BALANCE SHEET OF PRIME MINISTERS OF INDIA

BALANCE SHEET OF PRIME MINISTERS OF INDIA



In its last 66 years of independence, India has had as many as fourteen Prime Ministers, six of whom have lasted less than one year each. Out of the remaining eight, two ruled the country for more than fifteen years each. These were Pandit Nehru (17 years) and Smt. Indira Gandhi (16 years).

In its last 66 years of independence, India has had as many as fourteen Prime Ministers, six of whom have lasted less than one year each. Out of the remaining eight, two ruled the country for more than fifteen years each. These were Pandit Nehru (17 years) and Smt. Indira Gandhi (16 years).

There have been four Prime Ministers whose tenure has lasted for five years or more.  These have been Dr. Manmohan Singh (9 years), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (6 years), P.V. Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi (5 years each).

Morarji Desai ruled the country for two and a half years, and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s tenure was cut short at Tashkent in just one and a half years.

The six PMs whose tenure lasted less than a single year were V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral (11 months each), Chandra Shekhar (8 months), Charan Singh (6 months) and Gulzari Lal Nanda (1 month).

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The two Prime Ministers who have ruled the country longest have naturally left the greatest impact on the minds of the people.  But if a balance sheet of their plus and minus points were to be drawn up, the net result may not be very flattering.

In case of Pt. Nehru, who was personally chosen by Mahatma Gandhi to head the first Government of India, even though an overwhelming majority of State units of the Congress Party had favoured Sardar Patel, all of Nehru’s achievements were gravely offset by the misplaced trust he reposed in China, and his Defence Minister’s criminal neglect of the nation’s defence preparedness.

As the result of Panditji’s Foreign and Defence Policies, the country suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of China in 1962, a humiliation that can never be forgotten.

Smt. Gandhi’s most remarkable achievement was India’s decisive victory over Pakistan in 1971, and the creation of an independent Bangladesh.

But again, it was during Smt. Gandhi’s tenure that following the Allahabad High Court’s annulment of her election to the Lok Sabha in 1975, and the Court’s decision that Smt. Gandhi would be disqualified for six years from contesting any election, the then Congress Government imposed an outrageous Emergency on the country, suspended all Fundamental Rights, put as many as over one lakh opposition activists into jail, and practically brought Democracy to the brink of annihilation.

It was Loknayak Jaya Prakash Narain’s inspiring leadership of the anti-Emergency struggle, and the Indian electorate’s angry rejection of the Congress Party in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, that saved Indian Democracy, and not only brought India back to normal times, but which also served as an all time warning to our political masters never again even to think of abusing the constitutional provisions relating to Emergency, to protect and promote their narrow partisan interests.

 

In sharp contrast to these two long lasting PMs the terms of office of Shastri and Desai were very brief. But their integrity, uprightness, and conscientious conduct left a deep impression on the people, and have earned for these two Prime Ministers abiding respect among the masses.

It was in 1951, that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Dr. Mookerji’s personality, and the policies and programmes of the new party he had launched, attracted hundreds of patriotic youths who had had their basic grounding in the RSS.  Prominent among them were Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kushabhau Thakre, Sunder Singh Bhandari, Jagannath Rao Joshi, P. Parameshwaran, Dr. Baldev Prakash and K.R. Malkani.

 

My own political life also commenced in 1951. So, I have had the privilege of participating in all the General Elections held in India since the first one of 1952, either as a campaigner or as a candidate.

I deem it a singular good fortune for myself to have worked closely with Deendayalji, the principal ideologue of our party, with Atalji, the tallest leader our party has produced, and Nanaji Deshmukh, who demonstrated to all of us how political activism can be fruitfully synthesized with constructive projects among the rural masses.

Out of the four Prime Ministers who have served for five years or more, Dr. Manmohan Singh has been in office for nine years now. If the Lok Sabha polls take place as scheduled, that is in 2014, he would have completed ten years as Prime Minister. For a person outside the Nehru family that would indeed be a unique distinction. But an even more unique, though dubious distinction would be that in free India’s political history, he would be the only Prime Minster to occupy this exalted office without ever being elected to the Lok Sabha!

Also, I cannot forget that when in 2009, I had described Dr. Singh as the weakest Prime Minister the country has had some of my own colleagues felt that I was being too severe. But I still hold that it is this attribute of his – weakness - that makes him so subservient to 10, Janpath, and thus unable to avail of the authority innate in this office of Prime Ministership.

Name

Tenure

Party

Shri Jawaharlal Nehru

August 15, 1947 - May 27, 1964

Congress

Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda

May 27, 1964 - June 9, 1964

Congress

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri

June 9, 1964 - January 11, 1966

Congress

Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda

January 11, 1966 - January 24, 1966

Congress

Mrs. Indira Gandhi

January 24, 1966 - March 24, 1977

Congress

Shri Morarji Desai

March 24, 1977 - July 28, 1979

Janata Party

Shri Charan Singh

July 28, 1979 - January 14, 1980

Janata Party

Mrs. Indira Gandhi

January 14, 1980 - October 31, 1984

Congress (I)

Shri Rajiv Gandhi

October 31, 1984 - December 2, 1989

Congress (I)

Shri Vishwanath Pratap Singh

December 2, 1989 - November 10, 1990

Janata Dal

Shri Chandra Shekhar

November 10, 1990 - June 21, 1991

Janata Dal (S)

Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao

June 21, 1991- May 16, 1996

Congress (I)

Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee

May 16, 1996 - June 1, 1996

BJP

Shri H. D. Deve Gowda

June 1, 1996 - April 21, 1997

Janata Dal

Shri Inder Kumar Gujral

April 21, 1997 - March 19, 1998

Janata Dal

Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee

March 19, 1998 - May 22, 2004

BJP

Dr. Manmohan Singh

May 22, 2004 - till date

INC

         

Again, it is precisely because of this shortcoming of Dr. Singh that history may well record that while personally he may be upright, the Government over which he has presided for a decade has been the most corrupt in Free India. And this would be not just on the basis of media reports, but would be sustained by several judicial verdicts and numerous reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

As I have stated earlier in this blog I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a close colleague of Atalji throughout my political career. I am sure also that if any political analyst were to dispassionately evaluate Atalji’s six year regime, he would readily concede that the NDA regime from 1998 to 2004 was replete with achievements, and there was practically nothing that can be called negative. To sum up the highlights of the period, one can list the following:

1.      Within months of becoming PM, India became a nuclear weapons power.

2.      In the economic field, this government concentrated on infrastructure – highways, rural roads, irrigation, power.

3.      Made India a super power in computer software.

4.      Despite U.S.’s economic sanctions being applied against us, despite the devastating Kutch earthquake, the worst in independent India, Atalji successfully kept inflation in check for the six years of NDA rule.

5.      The six years regime was a model of good governance, development and coalition dharma.

6.      There was not even a whisper of corruption against the government.

7.      Foundations were laid for interlinking of rivers, an ambitious project meticulously worked out by a Task Force for which a cabinet minister was fully spared.

 

What I regarded Atalji’s most conspicuous trait was that even with such cardinal achievements to his credit I never sensed in him even a trace of ego or arrogance! It is therefore that while talking about the balance sheet of all Prime Ministers since 1947 I myself can say that he was by far the most outstanding of all !

 

L.K. Advani
New Delhi
2 May, 2013

 

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