Chandra Shekhar
8th Prime Minister of India
In office
10 November 1990 – 21 June 1991
PresidentR. Venkataraman
DeputyDevi Lal
Preceded byV. P. Singh
Succeeded byP. V. Narasimha Rao
President of the Janata Party
In office
1977 (1977)–1988 (1988)
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byAjit Singh
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
In office
1989 (1989)–2007 (2007)
Preceded byJagannath Chowdhary
Succeeded byNeeraj Shekhar
In office
1977 (1977)–1984 (1984)
Preceded byChandrika Prasad
Succeeded byJagannath Chowdhary
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
1962 (1962)–1977 (1977)
Personal details
Born(1927-04-17)17 April 1927
Ibrahimpatti, United Provinces, British India
(present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died8 July 2007(2007-07-08) (aged 80)
New Delhi, India
MonumentsJannayak Sthal
Political partySamajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya)
(1990 – 2007)
Other political
SpouseDuja Devi
Children2 sons (including Neeraj Shekhar)
Alma materAllahabad University

Chandra Shekhar (17 April 1927 – 8 July 2007), known as Jananayak, was an Indian politician who served as the 8th Prime Minister of India, between 10 November 1990 and 21 June 1991. He headed a minority government of a breakaway faction of the Janata Dal with outside support from the Indian National Congress.[1] He was the first Indian Prime Minister who had never held any prior government office.[2][3][4]

His government was formed with the fewest party MPs in the Lok Sabha.[5][6] His government could not pass the budget[7] at a crucial time when Moody's had downgraded India, after Shekhar's government was unable to pass the budget, global credit-rating agencies further downgraded India from investment grade, making it impossible to even get short-term loans, and in no position to give any commitment to reform, the World Bank and IMF stopped their assistance. Shekhar had to authorise mortgaging of gold to avoid default of payment, and this action came in for particular criticism, as it was done secretly in the midst of the election.[8][9][10] The 1991 Indian economic crisis and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi plunged his government into crisis. But according to Subramanian Swamy, finance minister Yashwant Sinha mortgaged gold reserves without informing the Commerce Ministry (which was headed by Swamy).[11] But granting the permission for US military planes to refuel in Indian airports during the Gulf War improved the Prime Minister's image with the West.[11][12]

Personal life

Early years and Education

Chandra Shekhar was born on 17 April 1927 in a Rajput (Clan:Solanki) family at Ibrahimpatti, a village in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. He came from a farming family.[13][14] He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (graduate) degree at Satish Chandra P.G. College. He attended Allahabad University, obtaining his master's degree in political science in 1950.[15] He was known as a firebrand in student politics and started his political career with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. After completing his graduation, he became active in socialist politics.[16][17]


Chandra Shekhar married Duja Devi.[18] Duja Devi Degree College, a college founded in 1999 in Ballia district, Uttar Pradesh is named after her.[19]

He had two sons with her, Pankaj Shekhar Singh and Neeraj Shekhar.

Political life

Start of career

He joined the socialist movement and was elected secretary of the district Praja Socialist Party (PSP), Ballia. Within a year, he was elected joint secretary of the PSP's State unit in Uttar Pradesh. In 1955–56, he took over as general secretary of the party in the State. His career as a parliamentarian began with his election to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in 1962. He came under the spell of Acharya Narendra Dev, a fiery Socialist leader at the beginning of his political career. From 1962 to 1977, Shekhar was a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper house of the Parliament of India. He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh on 3 April 1962 as an independent candidate and completed his tenure on 2 April 1968. After this, he was re-elected twice to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh as an INC candidate from 3 April 1968 to 2 April 1974 and from 3 April 1974 to 2 April 1980. He resigned from Rajya Sabha on 2 March 1977 after he had been elected to Lok Sabha from Ballia. When the emergency was declared, even though he was a Congress party politician, he was arrested and sent to Patiala jail.[20]

Join Congress

Chandra Shekhar was a prominent leader of the socialists. He joined Congress in 1964. From 1962 to 1967, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha. He first entered the Lok Sabha in 1977. He came to be known as a 'young Turk' for his conviction and courage in the fight against the vested interests. The other 'young Turks', who formed the 'ginger group' in the Congress in the fight for egalitarian policies, included[21] leaders like Feroze Gandhi, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Mohan Dharia and Ram Dhan. As a member of the Congress Party, he vehemently criticised Indira Gandhi for her declaration of emergency in 1975. Chandrashekhar was arrested during the emergency and sent to prison along with other "young turks".[22]

Bharat Yatra (1983)

Chandra Shekhar went on a nationwide padayatra in 1983 from Kanyakumari to New Delhi,[23] to know the country better, which he claimed gave jitters to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.[24] He was called a "Young Turk".[25] He travelled nearly 4,260 km and nearly six months.[26][27] Chandra Shekhar started his Bharat Yatra from Kanyakumari on 6, the same day that his party, Janata Party was swept to power in Karnataka.[28] He finished his march at Rajghat in New Delhi on 25 June, the eighth anniversary of the declaration of the Emergency and also the day India won the Cricket World Cup.[29]

Chandra Shekhar established Bharat Yatra Centres in various parts of the country and set up a Bharat Yatra Trust in Bhondsi village in Haryana's Gurgaon to focus on rural development.[30][31] "Bharat Yatra Kendra" "Bhondsi ashram" was set up by the Chandra Shekhar in 1983 on 600 acre of panchayat land,[32] where godman Chandraswami and godman's associate Adnan Khashoggi (a Saudi Arabian billionaire international arms dealer embroiled in various scandals) use to visit him.[33][34][35] Before 2002, some of the government land of the ashram was taken back by the Government of Haryana on the instructions of then Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala (in office 1989-91 and 1999-2004).[36] In 2002, Supreme Court of India returned most of the land, barring some land, to the Bhondsi gram panchayat.[37]

In Janata Party

Chandrasekhar was jailed during the emergency and after, he became the President of Janata Party. In the parliamentary elections, Janata Party formed the government after the 1977 Indian general election headed by Morarji Desai. However the party lost the 1980 elections and were routed in 1984 Indian general election winning just 10 seats and Chandrasekhar losing his own Ballia seat to Jagannath Chowdhary.[38]

In May 1988, he resigned from Janata Party's President post when Lok Dal (A) was merged with Janata Party. Ajit Singh was made president of Janata Party.[39][40] George Fernandes, Biju Patnaik, Madhu Dandavate and Ramakrishna Hegde opposed this merger with Lok Dal (A) but Subramanian Swamy, Yashwant Sinha and Suryadeo Singh supported this move.[41]

In 1988, his party merged with other parties and formed the government under the leadership of V.P. Singh. Again his relationship with the coalition deteriorated and he formed another party, Janata Dal (Socialist) faction. With the support of Congress (I) headed by Rajiv Gandhi, he replaced V.P. Singh as the Prime Minister of India in November 1990. After 1977, he was elected to Lok Sabha in all the elections, except in 1984 when the Congress swept the polls after Indira Gandhi's assassination. The post of Prime Minister, which he thought he genuinely deserved, eluded him in 1989 when V. P. Singh pipped him at the post and was chosen to head the first coalition government at the centre.

Deposing V. P. Singh

Chandra Shekhar seized the moment and left the Janata Dal with several of his own supporters to form the Samajwadi Janata Party/Janata Dal (Socialist).[42] He won a confidence motion with the support of his 64 MPs and Rajiv Gandhi, the leader of the Opposition, and was sworn in as Prime Minister.[43] Eight Janata Dal MPs who voted for this motion were disqualified by the speaker Rabi Ray.[44][45]

In Parliament

Chandra Shekhar was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1962 to 1977, 1962 to 1968 as an independent supported by Socialist Party and later as member of Congress. He was jailed during the Emergency. After his release from jail in 1977, he joined Janata Party. He was elected to Lok Sabha from Ballia as a member of various incarnations of Janata Party in 1977, 1980, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2004. He lost that seat only once in that span, in 1984 election. After his death, his son Neeraj Shekhar won the ensuing by-poll in 2008.

Other Ministries

Minister of Information and Broadcasting (1990-1991)

Chandra Shekhar remained the Minister of Information and Broadcasting from 21 November 1990 to 21 June 1991 from Samajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya) and at that time he was himself the Prime Minister of India.[46] He was preceded by V. P. Singh and succeeded by P. V. Narasimha Rao to the position after he resigned from the position of Prime Minister due to loss of support of the alliances.[47]

Minister of Home Affairs (1990-1991)

Like the Minister of I and B, he remained Minister of Home Affairs for the time period of 7 months. He was himself the Prime Minister at that time and was preceded by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and succeeded by Shankarrao Chavan of Indian National Congress.[48]

Minister of Defence (1990-1991)

Along with Ministry of Home Affairs and Information and Broadcasting, he also handled Ministry of Defence under him as the Prime Minister of India. He was Minister of Defence for a very short time of 7 months and didn't present the Defence budget.[49] He was preceded by V. P. Singh and succeeded by P. V. Narasimha Rao as the Minister of Defence.[50]

Swearing-in ceremony of Shri Chandra Sekhar as the Prime Minister of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt

Prime Minister

Main article: Chandra Shekhar ministry

Mohammad Mosaddak Ali met with Prime Minister of India Chandra Shekhar Singh at Zia International Airport in Dhaka

Chandra Shekhar was prime minister for seven months, the second shortest period after that of Charan Singh. Subramanian Swamy was instrumental in forming this government with the support of Congress.[11] He also handled the portfolios of Defence and Home Affairs during this period. However, his government could not introduce a full budget because on 6 March 1991 Congress withdrew support during its formulation.[49] As a result, Chandra Shekhar resigned the office of the prime minister after 15 days on 21 June.[51]

Manmohan Singh was his Economic Advisor.[52] Subramanian Swamy along with Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia prepared a series of documents on economic liberalization but could not pass in parliament because Congress withdrew support.[53] Jairam Ramesh in his book To the Brink and Back: India’s 1991 Story has written that "Chandrashekhar's Cabinet Committee on Trade and Investment (CCTI) itself had on 11 March 1991 approved the new export strategy which contained the main elements of the 4 July package".[54]


After handing the premiership to P. V. Narasimha Rao, Chandra Shekar's political importance was reduced, although he was able to retain his seat in the Lok Sabha for many years afterward.


Priyaranjan Dasmunsi laying wreath at the mortal remains of the former Prime Minister, Shri Chandra Shekhar at the funeral pyre, in Delhi on 9 July 2007
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paying tribute to the mortal remains of the former Prime Minister Shri Chandra Shekhar, in New Delhi on 8 July 2007
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh paying homage to the mortal remains of the former Prime Minister, Shri Chandra Shekhar at the funeral pyre, in Delhi on 9 July 2007
The former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee paying tribute to the mortal remains of the former Prime Minister Shri Chandra Shekhar, in New Delhi on 8 July 2007
The carriage carrying the mortal remains of the former Prime Minister, Shri Chandra Shekhar making its way to Ekta Sthal for the state funeral, in Delhi on 9 July 2007

Chandra Shekhar died on 8 July 2007. He had been suffering with multiple myeloma for some time and had been in the Apollo Hospital at New Delhi since May. He was survived by two sons.[55]

Politicians from across the spectrum of Indian parties paid tribute to him[56] and the government of India declared seven days of state mourning.[55] He was cremated with full state honours on a traditional funeral pyre at Jannayak Sthal,[57] on the banks of the river Yamuna, on 10 July.[58] In August, his ashes were immersed in the river Siruvani.[59]

See also


  1. ^ "Rival of Singh Becomes India Premier". Sanjoy Hazarika. The New York Times. 10 November 1990. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Socialist Is Installed as India's Eleventh Prime Minister". Sanjoy Hazarika. The New York Times. 11 November 1990. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Denied Ticket, What's Next For Varun Gandhi? Mother Maneka Gandhi Says..." 22 February 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  4. ^ "Ephemeral Governments". TheDailyGuardian. 11 May 2024. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  5. ^ "Chandra Shekhar exploits fears, weaknesses of Congress(I) and Janata Dal(S)". Inderjit Badhwar,.Prabhu Chawla. India Today. 15 December 1990. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  6. ^ The Interim Man. The Economist. 1990. p. 42.
  7. ^ "1991, the untold story". Yashwant Sinha. The Hindu. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  8. ^ "How the economy found its feet". Deepak Nayar. The Hindu. 18 October 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  9. ^ "In fact: How govts pledged gold to pull economy back from the brink". Shaji Vikraman. The Indian Express. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  10. ^ Stuart Corbridge; John Harriss (28 May 2013). Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. Wiley. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-0-7456-6604-4. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Welcome to www.Janata". 16 December 2008. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  12. ^ Crossette, Barbara; Times, Special To the New York (13 November 1990). "Man in The News; India's Freewheeling Leader: Chandra Shekhar". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  13. ^ Chand, Attar (1991). The Long March: Profile of Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. Mittal. p. 59. ISBN 978-8-17099-272-1.
  14. ^ Ghai, Rajat (7 May 2014). "The office of Prime Minister: A largely north Indian upper-caste, Hindu affair". Business Standard India. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  15. ^ Dubey, Scharada (2009). Movers and Shakers Prime Minister of India. Westland. ISBN 9788189975548. Retrieved 7 June 2015.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ The rise of Socialist politics under Chandra Shekhar. In the Janata-coalition government that came to power in the aftermath of that election, Chandra Shekhar willingly gave up his claim to a Cabinet ministerial role that he was offered in favour of his fellow-Young Turk Mohan Dharia. That was just one instance of Chandra Shekhar’s deep commitment and loyalty towards his friends which is a recurring theme in the book. A rare occurrence in an opportunistic political world—Chandra Shekhar was also upright and forthright, not prone to hypocrisy like the commonplace politicians. Sometimes his straight talk stunned even seasoned politicians like Ram Manohar Lohia and Indira Gandhi.
  17. ^ "Buy Chandra Shekhar :The Last Icon of Ideological Politics Book at 32% off". Paytm Mall. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  18. ^ Chand, Attar (1991). The Long March: Profile of Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. Mittal. p. 13. ISBN 978-8-17099-272-1.
  19. ^ "About Us". Duja Devi Degree College Rajauli, Sahatwar, Ballia (U.P.). Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  20. ^ Movers and Shakers Prime Minister of India by Scharada Dubey – 2009 During the emergency, Chandra Shekhar was among the very few individuals from the ruling Congress party to be sent to jail.
  21. ^ "Chandra Shekhar – Samajwadi janta party". Archived from the original on 31 May 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  22. ^ Kapoor, Coomi (2015). The Emergency: A Personal History, Chapter 4. Penguin/Viking. ISBN 9789352141197.
  23. ^ "Shri Chandra Shekhar".
  24. ^ "The Parallels Between Congress's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' and Ex-PM Chandra Shekhar's 'Padayatra'".
  25. ^ "Rewind & Replay That other 'Bharat Yatri': The long march, but short run, of Chandra Shekhar". 9 September 2022.
  26. ^ "Photos by Tumari man on display at PMs' Museum in New Delhi". The Hindu. 3 May 2022.
  27. ^ "A rebel's journey". 26 July 2007.
  28. ^ "Janata Party chief Chandra Shekhar embarks on Bharat Yatra from Kanyakumari to New Delhi".
  29. ^ "Janata Party President Chandra Shekhar completes his 4,000 km Bharat Yatra".
  30. ^ "Bharat Yatra Trust: Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar expands his real estate empire".
  31. ^ "Remembering Chandrashekhar: soldier of the socialist cause". 10 July 2007.
  32. ^ "Bhondsi Ashram: Ecologists, foreigners, bonfires make for high farce".
  33. ^ 1996, "India Today", - Volume 21, Issues 7-12, p. 122.
  34. ^ "Creating a stir.", India Today, 28 February 1991.
  35. ^ "An escape to nature in the backyard of Gurgao.", Hindustan Times, 20 June 2017.
  36. ^ 2003, "Outlook.", Volume 43, Issues 47-51, p. 102.
  37. ^ "Name ashram after former PM Chandra Shekhar: Harsh Vardhan., Times of India, 17 June 2017.
  38. ^ "General Elections, 1984 - Constituency Wise Detailed Results" (PDF). Election Commission of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  39. ^ "Ajit Singh catapulted as Janata Party president". India Today. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  40. ^ Thakur, Janardhan (1 April 1988). "Is Chandra Shekhar trying to break up Janata Party?". The Illustrated Weekly of India. p. 874.
  41. ^ Thakur, Janardhan (1 April 1988). "Is Chandra Shekhar trying to break up Janata Party?". The Illustrated Weekly of India. pp. 878–879.
  42. ^ Dissidents Split Indian Prime Minister's Party. New York Times. (6 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  43. ^ Rival of Singh Becomes India Premier. New York Times. (10 November 1990). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  44. ^ Ray, Rabi (11 January 1991). "Decision of the Speaker under Tenth Schedule of the Constitution Disqualification of Members on Ground of Defection". Lok Sabha Digital Library. Archived from the original on 13 January 2022.
  45. ^ "Order, order! Disorder too!". Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  46. ^ "MIB".
  47. ^ "Who's Who | Ministry of Information and Broadcasting | Government of India". Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  48. ^ Minister of Home Affairs (India)
  49. ^ a b "Chandra Shekhar | prime minister of India". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  50. ^ Minister of Defence (India)
  51. ^ "Chandra Shekhar critical". The Hindu. 8 July 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  52. ^ "Manmohan Singh". Business Standard India. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  53. ^ BACKSTAGE: The Story behind India's High Growth Years. Rupa Publications. 2020. pp. 119–120. ISBN 978-93-5333-821-3.
  54. ^ To the Brink and Back: India's 1991 Story. Rupa Publications. 2015. ISBN 9788129137807.
  55. ^ a b "Chandra Shekhar dead". The Hindu. 9 July 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  56. ^ "Leaders mourn Chandra Shekhar's death". The Hindu. 9 July 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  57. ^ "Former PM Chandrashekhar's samadhi to be called Jannayak Sthal". The Times of India.
  58. ^ "Dignitaries bid adieu to Chandra Shekhar". The Hindu. 10 July 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  59. ^ "Chandra Shekhar's ashes immersed in Siruvani". The Hindu. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2014.

Further reading

Political offices Preceded byV. P. Singh Prime Minister of India 1990–91 Succeeded byP. V. Narasimha Rao Minister of Defence 1990–91 Succeeded bySharad Pawar Preceded byMufti Mohammad Sayeed Minister of Home Affairs 1990–91 Succeeded byShankarrao Chavan