In January, 1921, three months before final examination of 10th standard, he withdrew from the government school on the call of Mahatma Gandhi and Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya at Varanasi (known as Benares at that time). Shastriji took admission in Kashi Vidyapith and graduated with first class in Philosophy and Ethics in 1925. He was given title of Shastri (scholar). This title was awarded by the institution but it stuck as a part of his name.
He served as an elected representative for United Provinces in 1937 and 1946 before independence. After independence, he became Minister for Police & Transport under Govind Ballabh Pant’s Chief Ministership of Uttar Pradesh on August 15, 1947.
He served as Railway Minster from 1951-1956, Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1959 and Minister of Home Affairs in 1964.When Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru died in office on 27th May, 1964, Shastriji took oath of Prime Minister on 9th June, 1964. In his first broadcast to the nation as Prime Minister on 11th June, 1964, he said:-
“There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands on the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us, there be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to the left or right. Our way is straight and clear- the building of a socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with all nations.”
He promoted the White Revolution - a national campaign to increase production and supply of milk - by supporting the Amul Milk Co-operative of Anand, Gujarat and creating the National Dairy Development Board, at Anand, Gujarat. Underlying the need to boost food production, Shastriji promoted Green Revolution in India in 1965. His government passed the National Agriculture Product Board act and was responsible for setting up the Food Corporation of India under the Food Corporation’s Act, 1964.
While speaking on the chronic food shortage across the country, Shastriji urged people to voluntarily give up one meal so that the food saved could be distributed to the affected populace. However, he ensured that he first implemented the system in his own family before appealing to the country. He went on air to appeal to his countrymen to skip a meal a week. The response to his appeal was overwhelming. Even restaurants and eateries downed the shutters on Monday evening. Many parts of the country observed the “Shastri Vrat”. Shastriji gave seminal slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” during Indo-Pak War that became national slogan.
The greatest challenge came when he led India in 1965 in Indo-Pak War. On 1st August, 1965 major incursions of militants and Pakistani soldiers began which triggered off war and it ended on 23rd September, 1965 with a United Nations mandated ceasefire. After the declaration of ceasefire, Shastriji and Ayub Khan - President of Pakistan attended summit in Tashkent (former USSR, now in modern Ujbekistan) organized by Alexei Kosygin- Premier of USSR. On 10th January, 1966 Shastriji and Ayub Khan signed Tashkent Declaration. On the very next day on 11th January, 1966, he died due to cardiac arrest at Tashkent. His memorial was built in Delhi at “Vijay Ghat”. He was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna in 1966. Shastriji was known for his honesty and humanity throughout his life.
A true and complete depiction of Shastriji can be given for his contributions with the words of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on commemoration of his 48th martyr’s day:-
“Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was one of those great Indians who has left an indelible impression on our collective life. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri’s contribution to our public life were unique that they were made in closest proximity to the life of common man in India. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was looked upon by Indians as one of their own, one who shared their ideals, hopes and aspirations. His achievements were looked upon not as isolated achievements of an individual but of our society collectively. Under his leadership India faced and repulsed the Pakistani invasion of 1965. It is not only matter of pride for the Indian Army but also for every citizen of the country. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan “Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!!” reverberates even today through the length and breadth of the Country. Underlying this is the inner-most sentiments of “Jai Hind”. The war of 1965 was fought and won for our self-respect and our national prestige. For using our Defence Forces with such admirable skill, the nation remains beholden to Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. He will be remembered for his large heartedness and public service.”
Last Edit - Oct. 2, 2020, 10:36 a.m.