Union Home Minister Amit Shah unveiled a 15-foot statue of Jayaprakash Narayan or JP on his 120th birth anniversary on Tuesday (Oct 11), at the socialist icon’s birthplace, Sitab Diara village. in the Saran district of Bihar.
Leaders from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to the freedom fighter and anti-emergency activist, issuing conflicting claims of being the true heirs of Lok Narayan Jayaprakash Narayan, 43 years after his death.
Launching an attack on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a former NDA ally, Shah said on Tuesday that those claiming to be JP supporters have gone astray and are sitting with Congress in their “eagerness to can”.
Kumar responded to Shah’s taunts on Wednesday, stating that he did not notice such insults. “The one whose name you are taking, did he have any first-hand knowledge of what JP stood for? We had earned our spurs in the JP movement (of 1974). I don’t want to attach any importance to those whose political careers began just 20 years ago,” replied the JD(U) leader.
Who was Jayaprakash Narayan, what movement did he lead, and who are the political leaders whose careers began at that time? We explain.
Who was JP?
JP was born in 1902 in Sitab Diara of Bihar, a village prone to frequent flooding, after which his family moved to a village in the Balia district of Uttar Pradesh. He dropped out of college to join the non-cooperation movement, before going on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx.
He returned to India in 1929 and joined the freedom struggle and the Indian National Congress, at the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru and lured by a speech by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
JP would become the founding members of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), but after independence he kicked him out of Congress and formed the Socialist Party, which merged with JB Kripalani’s Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party to form the Praja Socialist Party. .
While Nehru was interested in JP joining the Union government, JP sought to distance himself from electoral politics, choosing to focus on social causes. He was disillusioned with political parties and called for community democracy. The parties, he believed, were centralized and susceptible to moral and financial corruption.
The JP movement
Students in Gujarat began demonstrating in late 1973, in response to mounting bills for disorder. Protests spread across the state, with workers, teachers and various other groups joining the movement, calling for a change of government.
JP saw the youth of Gujarat who had been able to bring about political change as an alternative route to electoral politics, and recognized the power of the students in helping him realize his ideas of a new politics, other than the one he had grown weary of. .
Anti-corruption protests became widespread, and Bihar students started their movement in March 1974. The students reached out to JP, who left his self-imposed political exile and led the movement. At a rally in Patna on June 5, he called for Sampoorna Kranti (Total Revolution).
Opposition to the Emergency
When Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on June 25, 1975, JP shifted her focus to opposing the authoritarian regime and opposition parties sought her leadership. The Socialists were naturally drawn to him ideologically, while the RSS and its political front, the Jana Sangh, sought to return to the mainstream and were happy to be dissolved into the Janata Party that JP had formed.
JP is famous for launching a popular mass movement against the Indira Gandhi government, which led to the formation of the Janata Party government in the 1977 general election, the first non-Congress government in the country.
To rebuild politics and the state from the grassroots level, where the real power would be in the popular movements, JP had to compromise with the RSS and the Jana Sangh, despite disagreeing with them on many points. During a speech to a national conference in 1968, JP said that while each religious community had its own version of communalism, Hindu communalism was more pernicious than the others because “Hindu communalism can easily masquerade as Indian nationalism and denounce all opposition to Indian nationalism.” him as anti-national”.
“Some like the RSS might do it overtly by identifying the Indian nation with Hindu Rashtra, others might do it more subtly,” he said. “But in all cases, such identification is pregnant with national disintegration, because members of other communities can never accept the position of second-class citizens. Such a situation, therefore, has within it the seeds of perpetual conflict and final rupture.
The JP movement can also be credited with birthing some of Bihar’s veteran socialist politicians, who later broke away.
Nitish Kumar, Bihar’s current chief minister, is the only product of the 1974-75 JP Movement who remains firmly in command. Writing for The Indian Express in 2015, Kumar said that he was jailed in 1974 for participating in the JP movement in Bihar, as well as during the emergency years. His career in electoral politics began with the Janata Party led by Satyendra Narain Sinha. Kumar was first elected to the state assembly in 1985, before joining the NDA and getting his first term as CM of Bihar in 2000.
Former CM Lalu Prasad Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal first entered politics as a student leader in the 1970s. Serving first as general secretary of the Patna University Students’ Union (PUSU), he later became its president and served in the JP movement in Bihar. He was the youngest Lok Sabha MP elected as a Janta Dal candidate, before becoming the state CM in 1990. He was forced to resign in 1997 after being accused of corruption in the fodder scam, after which he which he broke up and formed his own political party, the RJD.