PM pays tributes to Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh on birth anniversary: Who is this politician-turned-social activist


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday paid tributes to Nanaji Deshmukh, a Jana Sangh leader who quit active politics for social work and rural empowerment in his 60s, on his birth anniversary.

“Remembering Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh on his birth anniversary. His rich understanding of rural India and agriculture is reflected in his works. He was also an outstanding thinker,” he tweeted.

Who is Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh?

Born on 11 October, 1916, in the small town of Kadoli in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district, Nanaji Deshmukh was conferred India’s highest civilian honour the Bharat Ratna posthumously on January 25, 2019, by President Ram Nath Kovind for his services to the nation.

He worked as a vegetable seller to raise money for his education and went to a high school in Sikar, where the Raoraja of Sikar gave him a scholarship. He studied in Birla college (now BITS Pilani).

His journey as a RSS ‘pracharak’

Deshmukh joined the RSS at the age of 13. The then RSS chief MS Golwalkar sent him to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh as a ‘pracharak’. He rose to be the ‘Saha Prant Pracharak’ of the whole of Uttar Pradesh (which has now become the eighth ‘prant’ of RSS). Within three years of joining the RSS, almost 250 Sangh shakhas commenced in and around Gorakhpur. He established India’s first Saraswati Shishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950.

In 1947, when the RSS decided to launch two journals (Rashtradharma and Panchjanya) as well as a newspaper, Swadesh, Deshmukh was made the managing director of the publications with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as editor and Deen Dayal Upadhyay as a mentor.

However, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, a ban was imposed on the RSS and its publication work also came to a grinding halt. A different strategy was adopted keeping the ban in mind and Deshmukh was the brain behind underground publication work by the RSS those days.

Founding member of Bharatiya Jan Sangh

A seasoned activist, Deshmukh was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). Upadhyaya’s vision and Deshmuk’s organisational skills made BJS a force to reckon with in Uttar Pradesh. As a BJS member, Deshmukh also held the posts of Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s general secretary and party’s treasurer.

As a politician, he was known for his ability to form strategic coalitions. Through a coalition formed by socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and Deshmukh, Uttar Pradesh’s first non-Congress government was elected in 1967.

Role in JP movement

He was regarded as one of the architects of the Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-Emergency movement in 1974.

He was responsible for ‘Operation Takeover’ where he got together anti-emergency leaders like Subramaniam Swamy, ML Khorana, Ravindra Verma, Dattopant Thengadi, among others and gave a call to take over the government.

Deshmukh, who was under the police radar for instigating people against the government, was arrested on 29 July, 1975, from South Delhi during a surprise raid.

Foray into electoral politics

Deshmukh was a crucial figure in the founding of the Janata Party government in 1977. After being released from jail, Deshmukh won in the 1977 election held after revocation of the Emergency with a comfortable margin from Balrampur Lok Sabha constituency of Uttar Pradesh. He became one of the key players responsible for the merger of the Jan Sangh with the Janata Party. He, however, refused to join the cabinet of Morarji Desai.

Soon after he quit public life and started working as a social worker.

Life as a social activist

After retirement from active politics, Deshmukh served Deendayal Research Institute that he himself had established in 1969.

He did work towards the anti-poverty and minimum needs programme. Other areas of his work were agriculture and cottage industry, rural health and rural education.

He was also instrumental in carrying out social restructuring programme in over 500 villages of both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Deshmukh did social work in Gonda (UP), Balrampur and Beed (Maharashtra). The motto of his project was Har hath ko denge kaam, har khet ko denge paanee.

He also established Chitrakoot Gramoday Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot, India’s first rural University, and served as its Chancellor.

Views on Hindu-Muslims relations

When he was asked about his views on the Hindu-Muslim relations and if his agenda was social upliftment or Hindu rashtra, he was quoted as saying by India Today magazine, “There is no Hindu-Muslim problem in our country. It is all created by politicians. That is one of the reasons I quit politics.”

With inputs from agencies

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PM pays tributes to Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh on birth anniversary: Who is this politician-turned-social activist
PM pays tributes to Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh on birth anniversary: Who is this politician-turned-social activist
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