Nav Nirman Andolan.
20 December 1973 will go down in the history of India as the tipping point which led to the first successful anti-corruption movement and had inspired a series of similar movements across the nation.
A bit of background:
Inspite of her shaky start in Indian politics during late 1960s, Indira Gandhi soon emerged as the undisputed leader of the Congress party. India’s victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war followed by a clean sweep in 1971 General elections due to the “Garibi Hatao” campaign had cemented Indira Gandhi’s position and slogans like “India is Indira, Indira is India” had become the norm.
Indira’s rise in politics & how she chose the hand symbol for Congress discussed here:
Throughout the early 1970s, Indira Gandhi used her supreme position to exploit the system by bending democratic institutions to her convenience. For example, The external emergency (imposed in 1971 due to Indo-Pak war) was unnecessarily extended for the next few years so that she could use it as a pretext to manipulate election dates of several states to suit to the party’s convenience.
Also, instead of allowing the State Legislative choose their Chief Minister, it would come from the Congress High Common (Indira Gandhi) who in turn used the CMs like pawns to act in the interest of the party instead of the state. Corruption was rampant and even defended as a “global phenomenon”.
The roots of corruption in Modern India has been explained in this article:
After Congress won the Gujarat 1973 state elections, Indira Gandhi handpicked Chimanlal Patel as the Chief Minister. He turned a blind eye towards common man’s problems like famine & inflation, and instead chose to indulge in corruption to fill the coffers of Congress party and remain in good books of Indira Gandhi. This attitude of the new Chief Minister did not go down well with the Gujaratis and were further provoked when he did nothing to control price rise of food & inflation.
On 20 December 1973, students of an Engineering College in Gujarat protested against exorbitant rise in their hostel food bills, which was the trigger point. Over the next few days, it spread across the state and turned into a movement called “Nav Nirman Aandolan”.
With support from several organizations including ABVP & RSS, students were able to consolidate the movement to demand the Chief Minister’s resignation.
In January 1974, Narendra Modi, who was just 24 years old and member of RSS, had played a significant role in organizing events, transportation and meetings. His dedication in any job assigned to him had earned him the “workaholic” title.
In February 1974, succumbing to pressure, the Chief Minister resigned (in fact, he had to wait for the order from Congress high command even to resign). Although it was a great victory for the protesters, the battle was far from over. The next phase of the agitation was to bring down the Govt. It required a “fast unto death” by Morarji Desai to dissolve the Govt.
In March 1974, the assembly was dissolved and the “Nav Nirman Aandolan” came to an end. This inspired more anti-Congress movements across the country when eventually led to Indira Gandhi imposing Emergency in 1975. We shall go into those details in the next part.
Link to the next part:
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