Lal Bahadur Shastri Becoming the Prime Minister and Taming Pakistan

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Lal Bahadur Shastri Becoming the Prime Minister and Taming Pakistan

Becoming the Prime Minister

The rule of law should be respected so that the basic structure of our democracy is maintained and Further strengthened.

All of a sudden, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s Prime Minister died on May 27,1964. And the very next day the only question that echoed from Kashmir to Kanyakumari was -After Nehru, who?

Finally all the leaders came to the decision that Lal Bahadur Shastri was the only person responsible enough to pilot the nation. Thus he was elected the Prime Minister of India, when he was 60 years of age.
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Lal Bahadur Shastri became the Prime Minister on the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964. Shastri held the office for a period of 582 days, from June 9, 1964 to January 11, 1966.

Lal Bahadur Shastri’s first broadcast as Prime Minister said, “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with all nations.”

Lal Bahadur Shastri was a simple man who had been asked to assume the position of the Prime Minister. The problems he was expected to grapple with were enough to break the back of the most tenacious and determined man, but Shastri weathered the storm with his abundant rugged common sense and almost imperturbable calmness.

When Lal Bahadur Shastri assumed charge as the Prime Minister of India, he started with many initial disadvantages. The most obvious one was that he had stepped into the shoes of a colossus like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who, commanded the spontaneous affection of the masses of India and was also a front-ranking world statesman.

It was but natural that people everywhere should mentally compare Shastri in his new role to Pt. Nehru. Many people thought that he may at best be a competent stop-gap Prime Minister.

But Shastri suffered from no such inhibitions. He saw his duty clearly. While maintaining and strengthening the basic framework of national policy built by his illustrious predecessor, he had to chalk out his course of action by his own lights. He had enough strength as an individual to see the danger inherent in trying to be anyone but himself.

Shastri could not be another Nehru. He was a person in his own right and, called upon to lead the -ration at a particularly difficult time in its history, he had to do his best. Therefore, he told the people, “Nobody can succeed Nehru; we can only try to carry on his work in a humble way.”

In his style of functioning, Lal Bahadur Shastri was an effective Prime Minister. During his short tenure as Prime Minister he faced enormous problems but he was remarkably firm yet flexible in handling them. He delicately handled the strained centre-state relations, accommodating the demands of state chief ministers. He demonstrated remarkable flexibility in agreeing to the indefinite continuation of English along with Hindi as the official language of the country, as demanded by southern states of India.

Shastri was instrumental in formulating the Green Revolution strategy with the purpose of increasing agricultural output and achieving self-sufficiency in food in the long run. It was though only later, in Indira Gandhi’s regime, that this strategy was pursued vigorously. Shastri also set up his own Prime Minister’s Secretariat, as a source of information and advice to the Prime Minister on policy matters, independent of the ministries. The Secretariat, which came to be known as PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) started acquiring great deal of influence and power in the making and execution of government policies.

The way Shastri acted in combating corruption through the institution of Central Bureau of Investigation, the way prompt follow-up action was taken on the Das Enquiry Report against Punjab Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon and, above all, the way he conducted affairs during the days of war against Pakistan revealed that in a very short time he managed to surpass the achievements of his predecessor and mentor Jawaharlal Nehru.

Shastri looked upon the opposition as an important part of the democratic set up and made them feel their partnership in the government decisions. He preferred cooperation to confrontation. He gave genuine impression of sincerity and seriousness in consultation. At cabinet meetings he would ask every member to express his personal views. He would listen to them quietly and attentively as they were being expressed. As in the cabinet so in the parliament, Shastri maintained all norms of a democratic system.

As Prime Minister of India, Shastri actually got into stride sometime in October, 1964 when he had sufficiently recovered from a heart-attack which had kept him largely inactive during the first four months of his stewardship.

The second Non-aligned Nations Summit conference in Cairo was the first important international meeting which he attended as India’s chosen leader. While in Cairo, he raised his voice in favour of peace. He had taken the first opportunity to show that under his leadership, India would continue to be a force on the side of peace in the world.

The talks with Ceylon’s (Sri Lanka) Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike towards the end of October, 1964, resulted in an agreement that was hailed as a magnificent achievement of Mr. Shastri as it removed a persistent cause of unpleasantness between India and Sri Lanka.

China’s debut as a nuclear power was perhaps the most important development from India’s point of view. The first test of Nuclear weapon by China was done on 16th October, 1964. It gave rise to vociferous demands in India in favour of manufacturing an Indian atom bomb. The demand had considerable popular backing and India had the capacity to make the bomb. But, he insisted on using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Taming Pakistan

If Pakistan has any ideas of annexing any part of our territories by Force, she should think afresh. I want to state categorically that Force will be met with Force and aggression against us will neuer be allowed to succeed.

Within a year of taking office Shastri had proved himself capable of filling Jawaharlal Nehru’s place. But one who persisted in underestimating the little man was Field Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan.
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Shastri had not been in power for long when he had to attend the difficult matter of Pakistani aggression along the Rann of Kutch in April 1965. Though a cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations put a temporary halt to the fighting, the scene of conflict soon shifted to the more troubled territory of Kashmir.

In August 1965, Pakistan-backed infiltrators began fomenting trouble in the Kashmir valley. When Indian army units chased them back over the border, Pakistan mounted a massive offence in the Chamba sector of Jammu. The enemy tanks rolled menacingly on. Now Shastri pulled off a masterstroke, by asking the Indian Army to march into the West Punjab. Addressing the nation on 13th August, 1965, he said, “When freedom is threatened and territorial integrity is endangered, there is only one duty—the duty to meet the challenge with all our might.”

His inspiring words infused new life into the people, and heartened India’s brave army. This at once relieved the pressure on Jammu sector and took the Indian troops tantalizingly close to the great city of Lahore. Against superior equipment and heavy odds, the Indian soldiers, airmen and sailors gave a glorious account of their courage and prowess. The countless deeds of unparalleled heroism performed by thejawans during the time of war were enough to make every Indian feel proud of belonging to this country. The nation gained a new confidence in itself. Even though the conflict lasted for a few weeks only, it served to show India how she stood vis-a-vis other nations.

Even though the Indian Army scored victories, but the destruction and bloodshed made his heart bleed, and in keeping with the honour of the motherland, he bent his energies towards bringing the conflict to a close. After ceasefire, while mentioning those who had lost their lives on the battle-field, he broke down. That was indicative of the anguish which he must have undergone while the conflict lasted. But in spite of it, he did not spare himself in his relentless quest for peace.

Pakistan President Ayub Khan made a lunge for the United Nations. After great efforts from the Russians and the Americans, Shastri relented and agreed to stop the war.

A ceasefire was called, to be followed by a peace agreement brokered by the Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, which mandated that both sides pull back to the positions they had held before August 5, 1965.
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There was a lot of unhappiness over the fact that hard- won territories had to be returned and the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers had been in vain. It is believed that India lost in Tashkent what it had gained during the war. The Indian Army suffered 11,479 casualties in the 1965 war (including ceasefire violations) with 2,862 killed and 8,617 wounded. According to Indian records 5800 Pakistanis were killed.

Shastri agreed to these unfavourable terms as the other option was the resumption of the mutually disastrous war; that would have also meant losing Soviet support on the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council and in the supply of defense equipment, especially Mig planes and medium and heavy tanks. Shastri’s conduct during the 1965 war made Shastri a hero-and justly so.

The war, however, took a huge toll on the state exchequer. Ties with the US, which had taken a hit, meant that wheat was in short supply. Shastri hated the idea of going around with a begging bowl. He hit upon a novel idea. He went on air to appeal to his countrymen to skip a meal a week. The response was overwhelming. Even restaurants and eateries downed their shutters on Monday evenings. Many parts of the country observe the “Shastri Vrat” even today.

On October 19,1965, Shastri gave the seminal “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” slogan at Urwa in Allahabad which became a national religion for ever. However, he died few hours after signing the Tashkent declaration. Though it is reported that the cause of his death was heart-attack, some people believe that he was poisoned. His death is still a subject of mystery. He didn’t return alive to India from Tashkent.