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For other people named Charan Singh, see Charan Singh (disambiguation).

Chaudhary Charan Singh (23 December 1902 – 29 May 1987) was the Fifth Prime Minister of the Republic of India, serving from 28 July 1979 until 14 January 1980.

Charan Singh was born in a small peasant family (tenants to the local Zamindari of Kuchesar) in 1902 in village Noorpur of Hapur District in Uttar Pradesh Charan Singh entered politics as part of Independence Movement motivated by Mohandas Gandhi. He was active from 1931 in the Ghaziabad District Arya Samaj as well as the Meerut District Indian National Congress for which he was jailed twice by the British. Before independence, as part of the 1937 United Provinces Assembly, he took deep interest in the state of laws that were detrimental to the village economy and he slowly built his ideological and practical stand against the exploitation of tillers of the land by landlords.

He became particularly notable in Uttar Pradesh since the 1950s for drafting and ensuring the passage of what were then the most revolutionary Land Reform laws in any state in India under the tutelage of the then Chief Minister Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant; first as Parliamentary Secretary and then as Revenue Minister responsible for Land Reforms. He became visible on the national stage from 1959 when he had the strength of conviction to publicly oppose the unquestioned leader and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's socialistic and collectivist land policies in the Nagpur Congress Session. Though his position in the faction ridden UP Congress was weakened, this was in a way the starting point of the middle peasant communities across castes (now named the OBC's) in North India looking up to him as their spokesperson and later as their unquestioned leader.

The leader of the Bharatiya Lok Dal, a major constituent of the Janata coalition, he was disappointed in his ambition to become Prime Minister in 1977 by Jayaprakash Narayan's choice of Morarji Desai, not to seek power for himself but to enable him implement his revolutionary economic programs in the interest of the rural economy. Unfortunately, few amongst his rural based part had the intellectual heft to fully comprehend his wide ranging agenda to remake Indian society and economy, and this weakness dogged him his entire career specially in Delhi. Urban intellectuals were mostly beholden to either the communist / socialist models, or were neo-liberal and capitalist and hence looked askance at his uniquely Indian solution.

During 1977 Lok Sabha Elections, the fragmented opposition united a few months before the elections under the Janata Party banner, for which Ch Charan Singh had been struggling almost single handedly since 1974 when the Congress rigged the state elections in Uttar Pradesh in their favor. It was because of efforts of Raj Narain he later became Prime Minister in the year 1979 though Raj Narain was Chairman of Janata Party-Secular and assured Charan Singh of elevating him as Prime Minister, the way he helped him to become Chief Minister in the year 1967 in Uttar Pradesh. However, he resigned after just 24 days in office since Indira Gandhi's Congress Party withdrew support to the government. Charan Singh said he resigned because he was not ready to be blackmailed into withdrawing Indira Gandhi's emergency related court cases.

Chaudhary Charan Singh's government did not face the Lok Sabha during his brief tenure as the Indian National Congress withdrew their support from his Government as he refused to agree to the terms of the Congress to protect Mrs Indira Gandhi and her associates from prosecution under the laws of the land. Charan Singh resigned and fresh elections were held six months later. He continued to lead the Lok Dal in opposition till his death in 1987.


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