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Lal Bahadur Shastri : Little things to know about the Big Personality

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2 October 1904 in Mughalsarai, a small railway town seven miles from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. His father was a school teacher. His father died when Lal Bahadur Shastri was only one and a half years old. His mother settled down with his three children at his father's house. Lal Bahadur's schooling in that small town was not very special, but despite being hit by poverty, he had a fairly happy childhood.


He was sent to live with his uncle in Varanasi so that he could pursue his high school education. Everyone at home used to call him by the name of Nanhe. He used to walk many miles barefoot to school, even in the scorching heat when the roads used to be extremely hot. As he grew up, Lal Bahadur Shastri became more interested in the country's struggle for freedom from foreign slavery. He was deeply impressed by Mahatma Gandhi's condemnation of Indian kings who were supporting British rule in India. When Lal Bahadur Shastri was only eleven years old, he had made up his mind to do something at the national level.

When Gandhiji called upon his countrymen to join the non-cooperation movement, Lal Bahadur Shastri was only sixteen years old at this time. He had decided to give up his studies on this call of Mahatma Gandhi. His decision broke his mother's hopes. His family tried hard to stop him, calling his decision wrong but they failed in it. Lal Bahadur had made up his mind. All those close to him knew that once he had made up his mind, he would never change his decision as Lal Bahadur, who looked humble from outside, is as firm as a rock from inside.

Lal Bahadur Shastri joined the Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi, one of several national institutions established in defiance of British rule. Here he came under the influence of great scholars and nationalists of the country. The name of the bachelor's degree conferred on him by Vidya Peeth was 'Shastri' but in the minds of the people it settled as a part of his name.

They got married in 1927. His wife Lalita Devi was from Mirzapur which was close to his own town. Their marriage was traditional in all respects. In the name of dowry, there was a spinning wheel and a few meters of hand-woven cloth. They did not want anything more than this in the form of dowry. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi broke the salt law and traveled to Dandi. This symbolic message brought a kind of revolution in the whole country. Lal Bahadur Shastri joined this struggle for freedom with great energy. He led several rebel campaigns and spent a total of seven years in British prisons. This struggle for independence made him fully mature.

Even before the Congress came to power after independence, the leaders of the national struggle had understood the importance of the humble and humble Lal Bahadur Shastri. When the Congress government was formed in 1946, this 'small dynamo' was asked to play a constructive role in the governance of the country. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of his home state of Uttar Pradesh and soon rose to the rank of Home Minister. His ability to work hard and his efficiency became a legend in Uttar Pradesh.

He moved to New Delhi in 1951 and took charge of several departments of the Union Cabinet – Minister of Railways; Minister of Transport and Communications; Minister of Commerce and Industry; Home minister and minister without portfolio during Nehru ji's illness. His reputation continued to grow. Holding himself responsible for a train accident in which several people were killed, he resigned from the post of Railway Minister. The country and Parliament greatly appreciated his unprecedented initiative. The then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, while speaking in Parliament on this incident, praised Lal Bahadur Shastri's honesty and high ideals. He said that he accepted Lal Bahadur Shastri's resignation not because he was responsible for what happened, but because it would set an example in constitutional dignity.

Responding to the long debate on the train accident, Lal Bahadur Shastri said; “Maybe because of my being short in height and meek, people think that I am not strong enough. Although I am not strong physically but I feel that I am not that weak internally either.”

Even during the working of his ministry, he looked after the affairs of the Congress Party and contributed immensely to it. His organizational brilliance and his amazing ability to examine things closely were the major contributors to the party's decisive and resounding success in the general elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962.

During his dedicated service for more than thirty years, Lal Bahadur Shastri became famous among the people for his sublime devotion and ability. Humble, firm, tolerant and with tremendous inner strength, Shastri ji emerged as a person among the people who understood the feelings of the people. He was a visionary who brought the country on the path of progress. Lal Bahadur Shastri was deeply influenced by the political teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In the same tone of his mentor Mahatma Gandhi, he once said – “Hard work is like praying”. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had thoughts like Mahatma Gandhi, is the best identity of Indian culture.