Shastri had convened an all-party meet on September 6, five days after the Indo-Pak War of 1965, where he had invited RSS chief MS Golwalkar as well as Upadhyaya
New Delhi: As India celebrates the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on October 2, one of the lesser known facts is his rather soft attitude towards the Sangh Parivar and the ideological forerunners of the BJP. A yet more veiled facet of history is the mixed feelings that the right-wing maintained towards him: a sort of love-hate.
Recently, the BJP and its ideological mentor have tried to enlist him in their pantheon, just as Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, given the former prime minister's independent stature from the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani, in an article that appeared in the 70th-anniversary edition of RSS mouthpiece ‘Organiser’, said that unlike Jawaharlal Nehru, Shastri was not “ideologically hostile” towards the RSS. Advani added that Shastri would often invite the then Sangh chief MS Golwalkar for parleys on issues of national importance.
The reigning RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also lauded Shastri last year, calling him a ‘lok neta’ or a mass leader. He also, though without taking PM Narendra Modi’s name, said after Shastri the country had found a leader to follow sincerely.
BJP’s most celebrated ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya, leader of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the present-day BJP, had praised Shastri for the departure from Nehru's pacifist security policy. Shastri was a hero for Upadhyaya for the decisive military action India had undertaken under Shastri’s leadership during the War of the Rann of Kutch. Mahesh Chandra Sharma, a noted authority on Upadhyaya noted this in his book, ‘The Politics of Undivided Nationalism’.
After Pakistan attacked India on April 24, 1965, India had hit back. A ceasefire was signed at the behest of British Premier Harold Wilson.
Sharma writes that Upadhyaya was singularly impressed with Shastri.
“Naturally, Upadhyaya lauded Shastri for not accepting Pakistan's offer of a ceasefire before asking the aggressor to vacate Indian territory and considered it an unprecedented event in India's security history.”
Upadhyaya was again all praises for Shastri's during Pakistan’s misadventure in Kashmir in 1965. Upadhyaya stood for the militarist policy against the aggressor.
“The 22-day war with Pakistan is a proud moment in India's post-Independence history. India decided to take a bold step against the aggression,” Upadhyaya said. Drawing a contrast with Nehru, Upadhyaya added, “We came down from the land of dreams and learned to face realities on the ground.”
Upadhyaya saw in Shastri’s militarism, a vindication of Jan Sangh’s own ideas. About the military response, Upadhyaya said, “The military strategy that the Jan Sangh had been demanding was started on this day.”
“Shastri had convened an all-party meet on September 6, the war having had started five days earlier, where he had invited RSS chief MS Golwalkar as well as Upadhyaya, then Jan Sangh leader,” said BJP mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh's executive editor Shiv Shakti Nath Bakshi, whose has himself authored a book on Upadhyaya.
However, in both cases—Kutch Agreement and the Tashkent Agreement that led to the cessation of Indo-Pak hostilities of 1965—Upadhyaya was ultimately disappointed with Shastri.
Upadhyaya was critical of Shastri's decision, at the request of British PM Wilson, to refer the boundary dispute in the Rann of Kutch to an international panel, which he called a “suicidal mission”, dubbing it as a “result of mischievous maneuverings of external forces”.
Upadhyaya had organised a huge political protest against the bilateral agreement in front of Parliament; BBC had back then pegged the number of protestors at five lakh. The pressure thus created was such that Shastri was forced to cancel the scheduled meeting between foreign ministers of the two countries on August 20, 1965.
The Jan Sangh even passed a party resolution against the Shastri government. “If the masses remain so active and vigilant, the Kutch Agreement will be reduced to a scrap of paper,” the resolution said.
Once again over the Tashkent Agreement, Upadhyaya and the RSS were extremely critical of Shastri. Golwalkar opposed the ceasefire agreement as he went across the speaking against it. He had also urged Shastri not to go to Tashkent.
The attacks on Shastri so scathing and the opposition so stiff that Sharma notes: “If Shastri had been alive, the Jan Sangh would have probably welcomed him back home with a black flag demonstration...”
The title of Upadhyaya’s book against the Tashkent agreement, ‘Vishwaasghat’ (Treachery), is testimony enough to indicate what the BJP ideologue thought of the agreement and Shastri.
Not mincing any words, Upadhyaya, who had in the midst of the Indo-Pak war called Shastri a ‘Rashtranayak’ or ‘National Hero’, took a sarcastic dig at the famous slogan of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ coined by Shastri.
“We forgot the slogan of Jai Jawan at the Tashkent and as soon as we got the American wheat, we forgot even the other part of the slogan, Jai Kisan. This is not desirable. We cannot get foreign aid without strings,” Upadhyaya had said.
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Last Updated Oct 2, 2018, 4:48 PM IST