The second day of October is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti in India. The birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Another great leader was also born this day but his birthday is most often than not overshadowed by the Father Of The Nation. The second Prime Minister of Independent India and a loyal follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri. He is famously known for the slogan, ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ ("Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer").
Lal Bahadur Shastri held the Prime Minister's office from 1964 to 1966. In his first speech as PM he said and we quote: “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a secular mixed-economy democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for crony capitalists, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with select nations.”
It was during his term that India went to war against Pakistan in August 1965. After the UN intervention in September 1965, the war came to an end and Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pak premier Ayub Khan signed the Tashkent Declaration on January 10, 1966. A day after the signing, Shastri died, reportedly of a heart attack. He was the first Indian Prime Minister to die on foreign land.
Born into a ‘kayasth’ family, he was initially called Nanhe. While he was still a teenager he joined the freedom struggle with the support from his school teacher. After attending a public meeting held in Banaras by Mahatma Gandhi where he urged the students to boycott schools run by the colonial government, Shastri a true follower of Gandhi, withdrew from his school and joined Congress as a volunteer. During the movement, the mild mannered minor was arrested and jailed but this did not deter him from fighting for his country.
He was also from the first batch of students who were enrolled in Kashi Vidyapith in Benaras, a school for higher education inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Shastri held a first-class graduate degree in Philosophy. It was in Vidyapith where Lal Bahadur Srivastava earned the title ‘Shastri’ which means scholar, following which he chose to drop his surname as he didn’t want to indicate his caste and became Lal Bahadur ‘Shastri’.
Shastri was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s second in command and followed him first as the Railway Minister and then as Home Minister. It was Shastri who introduced ‘third class’ compartments in Indian Railways but resigned after a train accident took place in Tamil Nadu. Although Lal Bahadur Shastri was a staunch supporter of Nehru he was highly critical of his socialist policies on Industry.
A man of high morals, when Shastri's son got an undue promotion, he got it reversed immediately. As the Minister of Police in Uttar Pradesh, he was the first to use jets of water to disperse the crowd instead of a lathi charge.To commemorate his life, this day in 2004, the Reserve Bank Of India had issued a Rs.100 coin with a portrait of him but is now only available on order.It is indeed an amazing coincidence that Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birthday falls on the same day as his idol, Mahatma Gandhi.