Babu Jagjivan Ram: Visionary and Karmayogi

  • Dr. Shashi Kumar Singh, (Ph.D., D.Litt)

Babu Jagjivan Ram, former Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of India, was born on April 5, 1908, in Chandwa village of Arrah (present Bhojpur district), the headquarters of the then Shahabad district of Bihar province. His father Saint Shri Shobhi Ram and mother Basanti Devi themselves were of saintly nature. At the age of six, he was enrolled in the Pathshala (Primary School) of Chandwa village on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami in 1914. In the same year, his father left for his heavenly abode. Babu Jagjivan Ram completed his primary and secondary education at Mahajani School and Town School of Arrah. In 1925, he became a delegate to the eighteenth session of the student conference in Arrah. The responsibility of the welcome speech of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya was entrusted to him. Malviya ji was very impressed by his speech. He invited Jagjivan Babu to Kashi Hindu University for higher studies.

After passing the matriculation examination with first division, Babu Jagjivan Ram enrolled himself in Kashi Hindu University, Banaras in July, 1926. He obtained B.Sc. from Calcutta University upon passing the I.S.C. exam in 1928. After that, he plunged into the freedom movement and came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was impressed by his contribution in the freedom movement and Gandhiji honored Babu Jagjivan Ram by calling him ‘Aagmein tapa sona’ (‘gold tempered in fire’).Under the Indian Act of 1935, elections were held in 1937 in which Congress won in Bihar and eight other provinces. The British rulers had given all the powers in the hands of the British governors of the provinces, hence Congress decided not to form the government in these provinces. The British formed the ‘Gudiya Cabinet’ in Bihar under the Prime Ministership of Yunus. A huge price was offered to Babu Jagjivan Ram to join him. If Congress MLAs were bought in Bihar, it would have become easier for the British to do the same even in other provinces. This would have caused huge damage to the Congress and the freedom movement. Babu Jagjivan Ram rejected Yunus’ proposal and stood the test of fire. Father of the Nation Gandhiji’s magazine ‘Harijan’ praised Babu Jagjivan Ram in these words - “This man from the Dalit class has shown how high ideals can be maintained even while living in poverty. Will the so-called upper caste Hindus learn anything from the conduct of this great servant of India?”

The parliamentary life of Babu Jagjivan Ram is world famous. In 1932, he became a member of Arrah Municipality. During the independence movement, he became a member of Bihar Legislative Council in 1936. In December 1937, he was elected unopposed from East Central Shahabad rural area in Bihar Legislative Assembly from Dalit Class Association. Besides, he also did the work of making 14 Dalit Class Sangh members of the reserved category victorious, unopposed. He was elected unopposed from the Congress in the elections of 1946 and became the Labor Minister in the interim government of the Centre. In this interim government formed on the invitation of Viceroy Lord Wavell, there were only two ministers from Bihar – Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Babu Jagjivan Ram.

Babu Jagjivan Ram was a sharp and energetic politician. The special distinction of being elected MP from the same parliamentary constituency (Sasaram) for eight consecutive times (1st to 8thLok Sabha, 1952-1984) proves his talent and efficiency. The public was always stunned by his clear foresight and found that he was a Karmayogi who was completely dedicated to the welfare of the common people and especially the Dalits.

His tenure of half a century from 1936 to 1986 is probably a world record in parliamentary history. He started his political career as a nominated member of Bihar Legislative Council in 1936 and was elevated to the post of Deputy Prime Minister in 1979. He remained a dynamic force in the national political scene until his death in July 1986. Working with four Prime Ministers as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of various departments, he rendered exceptional service to the public. He had an amazing ability to understand the situation and take quick decisions. Some of the programs for the upliftment of the masses started by him have proved to be a milestone in achieving the goal cherished by Bapu – to wipe tears from every eye. Despite his distinguished positions and successes, he was a very humble and down to earth politician.

What seems to be the most important among the contributions of Jagjivan Babu is that he had the vision of a new social system, which plays an important role in building the destiny of India. Babu Jagjivan Ram started a new era of protection, equality and empowerment of the depressed classes. His life was a positive statement of the identity of the backward people. His credibility, dedication and political ability created confidence and enthusiasm among the Dalits and backward classes. His achievements can be seen as a remarkable effort towards a new social order in India. The great man died on July 6, 1986, at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi. On July 7, 1986, the cremation took place in his ancestral land Chandwa (Arrah, Bihar). Many officials and dignitaries of the country including the then Prime Minister of India Shri Rajiv Gandhi participated in it.

(The author is a member of the All-India Congress Committee and Chairman of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee, Vichar Vibhaag)