By Manish Mishra*
Indira Gandhi was made Prime Minister of India by my late uncle Lalit Narayan Mishra after the Congress Party split in 1969. Indira Gandhi and my uncle were friends. My uncle was the parliamentary secretary to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and used to be a permanent fixture at his home. Indira used to serve tea herself to my uncle then.
When the Allahabad High Court judgement went against Indira declaring her election to Parliament as null and void, then maximum number of Congress MPs went to my uncle to persuade him to replace her as prime minister. This reportedly raised the eyebrows of Yashpal Kapoor – the then-right-hand man of Indira Gandhi. On 3rd January 1975, my uncle was assassinated by a bomb attack under a conspiracy, which was then alleged to have been hatched by Yashpal Kapoor and George Fernandes the then trade union leader of railways of which my uncle was the minister and at loggerheads with George Fernandes. (Editor’s note: The Justice KK Mathew Commission said nothing on this and the courts did not indict any striking worker or union leadership).
A military grenade was used to kill my uncle which also injured my father very gravely. But by the grace of god, he survived but my uncle died. On the 7th of January 1975, just 4 days after the assassination, the case of the murder investigation was taken away from the Bihar Government and given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the order of the then chief minister of Bihar Abdul Gaffoor. I have a strong suspicion that this was done to cover up the investigation at the behest of Yashpal Kapoor. Bihar police were on the right track as within a few days they established that a military grenade was used in the assassination. I suspect this triggered Yashpal Kapoor to transfer the case to CBI quickly.
Indira herself in all likelihood wasn’t aware of this whole conspiracy. It’s because my uncle and Indira Gandhi were friends for many many years even before independence. The age gap between Indira Gandhi and my uncle was just three years. I also don’t think my uncle actually wanted to dethrone Indira Gandhi because he was a loyal foot soldier of Nehru and owed his rise in Indian politics to Nehru.
It was to redeem herself of this atrocity committed by her own trusted people that Indira Gandhi made my father the Chief Minister of Bihar at the tender age of 37 in April 1975. After the Congress got defeated in the 1977 general elections, my father became very close to Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi (who established the Youth Congress) more so after another split of the Congress Party in 1978. My father travelled more than 3 lakh kilometres by car across the length and breadth of the then-undivided Bihar to rebuild the Congress Party from scratch in Bihar. This made him aptly qualified to become the chief minister of Bihar second time in 1980 when the Congress Party returned to power in Bihar after the Assembly election in mid-1980.
However, with the untimely death of Sanjay and the emergence of a politically naïve Rajiv Gandhi, he was removed from the chief ministership of Bihar by Rajiv. However, he was reinstated by Rajiv as chief minister of Bihar for the third time in 1989. But those 6 years of the political wilderness proved to be the best period for my father because he launched a very popular Jan Jagaran Abhiyan in which he covered every panchayat of undivided Bihar and became a mass leader surpassing any leader of Bihar in post-independence history in popularity.
Since my father was reinstated especially after the infamous Bhagalpur riots, he stopped the riots within 7 days of assuming the office of Chief Minister of Bihar. Rajiv Gandhi and my father became best of friends till Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991. My father later became a Union Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
The saga of my family’s presence in public life thereafter also continued till my father passed away on 19th August 2019. On this 19th August the fourth punya tithi (death anniversary) of my father, as I paid respect to my father, I committed myself to carry forward the legacy of my family under the banner of Chanakya Shakti, a non-political platform, to serve this great state, which is the birthplace of Sita, Lord Mahavir and Guru Gobind Singh, the tapobhoomi of Lord Buddha, the karmabhoomi of great Chanakya and from where Mahatma Gandhi started his movement.
*The writer is the son of former Chief Minister of Bihar late Dr Jagannath Mishra, and prefers to call himself a ‘Mithila putra, a proud Bihari and a proud Indian’. The views expressed are personal.