Lal Bahadur Shastri : Biography, Political Career & Death

29 Sep 2022  Read 930 Views

"We would consider it our moral duty to lend all support to the ending of colonialism and imperialism so that people everywhere are free to mold their own destinies." 

-Lal Bahadur Shastri

The Man of Peace is a well-known phrase that was used for Lal Bahadur Shastri. He gained notoriety as India's second prime minister after independence. In addition, he is credited with coining the phrase "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan," which translates to "hail the troops and the farmers." Let's learn more about this eminent figure's life in Indian history.

Who was Lal Bahadur Shastri?

  • Lal bahadur Shastri shares his birthday with Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd October. He was born in 1904 in Mughalsarai near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

  • Shastri's father, Sharada Prasad Srivastava, was a teacher who passed away before he turned two. He was raised by his mother and siblings in his maternal grandfather's home following the loss of his father.

  • At about the age of 13, his family relocated to Varanasi. He then stopped using his caste surname. The degree he received from the nationalist Kashi Vidyapith, founded to defy the British, gave him the appellation "Shastri." He earned a degree in philosophy and ethics in 1925. 

  • He first encountered the independence movement when he was still a young man. He went to a public gathering in Varanasi that Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya convened when he was in the tenth grade to encourage people to join the non-cooperation movement. Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Swami Vivekananda, and other figures served as inspiration for him.

  • He joined the Indian National Congress actively in 1928. In 1930, he participated in the Salt Satyagraha. He also took part in the Individual Satyagraha and the Quit India movement.

  • He was jailed multiple times and was there for a total of seven years.

  • He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of UP when the temporary government was established in 1946 and later rose to the position of Home Minister.

  • He was invited to New Delhi in 1951 and given many portfolios in the Union Cabinet, including those for the railways, transportation and communications, business and industry, and housing. He was also a prominent member of the Congress party.

  • He willingly left his position as railway minister due to a fatal train accident.

  • In 1964, when Jawaharlal Nehru passed away while still in office, Shastri took over as PM. He said “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the crossroads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us, there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—building up a secular mixed-economy democracy at home with freedom and prosperity, and maintaining world peace and friendship with select nations.”

  • He witnessed the anti-Hindi riots in Tamil Nadu while serving as prime minister. He ended it by promising that English would continue to be the official tongue in the non-Hindi states.

  • The White Revolution in India was sparked by his support for the Amul milk cooperative and Dr Verghese Kurien.

  • The onset of the 1965 Indo-Pak War was his biggest challenge as prime minister. He gave India the catchphrase "Jai Jawan! Jai Kissan" during this time.

  • Despite his small size and kind demeanour, Shastri led the nation admirably during the conflict and proved to the world that he could make difficult choices. On January 10, 1966, he and Ayub Khan, acting under Soviet sway, signed the Tashkent Declaration, officially ending hostilities with Pakistan.

  • But when in Tashkent, he had a heart attack and passed away. The Indian people were shocked by this, and many suspected foul play in his death.

  • Vijay Ghat is the name of his cremation memorial in Delhi.

  • In 1966, he received the Bharat Ratna posthumously.

Lal Bahadur Shastri's Political Career

  • After India’s independence, Shastri was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in Uttar Pradesh. 

  • In 1951, he was made the All-India Congress Committee General Secretary with the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

  • After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in his office in 1964, Shastri was made the 2nd Prime Minister of India. 

Policies and Movements   

  1. Domestic Policies - The Madras anti-Hindi movement of 1965 occurred during Lal Bahadur Shastri's presidency. Long-term efforts have been made by the Indian government to make Hindi the only official language in the country. The non-Hindi-speaking states, especially Madras State, rejected this. Shastri reassured the crowd that English will remain the official language for as long as the non-Hindi-speaking nations so desired. After Shastri's guarantee, the riots and student protests halted.

  2. Economic Policies - Shastri kept on the central planning of Nehru's socialist economic policies. He supported the Amul milk co-operative of Anand, Gujarat, and established the Nationwide Dairy Development Board to further the White Revolution, a national initiative to expand milk production and supply.

Shastri advised people to voluntarily skip one meal while discussing the country's ongoing food shortages to feed the affected population. But before appealing to the nation, he made sure to first put the system into place in his household. At his official house in New Delhi, he encouraged the nation to increase the cultivation of food grains by mowing the grass himself.

  1. Jai Jawan Jai Kisan - On October 19, 1965, at Urwa in Allahabad, Shastri delivered the influential "Jai Jawan Jai Kishan" ("Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer") speech that would become a national anthem during India's 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965. In 1965, Shastri advocated for the Green Revolution in India, highlighting the need to increase food production in the country. Food grain production increased as a result, particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. The creation of rust-resistant wheat strains and high-yielding wheat types were significant achievements in this project.

  2. International Policies - Shastri upheld Nehru's non-alignment policy while fostering greater ties with the Soviet Union. Shastri's administration decided to increase the nation's defence expenditure following the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the development of military links between China and Pakistan.

How Lal Bahadur Shastri died?

The death of Lal Bahadur Shastri is considered a mysterious death. The man with discipline and integrity is believed to have suffered from a major heart attack death in Russia's Tashkent, where he signed a peace agreement between India and Pakistan after the 1965 war. However, his death is considered a mystery as it was alleged by his son and senior Congress leader Anil Shastri that the government refuses to declassify any documents concerning his death, including the findings of the Raj Narain Committee, which was constituted in 1977 to look into the mysterious death of the leader. Did you know that in 2019 a film titled ‘The Tashkent Files’ by Vivek Agnihotri tried to uncover the mystery of his death? Hence, the mystery is still unsolved.


Lal Bahadur Shastri had more than thirty years of devoted service behind him. Throughout this time, he earned a reputation as a guy of exceptional integrity and skill. He was a man of the people who understood their language; he was modest, tolerant, and had immense inner strength and resoluteness. He was also a visionary leader who moved the nation forward. Mahatma Gandhi's political ideologies had a significant impact on Lal Bahadur Shastri. In a voice strikingly resembling his Master, he once declared, "Hard work is equivalent to prayer." Lal Bahadur Shastri was a direct descendant of Mahatma Gandhi and embodied the best of Indian culture.

About the Author: Gurpreet Kaur Dutta | 43 Post(s)

A legal content writer who pursued BBA-LL.B.(H) from Amity University Chhattisgarh. She has a keen interest in corporate and IPR sectors. 

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