Dalit Icon, MP For 50 Years: Remembering ‘Babuji’ Jagjivan Ram

“Tui shob jaanta Jagjivan Ram” – Remembering the Dalit icon on his birth anniversary.

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(On Jagjivan Ram’s birthday, The Quint is reposting this story from its archives. It was originally published on 6 July 2017.)

Meira Kumar, the Opposition’s candidate for the Presidential elections, is carrying on the legacy of her ‘Babuji’ Jagjivan Ram.

Born on 5 April 1908, Babu Jagjivan Ram was a Dalit icon. As a student, he protested his school's decision to have separate water pitchers for ‘untouchables’. He had been a lifelong champion of Dalit rights and often opposed parochial views of society towards the backward castes.

Subhash Chandra Bose noticed young Jagjivan after he organised a workers’ rally in 1928. Jagjivan Ram joined the Congress in 1937. In 1946, aged 38, he became the labour minister, the youngest member in Nehru’s interim government.

‘Babuji’ was an MP for 50 consecutive years – a world record.

He was defence minister when India defeated Pakistan in 1971. In his 30 years as a Cabinet minister, he held portfolios like railways, food and agriculture, and communications.

There’s even a Bengali phrase about him – “Tui shob jaanta Jagjivan Ram (you are a know-it-all Jagjivan Ram).”

When the Congress split in 1969, he joined Indira Gandhi, but shocked her by quitting in 1977, to become deputy prime minister in the Janata government.

Jagjivan Ram died in 1986, but in his 50-year-long career, ‘Babuji’ never became prime minister.

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