NANAJI DESHMUKH: A VISIONARY WITH MISSIONARY ZEAL

  • Born on October 11, 1916 at Kadoli, Hingoli (Maharashtra)
  • Elected to Lok Sabha - 1977
  • Nominated for Rajya Sabha in 1999
  • Honoured with Padma Vibhushan byRashtrapati APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Died on February 27, 2010 in Chitrakoot

Many times it has been said that the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 were very much similar to that of 1977. It is because after 30 years any non-Congress single party got majority in Lok Sabha this time, whereas in 1977 it was for the first time that the Congress was thrown out of power from the Centre after 30 years of Independence. One more similarity is that both the times youth played a major role in the change.

It is believed that Congress’ defeat in 1977 was the result of the atrocities perpetuated during the Emergency. But it was not complete truth. Congress lost power in the same manner as it lost this year—youth were very much frustrated from the Congress misrule. They were feeling that during three decades of Independence they were ignored and only the Congress leaders enjoyed fruits of power. These were the days in 1970s when the Naxal movement was getting momentum in West Bengal and on the other hand youth all over the country were getting mobilised under the leadership of Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan. It is a well-known fact that Nanaji Deshmukh played an important role in persuading JP for that youth movement in the form of Sampurna Kranti Andolan. 
The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was hugely annoyed with the youth movement and she imposed Emergency on the night of June 25, 1975. After that when general elections were held in 1977, the nation, under the leadership of JP, voted the Janata Party to power. But due to some over ambitious leaders of Janata Party troubles started emerging within the government. At that crucial juncture when Nanaji Deshmukh, a close aid of JP and general secretary of Janata Party, realised that political leadership ignored the issues of youth following their political ambitions, he decided to quit politics and dedicate rest of his life to the cause of youth and constructive activities. At the age of 60 he announced the decision to retire from active politics and urged the fellow politicians follow him and give an opportunity to the youth. 
In his two pages statement released on April 20, 1978, acknowledging the role of youth in JP movement, he said youth who were the carrier of ‘Vote Kranti’ are being ignored. He painfully said the youth enthusiasm could not be streamlined in a constructive manner and hence youth have again adopted the path of agitation. He said it is very much unfortunate that our whole social life is concentrated within the limit of politics only. Therefore he realised that the social problem cannot be solved through ‘revolutionary slogans, destructive agitations, election politics and parliamentary activities’. He declared that now his aim would be constructive movement based on ‘Yuva Shakti’.
As a person Nanaji had a tough exterior, but he was very soft by heart. Nothing was personal for him. He was just like an open book. Really Nanaji was a real ‘Nana’. 
Undoubtedly, Nanaji’s appeal was very emotional. But it was not based merely on emotions. Actually, what he said on that day was the base of his life and prior to entering into politics as State general secretary of Jan Sangh in UP, he laid the foundation of many constructive projects in the field of education, journalism and rural development, etc. In 1947, he was sent to Gorakhpur as RSS Pracharak, where he not only strengthened the Sangh work but also established a Saraswati Shishu Mandir in 1950. It was the first school of the present day Shishu Mandir education system having numerous schools in its fold all over the country.
Shishu Mandir was the result of his vision towards child education and its role in human’s all round development—Manav ka sampurna vikas. After Independence the Christian Missionary schools were seen as a big threat to our education system and the society. In those days there was no such organised effort for education and opening of a school was not so simple. Nanaji also played an important role in the publication of Panchjanaya weekly, Rashtradharma monthly and daily Swadesh from Lucknow as their first Managing Director. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was first editor of Panchajanaya and Deendayalji was margdarshak. Later on, Rashtradhram Prakashan, Lucknow became a major publishing house for nationalistic literature.
While in politics also the main emphasis of Nanaji was rural development, education and social development. He was a good organiser and due to his extraordinary organising skills Jan Sangh played an important role in forming SVD government in 1967 in UP. After the unfortunate death of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1968, Nanaji established Deendayal Research Institute in Delhi to push the unfinished works of Deendayalji. The DRI conducted big research work, published a research journal Manthan and also started many social activities. It became a role model for rural and social development and encouraged a number of youth to join social work. It rehabilitated a village, Malapallam, in Andhra Pradesh affected by cyclone. That reconstructed village, named as Deendayal Puram was dedicated to local people on July 14, 1978 by the then Foreign Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and the then Andhra CM Shri Chenna Reddy.
Nanaji initiated a village development project ‘Gramodaya Yojna’ in Gonda District of UP and established ‘Jayaprabha Gram’ dedicated to Jayaprakashji and his wife Prabhavati. The foundation stone for Gramodaya project was laid by the then President of India Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy on November 25, 1978. After retiring from active politics, Nanaji concentrated on his rural development work in Chitrakoot, Satna (MP). In 1991, he established a Gramodaya Vishvavidyalaya, first of its kind in country and initiated a project, Chitrakoot Project or the 'Campaign for Self-Reliance'.
His emphasis in all these projects was on self-reliance and nation building. On the occasion of a three day convention of ‘Gramodaya Sanyojaks’ on October 1, 1978 in Balrampur (Gonda) Nanaji stressed that in the life of a person there should be a equilibrium among his personal life, family life, social life and professional life. He said due to lack of balance in them our life remains in distress.
Although Nanaji played an important role in national politics for about four decades, but after the age of 60, he was just an humble social worker not a politician. In April 1978, he was in Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) for a two day visit. On April 15, he addressed a meeting of Janata Party MLAs at Himachal Bhawan. In that meeting some MLAs raised the issues of fulfillment of public aspirations, government policies and role of bureaucracy, etc. Nanaji expressed his firm opinion that Government should have its control over bureaucrats: Without its control neither can government implement its programmes and decisions nor the people can get their work done properly. The message is very much clear that the bureaucracy cannot be the ruler or master and people are supreme. 
Nanaji, as a person, might look hard in nature but he was very soft by heart. Nothing was personal for him. He was just like an open book. Once while discussing some letters with him, I gave him a letter. He asked me, ‘Why did you not open the letter?’ I said it was marked ‘Personal’. Nanaji said ‘nothing is personal for me? I am open to all, nothing is personal.’ 
Really, Nanaji was a nana. He took care of everyone in DRI as it is a family.November 25, 1978 was the busiest day. President of India laid the foundation stone for Gramodaya Kendra at Gonda and after that he had lunch with 130 villagers. After the function was over, Nanaji personally asked every one whether he took lunch? As nothing was his personal, he donated his body to the Dehdaan Samiti after his death on February 27, 2010. 
Dr Ravindra Agrawal (The writer is a senior journalist and worked with Nanaji Deshmukh for about two years from 1978 to 1979. He can be contacted at agravindra@gmail.com)

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