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A journalist remembers Chandra Shekhar
Onkar Singh in New Delhi |
July 08, 2007 18:24 IST
Former Indian Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, passed away at the age of 80 in Apollo Hospital in New Delhi on Sunday morning. The Congress leader was known for owning up friends and foes alike.
"I believe in calling spade and a spade. Sonia Gandhi has asked to visit me to seek my support for her prime ministership. It would not be proper for me to be harsh to her as a host and hence I have decided to visit her house and tell her that being a foreigner she cannot become the prime minister of India," Chandra Shekhar told rediff.com in a candid conversation when this correspondent visited him along with his favourite photographer Vijender Tyagi. He did precisely what he had said.
Days before his death, he declared his support to the Vice President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for the post of the President of India. Shekhawat would miss the towering personality during his campaign and his valuable vote as well.
Chandra Shekhar, along with Mohan Dharia and Krishna Kant had helped Mrs Gandhi during the split in the congress party as 'young Turks' in 1969. Yet, he did not hesitate to express his views on the movement launched by Jaiprakash Narain during the emergency and was perhaps the only Congress leader to have gone to jail during emergency for opposing Mrs Gandhi.
When a newsman asked him why he attended a dinner party of Dr J K Jain where international arms dealer Adnan Khassogi was the chief guest, Netaji, as he was dearly known as, shot back saying one should own up to friends even if they are dealing in arms and there was nothing wrong in doing so. He was then prime minister of India and could have avoided the embarrassment on any pretext.
Chandra Shekhar lived by his principles, almost alwaysIn the land development project in Bondsi in Haryana, the gram sabha gave Chandra Shekhar land. When it was developed, some people went to high court and got him to surrender the land to the gram sabha. Without uttering a word or challenging the verdict in the apex court Chandershekhar decided to obey the order.
Many jouralists who were close to him have fond memories of him as a person and politician. When some of them were out of jobs, the strongman of Balia made sure that their were taken care of.
Though Prabash Joshi, former editor of Jansatta criticised him, Chandra Shekhar never complained to him about the write ups.