Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan – that was the slogan he gave to all Indians to tide over problems of defence and food shortage. Shastri Ji had galvanized the Indian nation that stood behind him to fight and defeat the age-old enemy, Pakistan. Shastri Ji was mocked at in the initial weeks of his Prime Ministership but praised sky high after he beat Pakistan in the 1965 war.
Shastri Ji led the Indian nation so well during his tenure of 18 months as Prime Minister that the common man praised his leadership more than that of Jawaharlal Nehru. No wonder the small time politicians of the Nehruvian thought demurred in praising Shastri Ji and giving him a high status. Shastri Ji’s widow, Lalita Shastri had to threaten the powers that be with a hunger strike if the late second Prime Minister of India was not cremated on the banks of Yamuna in the area of cremation of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Lal Bahadur Shastri had a sense of humour. He was asked before departure for Tashkent to talk truce with General Ayub Khan as to how a chat would materialize since the General was so tall and he was so short. Shastri Ji answered wittily in Hindi:
“Main sar utha kar baat karunga aur who sar jhuka kar baat kareinge.” (I shall discuss with my head held high whereas the General would bend himself to talk to me.)
Lal Bahadur came from a poor but honest family of Srivastava Kayasth of Benares-Mughal Sarai area of the eastern UP. He plunged into the freedom movement against the British rule and gave up his studies in a government school to join the Kashi Vidyapeeth from where he graduated with a first class degree of SHASTRI. Thus he came to be known as Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was opposed to cate system in the society and gave up writing Srivastava. His three sons in politics too write Shastri as a surname although they never toiled to receive that degree.
PATRIOTISM, HONESTY AND SINCERITY OF SHASTRI JI
Lal Bahadur Shastri climbed up the ladder of his political career rung by rung and what pushed him up were his honesty, sincerity and above all patriotism. Even in his lifetime, Shastri Ji was known as the politician who never made money under the table. Naturally he was always short of cash to run the household but never begged, leave aside borrow or steal. Once while he was in a British jail, news came of his daughter’s serious illness. He was released on parole to be by her sick bed. However, he could not give his daughter the medicines that she needed because they were expensive and he had no money. He saw his daughter breathe her last sans proper medical treatment but did not ask the British government for monetary help as that would have compromised his political stand on freedom from a foreign power.
GENTLE JACK KILLED BRUTAL GIANTS
Lal Bahadur Shastri was a mild mannered man who never raised his voice to discuss a problem, domestic or political. His father had died when he was just one-year-old and his mother moved to her mother’s place for sustenance and education of her three sons and two daughters. Lal Bahadur knew that as he was a fatherless child, he could not enter in to a fracas with boys who had the support of grown ups in large families. Nevertheless he had learnt in the school of hardship how to solve problems and thus cultivated a pragmatic approach to problem solving.
This was an asset that held him in good stead when he was called upon to solve national and ticklish problems. Lal Bahadur had won the confidence of Jawaharlal Nehru and the apostle of peace, Nehru relied upon diminutive Shastri to play the role of Jack the Giant killer to bring back Peace where strife was thrashing social order. When the holy hair of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was stolen from Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Nehru asked Shastri Ji to go to Srinagar and restore peace. The small sized problem solver returned and reported to Prime Minister Nehru, “Mission Accomplished.”
I must take you, dear Reader, into confidence and narrate how unprepared Shastri Ji was physically to go to the Kashmir valley in winters when snow was there all around and he had no warm clothes worth the name. Jawaharlal Nehru was aghast. He lent for good his own mink overcoat to Shastriji and had it altered to fit him same day. The said borrowed mink coat of Nehru was the only one that Shastriji possessed for a long time. So simple and self-effacing was our Shastriji.
The common man feels redeemed a wee bit that Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, paid a visit to the Vijay Ghat to offer a floral tribute to the great son of India who had been snatched from us as many as 47 years ago by the cruel hands of death. However, we know not why and how our beloved leader and Prime Minister breathed his last. Indeed it was an extra-ordinarily unnatural death but alas! No post mortem was ever carried out to ascertain and determine for posterity and for good the cause of that sad demise. The Indian Nation is still groping in the dark and has little option but to pray to Param Pita Parmatma for a SADGATI of soul of self-made man named Lal Bahadur Shastri.