My father gifted Dr. Sandeep Shastri’s ‘LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI: Politics and Beyond’ on my 30th birthday i.e. on 11th January 2020 by mentioning the significance of the date in Indian political history. The date happens to be the demise date of India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. This very coincidence aroused my interest in reading the book.
After glancing through the blurb on the back of the book, I had a look at the dust jacket’s folded flaps on the book’s front cover.
I was surprised to know that the famous slogan, ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’, which I have been knowing all along from childhood, was coined by Shastri in his address to the nation in a radio broadcast on 10th October 1965.
When I started reading the book, it promised to be an account of a lot more traits, contributions, and accomplishments of the ‘Quintessential Gandhian’ that deserve to be marveled at, felt truly inspired by, and assiduously imbibed from!
In other words, the pages of the book appeared to serve as indexes to the various facets of the gem, Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Among the many aspects touched on, the chronicles on different virtues in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s leadership caught my eyes.
So, let me delve into three of such traits.
Consultation and Consensus-building:
All along in the book, there have been numerous references that outline one of his admirable qualities of being a staunch follower of setting in place a consultative mechanism.
As a follow-up to the mechanism, Mr. Shastri appears to have ensured in building a consensus that the author records as to be appearing his second nature.
The book highlights the riots, centered on the official language issue, in the Cachar district of Assam in May of 1961. The district saw a heavy concentration of Bengali-speaking population. There arose massive protest and a demand to declare Bengali as an additional official language. After heeding the inputs from all parties to the dispute, Shastri as Home Minister at the national level decided to bring out a compromise formula. And, thereby, he arrived at the popular and trendsetting ‘Shastri formula’.
In the Cachar district of Assam, the formula provisioned in letting the correspondence between the Cachar district administration and the Assam government to be undertaken in Assamese, Bengali, or English. And, both Assamese and Bengali could be used in the Cachar district administration and in educational institutions.
Gentle persuasion as a go-to approach:
To bring people in line with his thinking, rather than resorting to using authority, instruction or command, gentle persuasion seemed to be his go-to approach. As per the book, even Shastri’s sons, Anil and Sunil, in their writings, bear testimony to the characteristic.
Being in touch with able and proven administrators as mentors:
To cultivate a skill like leadership, one of the best practices is to be in touch with people possessing the corresponding skills acquired via hands-on experience and then imbibe the same. In the case of Lal Bahadur Shastri, he had quite a few able and proven administrators, like Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, as his mentors. On the downside of having mentors, he ended up with criticisms that underrated his capacity of being decisive. But, he waited for the right time to showcase his capabilities and disarm his critics.
During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Shastri strategized to occupy minimal Pakistani territory and then vacate the place after the satisfactory conclusion of the war. To sum up the decisive capacity and the inherent toughness of Mr. Shastri, Harbhaksh Singh, the then chief of Western Command had told Kuldip Nayar, the then Press Secretary of Lal Bahadur Shastri, that the army would never forget ‘this tallest decision by the shortest man’.
And, there is this statement in the book:
“Shastri’s approach, attitude and actions in the early ‘60s are relevant for political leaders even today.”
When it comes to the precedence that Shastri has set in terms of leadership, his approach, attitude, and actions are relevant for whoever is entrusted with leadership roles.
When all is said and done, it is important to note that writings emanating positivity, and boosting inspiration, are one among the many worthwhile pills to the growing and suffocating trend of hatred being championed.
‘LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI: Politics and Beyond’ is one such worthwhile pill. Give it a read!
Book available in the below link…