The Hon'ble Vice President; the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Om Birla ji; Ghulam Nabi ji; in a way the focus of today's programme, Shri Harivansh ji, all the family members of Chandrashekhar ji and all his fellow companions who share his ideas.
It is very difficult to survive even for two years, after taking leave from the political scene in today's time. People forget; companions also forget, and such a personality perhaps is lost in some corner of history.
We must remember this fact that around 12 years after his departure, Chandrasekhar Ji remains alive in the same form among us even today. I want to congratulate Harivansh ji for not only accomplishing this task but also to have the courage to do the same. I used the word 'courage' because in the past few years, such an environment has been created in our country where political gameplay has turned more intense. Harivanshji, who has come from the world of journalism has been a neutral personality and is the Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha. However, after the release of the book, I am afraid a particular label may be attributed to him.
I didn't get the opportunity to work with Chandrashekhar ji. Once I had got the opportunity to meet him in the year 1977. I would like to share a few incidents. Once I and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat ji were going for a party work and were at the Delhi Airport. Chandrashekhar ji too was going for some personal work. We saw Chandrashekhar ji coming towards us from a distance. So, Bhairon Singh ji pulled me aside and put all the things he had in his pocket in my pocket. Everything happened so fast that by the time I could ask the reason for putting those things inside my pockets, Chandrashekhar ji had arrived. The first thing that Chandrashekhar ji did was to put his hands inside Bhairon Singh ji's pockets. Then I understood. Bhairon Singh ji used to have things like Pan Parag and tobacco whereas Chandrashekhar ji was totally opposed to the same. Whenever Bhairon Singh ji used to meet Chandrashekhar ji, he used to take those things away and throw them in the dustbin. Thus, to avoid that, Bhairon Singh ji had put his things into my pockets.
On one hand was the Jan Sangh, Bharatiya Janta Party and its ideology while on the other hand was Chandrashekhar ji and his ideology. There was a fellow-feeling and openness. Chandrashekhar ji was always concerned about Bhairon Singh ji's health. This is a great thing in itself. Chandrashekhar ji, both at personal and public level, used to address Atal ji as 'Guru ji". And before saying anything, even in the House, he used to say - "Guru ji, kindly forgive me; I am going to criticize you". If you see the old records, you will find that such were his values and these reflected his dignity.
After all, at a time when Congress party's stars were shining, what was that element or that source of inspiration that motivated this person to choose the path of rebellion? Probably the values of Bagi Ballia, the soil of Bagi Ballia had inspired him. I consider two major historic events to be the most significant ones - Jaiprakash Narayan ji- Bihar and Mahatma Gandhi- Gujarat. After independence when it came to choose the Prime Minister for the country, a Gujarati chose a non-Gujarati. Similarly, after winning the fight for democracy, when it came to choosing the Prime Minister, he chose a Gujarati instead of a Bihari.
At that time, there was a dicey situation and one had to choose either Chandrashekhar ji or Morarji Bhai. Of the few colleagues of Chandrashekhar ji, I was in good contact with Mohan Dharia ji and George Fernandez. And their words always reflected Chandrashekhar ji's conduct and ideas. Those used to be full of respect. There could be several others, but I was not in contact with them.
Chandrashekhar ji was ill for some time. I got a telephone call from him a few months before his death. I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time. He said - "Brother, when are you coming to Delhi?" I asked him what the matter was. He said - "I was wondering if you could come to my home. We could meet. I would have come if I were in good health." I said- "It is a great privilege that you thought of me and called me". So, I visited him. I was surprised that despite his poor health he talked to me for so long and tried to know about Gujarat. He tried to know whatever was going on in Gujarat at the government level. But then he talked about his ideas on the issues in the country and the ways to deal with it. He said -" you are young, you should deal with it". He became extremely sentimental. That was my last meeting with him. But even today, his indelible image, his clarity of thoughts, his commitment to the general public, devotion to democratic systems are visible in his every word.
This book on Chandrasekhar ji, written by Harivansh ji, will give us a chance to understand Chandrasekharji; but a lot of things in this book are opposite to what we have been told about the events of that era so far. Therefore, probably, some section might analyze that book with that perspective. And there is a fashion in our country. Some people have certain rights to analyze things.
Today even if a non-descript leader carries out 10-12 km Padyatra, TV channels will show it for 24 hours and the news will make headlines on the front page of the newspapers. But Chandrashekhar ji did Padyatra not in view of elections but keeping in mind the villages and poor farmers. But we failed to give him the honour that the nation should have given. This is really painful and unfortunate.
There could be a difference of opinion on his ideas even today. That is the special feature of a democracy. But, deliberately, with a planned strategy, Chandrasekhar ji's visit was described as a motive to collect donations, capitalists’ money and corruption etc. Such gross injustice lies in public life. I do not know whether Harivansh ji has taken it in his book or not but I have tried to study that matter closely.
There is one more thing in our nation. If the new generation is asked about the total number of Prime Ministers in our country so far, probably no one is aware of that. Who were the Prime Ministers? Very few people would know that. They were made to forget. In such a scenario Harivanshji, you have done a courageous job! I congratulate you. Everyone is a party to it but forgive me, there is one particular group that tried to create a negative image of Baba Saheb Ambedkar ji and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel - that they didn't understand anything etc.
If Lal Bahadur Shastri ji was alive today, that group would have presented him in a similar way. Lal Bahadur Shastri was saved because his martyrdom became supreme.
After that discussions had started about what Morarji Bhai drank, or about some Prime Minister who slept through the meetings or some Prime Minister who back stabbed. That is, such titles were given to everyone so that the world would forget them.
But with your blessings, I have decided to set up a modern museum in Delhi with all the former Prime Ministers. It is my request to the family members and friends of all the former Prime Ministers to compile and keep the things ready so that future generations are able to know about them. Chandrashekhar ji was our Prime Minister and those were his contributions or those were the specialties and contribution of Charan Singh ji or the contributions of Deve Gowda ji, I.K Gujral ji or Dr. Manmohan Singh ji. Everything should be detached from politics.
We need a new political culture within the country and we are trying to do the same. Chandrashekhar ji can inspire people even today if we present him in the right perspective before the people. Even today, with his thoughts, the minds of the youngsters can be enriched with democratic values. There will be no need to adopt an undemocratic way.
I remember clearly when he had to resign from the Prime Minister’s post, one IB's policeman created a flutter in Delhi. The world noted that a government could fall due to a policeman.
That day I was in Nagpur. There was a programme of Atal ji and Advani ji. But they were supposed to reach later. I reached there early. I received a phone call from Chandrashekhar ji at my place there. He asked me - "where is Guruji?" I said - "his plane has not reached yet. Probably it would take an hour". He said - "I am waiting. I want to talk to him as soon as possible. Tell him that I have decided to resign. But I want to talk to him." At that time Atal ji was to come to Nagpur and I had reached there to check the arrangements. But Chandrashekhar ji was desperate to talk to him, whom he called Guruji, before his final decision.
He had many such characteristics. We are commemorating him once again in the same place where he had spent 40 years of his life as an MP for the welfare of the nation and for the welfare of the oppressed, deprived classes and the poor. Seeking inspiration from him, if we could do something for the common man of the country, it would be a tribute to him in the true sense.
Once again, congratulating Harivanshji and the family members, I end my speech.