The Politics of Power
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An Indian Political Life: Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1937 to 1961
Paul R Brass
At a time when attacks against politicians seem to have struck a chord with the people, it is worth scrutinising a politician's life to ascertain the appropriateness of that criticism. Based on the personal papers of former Prime Minister Charan Singh, An Indian Political Life by Paul R Brass comes at the right time. This is the first in a series of three volumes planned by Brass on Charan Singh, and deals with the early years of his political career (1937-61). The book is not about the Charan Singh that the country came to know later, but about the travails of an ambitious Congress politician at a time when leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Gobind Ballabh Pant, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and Lal Bahadur Shastri dominated Uttar Pradesh's politics.
Brass's earlier works have focused on the factional politics of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, and enable him to frame Charan Singh's story in a larger context. The book seeks to trace Singh's evolution as a spokesman of peasants, from the time he first pressed for 50 per cent reservation of government jobs for dependants of peasants or village people in 1939. It details his role in shaping and implementing three crucial legislations — the Zamindari Abolition Act of 1952, Consolidation of Holdings Act of 1953, and the Imposition of Ceilings on Land Holdings Act of 1960 — first as parliamentary secretary to Pant and later the Revenue Minister of the state. It is also a portrait of a political administrator from Meerut district, who became the chief minister of the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, provided a base for anti-Congress mobilisation in the mid-70s and then cut a deal with the Congress to become the Prime Minister of India.