man who had such a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian could enjoy something which would classify as an ‘after dinner’ joke.”
The biographer says that Morarji was also free from any communal prejudice. He did yeoman service among the minorities in Bombay State as Home Minister during the partition period and brought the situation under control with speed and efficiency. It was said at that time that no other Congress Ministry restored normalcy in any State as the Bombay Government had done.
In 1978 he made a statement on the takeover of Sikkim and its merger with the Indian Union by the preceding government. Morarji said that he felt that the action taken in Sikkim was wholly unjustified and unbecoming of a grand nation like India. “Thus he had stated the obvious and honourable view on the issue, but had to face a situation where none even in his own party defended him in parliament. But, he did not care, for him sticking to truth and principles were more important than pandering to populism.”
Singh writes that Morarji was a public figure who enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate, the late Madhu Limaye once recalled that even though a member of the Congress Party he reprimanded Congressmen who constantly barracked Limaye in parliament ‘meet logic and argument with logic and argument, not with shouting’ he chided them. “Desai like Jawaharlal Nehru was a great believer in the monthly Press Conference, a schedule he stuck to religiously during his period in office. In fact, his first engagement after taking oath as Prime Minister was a long Press Conference at Vigyan Bhavan.” At this interaction with the fourth estate he said at the outset, ‘Ask any question I will not take it ill, but you also do not take it ill when I say something not very pleasant,’ He followed this dictum in letter and spirit.
The biography also talks of his blunt way of speaking sometimes got him into trouble. “Shortly after he became Prime Minister he said in an interview to ‘Time Magazine, ‘when a woman turns devilish she beats all records, no man can equal her’ even though he had said it in the context of Indira Gandhi’s role during the emergency, this led to protests in parliament and outside by womenRs s groups and Morarji had to apologise.”
Singh recounts that Morarji had certain angularities and weaknesses which were human,“but even when allegations against his son surfaced he ordered a judicial enquiry. No other Prime Minister has done this.”
“History will record that Morarji Desai was undoubtedly one of the illustrious leaders of modern India,” Singh asserts.
Monday, 04 March 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun
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