Prof Paul Brass, renowned scholar of Indian politics and Professor Emeritus in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle-USA delivered the 12th edition of the Annual Shaheed Bhagat Singh Memorial Lecture organized by the Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh today. The theme of the lecture was ‘Prelude to Democracy’. The session was presided over by Professor Brar while Prof Ashutosh Kumar introduced Prof Brass’s work to the audience.
Prof Brass’s lecture focused on a specific period of Indian politics- 1969 to 1974- which was the time of Indira Gandhi ‘s rise in Indian Politics but before she consolidated all power under her. This was the time of the Punjab crisis, including the status of Chandigarh, as well as Indo-Pak war over Bangaldesh. While the latter helped bolster her power, the Supreme Court overturned her policies over bank nationalization and abolition of privy purses and the Congress did not have the standing either in Parliament and the state governments to carry out amendments to the Constitution.
The strongest opposition to Indira Gandhi’s agenda for constitutional amendment came from North India, particularly the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the principal opposition was Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Kisan Dal. Prof Brass etched out the political career of Charan Singh and his brand of farmer politics in this period as well as his various attempts to form a single oppositional front against the Congress. While he supported JP’s movement against corruption, he sought to work under the ambit of party politics.
The relationship between Charan Singh with the Congress on the one hand and all other anti-Congress forces including the various factions of the Socialist Party, The Jan Sangh, JP movement and the left parties illustrate the dynamics of Indian politics in the immediate period before the Emergency.
The lecture was well attended and was followed by a discussion.