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Morarji Desai

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Title: Morarji Desai  
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Subject: Charan Singh, Surat (Lok Sabha constituency), Jagjivan Ram, Vallabhbhai Patel, Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Collection: 1896 Births, 1995 Deaths, 2Nd Lok Sabha Members, 3Rd Lok Sabha Members, 4Th Lok Sabha Members, 5Th Lok Sabha Members, 6Th Lok Sabha Members, Desai Administration, Gandhians, Gujarati People, Indian Anti–nuclear Weapons Activists, Indian Anti-War Activists, Indian Hindus, Indian Independence Activists from Gujarat, Indian National Congress (Organisation) Politicians, Indian National Congress Politicians, Indians Imprisoned During the Emergency, Janata Party Politicians, Lok Sabha Members from Gujarat, People from Valsad District, Prime Ministers of India, Recipients of the Bharat Ratna, Recipients of the Nishan-E-Pakistan
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Morarji Desai

Morarji Desai
Prime Minister of India
In office
24 March 1977 – 28 July 1979
President Basappa Danappa Jatti (Acting)
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Preceded by Indira Gandhi
Succeeded by Charan Singh
Minister of Home Affairs
In office
1 July 1978 – 28 July 1979
Preceded by Charan Singh
Succeeded by Yashwantrao Chavan
2nd Deputy Prime Minister of India
In office
13 March 1967 – 16 July 1969
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Preceded by Vallabhbhai Patel
Succeeded by Charan Singh
Jagjivan Ram
Minister of Finance
In office
13 March 1967 – 16 July 1969
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Preceded by Sachindra Chaudhuri
Succeeded by Indira Gandhi
In office
13 March 1958 – 29 August 1963
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Preceded by Jawaharlal Nehru
Succeeded by Tiruvellore Thattai Krishnamachari
Personal details
Born (1896-02-29)29 February 1896
Bhadeli, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died 10 April 1995(1995-04-10) (aged 99)
New Delhi, Delhi, India
Political party Janata Dal (1988–1995)
Other political
Indian National Congress (Before 1969)
Indian National Congress-Organisation (1969–1977)
Janata Party (1977–1988)
Spouse(s) Gujraben
Alma mater Wilson College
Profession Civil servant
Religion Hinduism

Morarji Desai (29 February 1896 – 10 April 1995) was a notable Indian independence activist and the Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979. He was also the first Prime Minister to head India's first non-Congress Government. He held many important posts in the Government of India such as: Chief Minister of Bombay State, Home Minister, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. At foreign fronts, Desai holds international fame for his peace activism and made notable efforts to initiate peace between two-rival South Asian states, Pakistan and India. After India's first nuclear explosion in 1974, Desai helped restore friendly relations with China and Pakistan, and vowed to avoid armed conflict such as Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Domestically, he played a crucial role in the Indian nuclear program after it was targeted by major nuclear powers after conducting a surprise test in 1974. Morarji Desai closed down much of India's premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), and reduced its budget and operations. Desai was the only Indian national to be conferred with Pakistan's highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, which was conferred on him by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 in a colorful ceremony. Later, his policies promoted social, health and administrative reforms in the country.


  • Early life 1
  • In government 2
  • Prime Minister of India (1977-79) 3
    • Feud with R&AW 3.1
    • Retirement and death 3.2
  • Social service 4
  • Personal life and family 5
    • Advocate of urine therapy 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Morarji Desai was born at Bhadeli village, Bulsar district in the Bombay Presidency (now in Gujarat) on 29 February 1896, the oldest of eight children. His father was a school teacher.[1] Desai underwent his primary schooling in Saurashtra The Kundla School, Savarkundla now called J.V. Modi school and later joined Bai Ava Bai High School, Valsad. After graduating from Wilson College, Mumbai, he joined the civil service in Gujarat. Desai resigned as deputy collector of Godhra in May 1930 after being found guilty of going soft on Hindus during the riots of 1927-28 there.[2] Desai then joined the freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi and joined the civil disobedience movement against British rule in India. He spent many years in jail during the freedom struggle and owing to his sharp leadership skills and tough spirit, he became a favourite amongst freedom-fighters and an important leader of the Indian National Congress in Gujarat. When provincial elections were held in 1934 and 1937, Desai was elected and served as the Revenue Minister and Home Minister of the Bombay Presidency.

In government

Morarji Desai in 1937, as Congress Home Minister of Bombay Presidency

Before the independence of India, he became Bombay's Home Minister and later was elected as Chief Minister of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti led a movement for a Marathi-only speaking state of Maharashtra. A staunch nationalist himself, Morarji Desai was opposed to such movements, including the Mahagujarat Movement led by Indulal Yagnik demanding a new state of Gujarat. Desai proposed that the metropolitan Mumbai (as coined by earlier Koli inhabitants), be made into a union territory or a separate development region to suit its cosmopolitan nature, due to its long-settled citizens from diverse settings across various linguistic, cultural, and religious backgrounds spanning several generations. In opposition to his alleged Gandhian thoughts, Desai ordered police to fire on demonstrators of the Mumbai-unit of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti at Flora Fountain who had gathered there to demonstrate against government. The protesters were led by Senapati Bapat. Desai ordered firing which killed 105 protesters including an eleven-year-old girl during the incident. This escalated the issue and is believed to have forced the Federal Government to agree to two separate states based on language. After the formation of the present State of Maharashtra, Bombay, now Mumbai became its state capital. Flora Fountain was renamed "Hutatma Chowk" ("Martyrs' Square" in Marathi) to honour the 105 people killed in the firing. Later Desai moved to Delhi when he was inducted as Home Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Nehru.

As Home Minister, Desai outlawed any portrayals of indecency (which included "kissing" scenes) in films and theatrical productions. Being a staunch Gandhian, Desai was socially conservative, pro-business, and in favour of free enterprise reforms, as opposed to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's socialistic policies.

Rising in Congress leadership, as a fierce nationalistic and with anti-corruption leanings, Desai was at odds with Prime Minister Nehru and his allies, and with Nehru's age and health failing, he was considered as a possible contender for the position of Prime Minister. Outflanked in the leadership contest after Nehru's death in 1964 by the Nehruvian Lal Bahadur Shastri, Desai remained content to build support within the ranks.

In early 1966, the unexpected passing away of Prime Minister Nav Nirman movement of Gujarat.[3]

In 1975, Indira Gandhi was convicted of electoral fraud by the Allahbad High Court, after opponents alleged she had used government civil servants and equipment during the campaign for the 1971 General Elections.[4] During the subsequent Emergency rule in 1975–77, in a massive crackdown, Desai and other opposition leaders were jailed by the Indira Gandhi government.

The popular anti-corruption movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan and the anti-Emergency wave in 1977 led to the complete routing of the Congress party in Northern India, and a landslide victory for the opposition Janata alliance in the National elections held in March 1977. Morarji Desai was selected by the Janata alliance, later Janata Party as their parliamentary leader, and thus became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India.

Prime Minister of India (1977-79)

Morarji Desai (third from right, front row) with US President Jimmy Carter during his January 1978 visit to India.
Desai with Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu in Delhi in May 1978.
Desai and Carter in the Oval Office in June 1978.

After Indira Gandhi decided to lift The Emergency, general elections were held. Janata Party registered a landslide victory in the election and Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister. Desai worked to improve relations with neighbour and arch-rival Pakistan and restored normal relations with China, for the first time since the 1962 war. He communicated with Zia-ul-Haq and established friendly relations. Diplomatic relations were also re-established with China. His government undid many amendments made to the constitution during emergency and made it difficult for any future government to impose a national emergency. However, the Janata Party coalition, was full of personal and policy friction and thus failed to achieve much owing to continuous in-wrangling and much controversy. With no party in leadership of the coalition, rival groups vied to unseat Desai. Controversial trials of prominent Congress leaders, including Indira Gandhi over Emergency-era abuses worsened the fortunes of his administration.

Since India's first nuclear test in 1974, Desai kept India's nuclear reactors stating "they will never be used for atomic bombs, and I will see to it if I can help it".[5] In 1977, the Carter administration sold India, heavy water and uranium for its nuclear reactors but required American on-site inspection of nuclear materials. Desai declined, seeing the American stance as contradictory, in light of its own nuclear arsenal.[6]

Feud with R&AW

Morarji Desai had described the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India's external intelligence agency, as the praetorian guard of Indira Gandhi and had promised to stop all activities of the R&AW after becoming prime minister. He closed down much of the agency, and reduced its budget and operations. B. Raman, the former head of the Counter-Terrorism Division of R&AW and noted security analyst, reveals that, in an unguarded moment, Morarji Desai indiscreetly told Pakistan's Chief Martial Law Administrator General Zia ul-Haq that his government was well aware of Pakistan's nuclear development which prompted the Pakistani government in removing all spies from around its nuclear research facilities and thus finally being successful in its nuclear dream.[7]

Retirement and death

In 1979, Jan Sangh, and continued to be members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Jan Sangh's ideological parent.[8]

Morarji Desai campaigned for Janata Party in 1980 General Election as a senior politician but did not contest the election himself. , In retirement, he lived in Mumbai, and died at the age of 99. He had been honoured much in his last years as a freedom-fighter of his generation.

Morarji Desai was a strict follower of Mahatma Gandhi's principles and a moralist. He was a vegetarian "both by birth and by conviction."[9]

Social service

Morarji Desai was a Gandhian follower, social worker, institution builder and a great reformer. He was the Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith. Even during his term as the Prime Minister he used to visit and stay at Vidyapith during the month of October. He lived simply and used to write post cards himself even when he held the office of Prime Minister. Sardar Patel deputed him to conduct meetings of farmers in Kaira district which finally led to the establishment of the Amul Cooperative movement. During his rule, he withdrew intervention in Public Distribution System and rationing shops were literally lost due to cheap sugar and oil available in the market.

Personal life and family

Morarji Desai married Gujraben in 1911.[10] He is survived by his son Kanti Desai, and grandsons Jagdeep and Bharat Desai. The only one to hold any political ambition is Madhukeshwar Desai, one of his great grand sons, son of Jagdeep Desai,[11] who has taken it upon himself to revive the legacy of his illustrious great grandfather.[12] Madhukeshwar Desai is the National Vice-President of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the BJP.[13]

Vishaal Desai, son of Bharat Desai, is a writer and filmmaker [14] who graduated from The London Film School in 2009.[15][16]

Advocate of urine therapy

In 1978, Prime Minister Morarji Desai, a longtime practitioner of "urine therapy," spoke to Dan Rather on 60 Minutes about the benefits of drinking urine.[17][18]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ajay Umat & Harit Mehta (10 Jun 2013). "Can Narendra Modi follow in Morarji Desai's footsteps?". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  3. ^ Krishna, Ananth V. (2011). India Since Independence: Making Sense Of Indian Politics. Pearson Education India. p. 117.  
  4. ^ "Indira Gandhi convicted of election fraud — This Day in History — 6/12/1975". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  5. ^ "The World: Morarji Desai: The Ascetic Activist". Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  6. ^ "Nation: Jimmy's Journey: Mostly Pluses". Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane" by B. Raman
  8. ^ "In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State", By Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne H. Rudolph, University of Chicago Press, 1987. pp 457–459.
  9. ^ Shri Morarji Desai, In my view, 1966, pp. 234–235.
  10. ^ Dubey, Scharada (2009). Movers and Shakers Prime Minister of India. Westland. p. Morarji Desai Section Page 1. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  11. ^ Khanna, Summit (11 April 2010). "Morarji's 3G scion to enter politics".  
  12. ^ Yagnik, Bharat (11 April 2010). "Great-grandson to revive Morarjis legacy in state".  
  13. ^ "Morarji Desai's great grandson Madhukeshwar joins BJP's youth wing as vice-president". The Economic Times. 30 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "A lightly carried legacy". The Afternoon. 
  15. ^ "Ready to go". The Afternoon. 
  16. ^ "Yes we Cannes". Mid Day. 
  17. ^ Chowdhury, Prasenjit (27 July 2009). "Curative Elixir: Waters Of India".  
  18. ^ Tietze, Harald (1996). Urine the Holy Water. p. 16.  

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
Political offices
Preceded by
Jawaharlal Nehru
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Tiruvellore Thattai Krishnamachari
Preceded by
Vallabhbhai Patel
Deputy Prime Minister of India
Succeeded by
Charan Singh
Succeeded by
Jagjivan Ram
Preceded by
Sachindra Chaudhuri
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Indira Gandhi
Preceded by
Indira Gandhi
Prime Minister of India
Succeeded by
Charan Singh
Chairperson of the Planning Commission
Preceded by
Charan Singh
Minister of Home Affairs
Succeeded by
Yashwantrao Chavan
Preceded by
B. G. Kher
Chief Minister of Bombay State
Succeeded by
Yashwantrao Chavan
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