Raj Narain: The Man Who Challenged Indira Gandhi

OV Digital Desk

Raj Narain (23 November 1917-31 December 1986) was an Indian freedom fighter and politician. In 1975, he won a famous case against Indira Gandhi, which got the Prime Minister disqualified and an emergency declared in India. In 1977, he beat Indira Gandhi in the general election.

Life and Career

Raj Narain was born on 23 November 1917, in UP, India. He completed his M.A. and L.L.B. from Banaras Hindu University. In 1934, he organized an adult school, a girls’ school, a study center, and a labor union. He became a member of the Congress Socialist Party in 1939, and a member of the National Committee of Students Federation from 1939-1944. As a student, he served as the president of the Banaras University Mandal Congress Committee and was a member of the District Congress Committee.

When the Quit India movement started in 1942, he led protests in and around the Varanasi district. His first three months were spent “underground,” then he was arrested on 28 September 1942, during the Quit India Movement, and jailed until 1945.

He joined the Socialist Party when India became independent and held many positions, including secretary of the UP Socialist Party, 1948-51. Acharya Narendra Deva and Rammanohar Lohia were very close to him. According to Lohia, “he’s a person who practices Gandhian values and has the heart of a Lion”. Lohia admired him and said,

If there were three or four people like him in India, dictatorship could never win out over democracy.

In 1952, he was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislature and served as the Leader of the Opposition until 1962. Narain opposed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s policies and practices and ran as a Samyukta Socialist Party candidate in the 1971 Lok Sabha election from Rai Bareli, In the 7 March election, Raj Narain lost by over a lakh vote to former PM Indira Gandhi. However, he refused to accept it. He accused Indira Gandhi of using state machinery for her win.

Narain complained to the Allahabad High Court after the polls, accusing Mrs. Gandhi of electoral malpractice. She was found guilty of misusing government machinery under section 123 (7) of the Rep. of People Act, 1951 on 12 June 1975. The court declared Ms. Gandhi could not be prime minister and she could not run for election for six years. She challenged the Allahabad High Court order in the Supreme Court. They granted the Allahabad High Court a conditional stay even though they were closed for vacation.

In 1975, when the Emergency was declared, protests erupted across the country and the streets were filled with people under Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan and Raj Narain. Narain was considered one of Indira Gandhi‘s biggest critics and adversaries, so when an Emergency was declared he was immediately arrested along with other opposition leaders like Jaya Prakash Narayan, Sardarji Desai, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Charan Singh, L. K. Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee & others, mostly in an undisclosed location.

In 1977, Indira Gandhi ended the state of emergency, dissolved the Lok Sabha, and organized fresh elections. To fight against Mrs. Gandhi’s Congress party, Narain formed the Janata alliance with other opposition parties. Rae Bareli was again represented by him. He beat Indira Gandhi by more than 50000 votes. Janata alliance won in North India too, getting the majority in parliament.

Later, he joined the Morarji Desai administration and became the Minister of Health and Family Welfare. Narain served as a minister for just over a year before he was asked to resign along with Charan Singh because they criticized the Janata government. He lost the 1980 Lok Sabha election to Kamlapati Tripathi, Varanasi. He died on 31 December 1986, in New Delhi, India.