ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Jayaprakash Narayan: The ‘Revolutionary’ Who Brought Down Indira 

On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.

Updated
Politics
4 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

(This article was first published on 8 October 2016. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary.)

Why did Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP, launch a “total revolution” to overthrow the Indira Gandhi regime? Let us find some answers on the death anniversary of the foremost socialist leader, who also happens to be the mentor of leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.
On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.

Everything was going right for the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the early years of the 1970s. A massive electoral mandate, a decisive victory against Pakistan, a very catchy ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan that caught the attention of the country and the Pokhran nuclear test — these were just some of the things that made the erstwhile ‘Goongi Gudiya’ (the name given to her by Ram Manohar Lohia) the formidable leader she became, prompting one Congress leader to say that “Indira is India and India is Indira”.

On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.
A photograph of Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), the founder of PUCL. (Photo Courtesy: Margaret Bourke-White)
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

JP Launched a ‘Total Revolution’ Against Anti-Democratic Tendencies

On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.
Jayaprakash Narayan. (Photo Courtesy: Telegraph)

Addressing a large crowd at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan on June 5 1974, he had said, “It is a total revolution we want, nothing less.” A powerful movement, if not a revolution, it indeed turned out to be, resulting in the electoral rout of Indira Gandhi only three years later.

A socialist that he was, what bothered JP a great deal was the centralisation of power (epitomised in slogans like ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’) and suppression of any voice of dissent.
On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.

He believed in a kind of politics, even if seemingly messy, that never shies away from carrying contentious issues along with it. The ‘one-nation-one leader’ approach was some sort of anti-thesis to his kind of democratic polity. And he fought against such tendencies all his life.

Need we remind ourselves that the kind of discourse that seems to have evolved in the country following surgical strikes bears strong resemblance to the period we saw in those years?

On Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary, a refresher on why he launched a revolution against Indira Gandhi.
A commemorative stamp of Jayaprakash Narayan. (Photo: Stampsathi)

Why did JP’s call for a total revolution sense to the people then and why did they respond? Key economic indicators of that time offer some answers.

0

The Country was in the Midst of High Inflation and Unemployment rate

The country was in the midst of an unprecedented period of high inflation in the early 1970s. In fact, it never dropped below 20 percent from November 1973 through to December 1974, peaking at 33 percent in September 1974. The total revolution call was made midway through this long period of persistently high inflation. What added fuel to the fire was the very high unemployment rate and rising inequality. The bottom line is: The popularity of a regime is directly proportional to the condition of wallets of the people it is supposed to govern. War hysteria or jingoism (which is what followed the 1971 war and peaked with the Pokhran tests) can carry a regime to some distance and no further.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Are we Facing the same situation all over again?

Do some of the key indicators look different now? Inflation definitely is at a more manageable level. But what about inequality and unemployment? According to a recent Times of India report, the incidence of joblessness is at a five-year high and the problem is more acute in rural areas, where only half of the working population get paid year-round jobs.

According to yet another report in a leading pink daily, the rich-poor gap in urban areas at the beginning of this decade was at the highest level since 1993. The situation is unlikely to have changed in the last few years.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What are the key lessons from the life and times of JP? Any popular regime can control a discourse only for a while if it ignores or remains indifferent to issues related to bijli, sadak, paani and rozgar (electricity, roads, water and jobs). Popularity wanes as quickly as it rises. And in the age of social media, it can happen faster than one realises.

Incidentally, JP was given the Bharat Ratna by the earlier Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance regime headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Will the present regime be as kind to some of the ideas he believed in?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and politics

Published: 
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×