Dr.Swamy recalls Charan Singh
Sree Iyer: The Next PM we are going to talk about is Shri. Charan Singh. Dr.Swamy, you were one of the key individuals in bringing together people from different parties to put together the Janata party. There was a vote of confidence and Jagjivanram probably insisted that Morarji resign before the vote of confidence and then I want you to describe as you would have a had a ringside view.
They bought in Janata cloth and all that, made life way easy for common man and we were winning by-elections left, right and centre.
Dr Swamy: The key thing that was necessary for the Janata Party to survive was Morarji, Jagjivanram and Charan Singh should work together. We made efforts in 1979 but it was not working. Finally, Morarji said, I will make both of them Deputy Prime Ministers. So, Jagjivanram became Deputy Prime Minister and in charge of Defence and Charan Singh became deputy Prime Minister in charge of Home and Morarji – Prime Minister.
These three decided to work together and as they were all Ex-congressmen, they knew each other for long. Now, unfortunately, there were people, and I will name them – Mr Vajpayee was one and Chandrashekar was another. They felt if these three men work together, then they will be nowhere because these three had reservations about Chandrashekar and Vajpayee. So, the process began to somehow create divisions and now comes the Soviet Union. The Janata Party was extremely successful in the economic front, they brought prices down so sharply.
Sree Iyer: Absolutely, people still remember that.
Dr Swamy: Yeah that’s right, they bought in Janata cloth and all that, made life way easy for common man and we were winning by-elections left right and centre. So the Russians felt jittery especially because Morarji might visit China and they were having problems with China those days.They felt, that this is all being done on American behest and the Soviet always suspected my heart was American’s which it was. The communist in India use to call me CIA agent and all, but no one took that seriously. But then I was well disposed to the United States that the Russian knew that I was the advocate for Market Economy, certain kinds of freedoms which Russians would never allow anywhere.
The Russians planned to get hold of India, but had already suffered because of emergency and then because of the Janata Party victory but we had socialists like Madhu Limaye in our party who the Russians had cultivated and these socialists were woolly-eyed people. The Soviets with the support of Indira Gandhi decided that they will work for a split in the Janata party.
It was Vajpayee and Chandrashekar who started telling Charan Singh that Morarji is not good for us. He is too strict and it won’t work, you must take over, you are a farmer, we want a farmer leader etc. Charan Singh fell for it, so a split became inevitable
The American tipped us off through our Ambassador in Washington. There was a famous lawyer Nani Palkhiwala who alerted us. I have a copy of a letter written by Nani Palghiwala to Morarji Desai saying “a top official of the department visited me and he has given me this brief and you must take necessary steps”. Morarji didn’t believe these things and gave it to me and asked me to look into that. But they began a systematic process, by creating a feeling in Charan Singh’s mind that he is the one with a maximum number of MP’s which was true. In UP his team had a sweep. I think out of 300 he had 91 or 94 MPs of Janata party.
It was Vajpayee and Chandrashekar who started telling Charan Singh that Morarji is not good for us. He is too strict and it won’t work, you must take over, you are a farmer, we want a farmer leader etc. Charan Singh fell for it, so a split became inevitable and Morarji also was a little stiff and not accommodative. So a lot of people like Ramakrishna Hedge, Vajpayee, Chandrashekar, Madhu Limaye got together to break Janata Party and create a new socialist type of Party.
Sree Iyer: At that time their mind was set only to change the Prime Minister but the party would continue.
Dr. Swamy: Yes, But the party would come to them.
Sree Iyer: Chandrashekar was the President of the party…
Dr.Swamy: He was the president of the party, but he was pygmy in comparison to them. The party split, Charan Singh walked out, then, the process began whether Morarji Desai can continue. Morarji said, I have the single largest party even now and therefore, I should be allowed to try a coalition.
In fact, it turned out that Mr Chavan (Y B Chavan) had broken loose from Indira Gandhi, so Congress was also into two pieces. Now the error in Morarji’s thinking was that the president of India would be neutral. But it was Sanjeeva Reddy and he hated Morarji and he also hated Brahmins so that was an interesting combination.
He said, “Morarji– you have lost the majority and I am inviting Charan Singh to form the govt.” Charan Singh did form a govt. with the support of Indira Gandhi (outside support). Charan Singh was absolutely straight as they come. As soon as he took office and before the vote of confidence– you have to have the vote of confidence before you are sworn in– Mrs Gandhi went to him and said: “now you have to remove all the cases against me and my son”. This was particularly for Sanjay Gandhi because there was a special court set up for him and it will a be accelerated process to get him jailed and Charan Singh said: “No, I will not”.
Sree Iyer: Charan Singh was very bold and principled.
Dr Swamy: Absolutely, I must tell you this, Paramacharya (His Highness the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Chandrasekhara Saraswati) told me when I was critical of Charan Singh and said he did not do that.
Sree Iyer: That was a very bold decision that he stood up for the principles that this act of him has to still see the effect.
Dr Swamy: He said I will not, she said I will withdraw support, he said it’s up to you and she withdrew support and the elections were declared and then Janata Party lost elections and then thereafter, I use to meet the Ex-Prime Minister regularly.
Sree Iyer: I just want let viewers know that when elections happened in 1980, Mrs.Gandhi was back, the single biggest majority in the opposition was still Charan Singh’s party, he still had about 50 plus MPs and Dr Swamy got re-elected from Bombay, one of the few who got re-elected.
Dr.Swamy: So, I use to meet Charan Singh in his house and discuss. It was quite clear at that time, Mrs Gandhi–she had got 350 seats-will continue for a long time. Nobody thought she will get assassinated. Charan Singh and I use to meet and he now began to think legacy and all that, but he had this desire to be considered as intellectual and write books. He said, you must appreciate my books and you must write views and that created a real bond and he use to praise me to everybody that this man is courageous, fearless, and honest. Anyhow Mrs Gandhi got assassinated during the election and we lost the poll miserably.
Sree Iyer: it was Rajiv Gandhi’s first election.
Dr Swamy: Yes, Rajiv Gandhi won 416 MPs, all time high, the record still unbroken. So, I thought what will I do now, I decided to go back to Harvard. Before going back, I met Charan Singh and told him that I need a list of his books and he said why? I told him, I am going to prescribe that at Harvard.
He said no no, that will never happen. I am just the ordinary poor man who cares, they want these anglicised people. I said I will try and since I am a teacher I can prescribe the book I want to. So, I prescribed his book and Harvard sent him a letter that we need 40 copies of these books and will send you payment.
He was so pleased that day. People told me he actually wept that day saying “no one has ever done this for me, they gave me lip service but here is the man who got my book prescribed at Harvard”. Unfortunately soon after he had a stroke and passed away.