The first Prime Minister of India who did not belong to the Indian National Congress (INC), Morarji Desai was a part of the struggle of India’s independence and held the post of the Prime Minister from 1977-79.
He was born on 29 February, 1896.
Here are some facts about his career and life.
Morarji Ranchhodji Desai was born into an Anavil Brahmin family in Bhadeli, Valsad in Bombay Presidency (now in Gujarat).
His father was a teacher from whom Morarji learnt virtues like hard work and truthfulness.
He attained his early education from Saurashtra at the Kundla School and Bai Ava Bai High School.
He did his graduation from Wilson College in Mumbai. Later, he joined the civil services in Gujarat and served as the Deputy Collector in 1918.
He married Gujraben in 1911 and had five children.
He gave up his governmental duties after 12 years in 1930.
He joined Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle, and became a part of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Morarji became a member of the All India Congress Committee in 1931. He also served as the Secretary of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee until 1937.
He also held the ministries of Revenue, Agriculture, Forest and Cooperatives in the Bombay Presidency.
In 1939, the Congress ministries went out of office to revolt against India’s involvement in World War without the consent of the people.
Morarji was jailed thrice for his involvement in the Indian Independence Movement.
Morarji was appointed as the Minister of Home and Revenue in Bombay in 1946.
During his tenure, he introduced revolutionary land reforms.
He also made the police responsive to the need of protecting the life and property of the general public, thereby, bridging the gap between the former and the people.
Morarji Desai Appointed As Chief Minister
Morarji Desai was appointed as the Chief Minister of Bombay in 1952.
During his reign, the demand rose for a separate linguistic state by the Gujarati-speaking people against Marathi-speaking people.
Two years later, he became the Finance Minister.
Interestingly, he presented the budget a record 10 times. He also presented the budget twice on his birthday (29 February) in the years, 1964 and 1968.
Strong Contender For Prime Minister’s Post
His popularity made him a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s post after Jawaharlal Nehru’s death.
Later, Lal Bahadur Shastri served as the Prime Minister of India and Morarji was made the Chairman of the Administrative Reform Commission.
He was again offered the post after Shastri’s sudden death in 1966. However, he lost out again and Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India.
During Indira Gandhi’s reign in 1966, Morarji was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
He resigned from the cabinet three years later.
Revolt, Hunger Strike And Imprisonment
As the result of the split of the Indian National Congress (INC), Morarji joined the organization’s faction against Indira Gandhi’s (Ruling) faction.
Morarji Desai was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971.
In 1975, he went on an indefinite hunger strike to support the Nav Nirman movement.
With the declaration of the Emergency, he was imprisoned along with other opposition leaders.
Becoming The Prime Minister
After being released in 1977, he joined the Janata Party as its parliamentary leader and prime ministerial candidate.
The Janata Party registered a victory in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.
Morarji Desai was sworn in on 24 March 1977 as the fourth Prime Minister of the country.
He became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India.
As Prime Minister, he worked towards improving the international diplomatic relations with arch rivals Pakistan and China.
He was became the only Indian to be conferred with Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-E-Pakistan.
Resignation And Retirement
He was forced to resign from the office owing to Raj Narain’s and Charan Singh’s withdrawal of support from the Janata Party in 1979.
His resignation marked the end of his political career.
In the 1980 elections, he campaigned for his party but did not contest the elections himself.
Later, he settled in Mumbai. Morarji died on 10 April, 1995, just one birthday short of living a century.