Phase Three (1957-77)

ImagePhase Three (1957-77) deals with Advani’s evolution as a political leader in New Delhi. 'I was asked,' he writes, 'by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the main ideologue, guide and organiser of the Jana Sangh, to shift my base to Delhi and work as a political aide to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had just been elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. It is during these two decades that I gained advanced experience in political organisation, political strategy and leadership.' A particularly riveting section in this phase is the description of the imposition of the draconian Emergency Rule by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, in June 1975. Along with tens of thousands of pro-democracy leaders and activists belonging to Opposition parties, Advani spent nineteen months in jail. This phase describes, at considerable length, the sad saga of the Emergency and the thrilling tale of the triumph of democracy. It also demonstrates how the Congress leadership tried to destroy the basic structure of the Constitution, a wrongdoing which the party has never honestly debated or apologized for. ‘This is not surprising,’ Advani writes, ‘since the culture of dynastic rule in the Congress leaves no scope for introspection and self-correction on the many blunders committed by the Nehru-Gandhi family, for which India continues to pay a heavy price. Indeed, dynasticism is now a part of the “basic structure” of the Congress.’


I realised early on in my political life that politics in India is an occupation in which the fame, power, honour and recognition associated with its practitioners often have no relation to their inherent qualities. If a person enters politics, he is automatically seen as a neta (leader). Before long, he starts receiving the kind of media publicity that would be the envy of persons in other professions who are far more talented and have a markedly superior record of service to society. In addition, if the person has the capacity to be a rabble-rouser or a troublemaker, he can be sure of becoming more widely popular simply because notoriety, unfortunately, has its assured benefits in politics. While I readily admit that such persons do not constitute a majority among politicians, the negative image of the political class that they create often makes people wonder if there ever can be ideal persons in politics. This chapter is about one such ideal political leader. It is about a leader who detested fame, and actually felt embarrassed talking about himself. He practiced what he preached. His leadership was rooted in a holistic philosophical outlook that embraced Nature, Humanity, Nation and the Individual. He was a politician who was least fascinated by power, but still wielded enormous moral authority over tens of thousands of his followers. Together with them, he built the solid foundation of a party which, in its new avatar in a few decades, would emerge as a worthy alternative to the Congress.

This chapter is my tribute to my political guru, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.


As I have expressed earlier, two people—Rajpal Puri and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya—exerted the deepest influence on my public life. Rajpalji moulded my character in my teens, an impressionable age when ideas and ideals, once engraved on the mind, are not easily erasable. He was the one who taught me patriotism and showed me the path of selfless service to the nation. The fact that I worked with him in Karachi in the tumultuous years preceding India’s Partition added to the emotional content of his influence on me. The land where I played, studied and roamed about was on the verge of having a new and unfamiliar name: Pakistan. It was at this cataclysmic juncture that Rajpalji came into my life, giving it the proper orientation of patriotism and idealism, and intensifying my passion to serve my Motherland. In many ways, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s influence on me was, both intellectually and emotionally, a continuation of what I had received from Rajpalji. It provided the right foundation to my life as a political activist.

Politics is the life-breath of a democracy. It is an important and necessary medium of serving the nation. However, politics can also be a pollutant. Unprincipled quest for power can be murky and confrontational, degrading both its practitioners and the society in which they operate. It frequently becomes the arena where political parties jettison the larger national interests for narrow and myopic considerations; ideals are sacrificed for the pursuit of individual ambitions; camaraderie is killed by conspiracies against one’s own colleagues; and high-sounding words about public good become a camouflage for fulfillment of private greed. True, these negative attributes of Indian politics were not as marked in the 1950s and ’60s as they are now.

The Jana Sangh had been formed to strengthen India’s democratic system by presenting itself before the people as a superior alternative to the Congress Party. However, both Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, its founder, and Deendayalji, who was its chief ideologue and organiser, were very clear that the pursuit of power by any means was not to be our objective. The new party had to be a party with a difference. And the difference had to manifest itself not only in its ideology and policies, but also in the conduct of its activists and leaders. Deendayalji was well aware of the possibility of the Jana Sangh falling prey to the emerging political culture in India. Therefore, with an audacity and determination rarely seen in the post-Independence era, he set about building the new party on a completely new footing of discipline and dedication, ideology and idealism. I deem it my good fortune that I began my own political life at the feet of this ideal leader.


Deendayalji was born on 25 September 1916 in a modest family in a village near Mathura. Fate brought many tragedies, bereavements and hardships to him, both in his early and later years. Braving the odds, he passed the intermediate board examination with distinction from Birla College in Pilani, BA from Kanpur, and MA from Agra. But he was not inclined to take up a job and raise a family. Having come under the spell of the RSS, which he joined in 1937, he decided to devote his entire life to the Sangh as a pracharak. In a remarkable letter to his uncle in 1942, he wrote: God has blessed our family with some means. Can we not offer at least one of our members for the service of the nation? Having provided me with education, moral instruction and all sorts of qualifications, can you not turn me over to the Samaj (society), to which we owe so much? This will hardly be any kind of sacrifice, it will rather be an investment. It is like providing the farm of the Samaj with manure. We are nowadays interested only in reaping the harvest and have forgotten to provide the field with manure. There is thus the danger of our land becoming barren and unproductive. Can we not forgo a few worthless ambitions for the protection and benefit of a Samaj and a faith, for which Rama suffered exile, Krishna bore innumerable hardships, Rana Pratap wandered about from forest to forest, Shivaji staked his all, and Guru Govind Singh allowed his little sons to be buried alive?

If this letter gives a glimpse of his early resolve to devote his life to the service of the Motherland, the quintessentially moral nature of his personality is borne out by an incident narrated by Nanaji Deshmukh, who was his roommate during his MA years in Agra and later became an important leader of the Jana Sangh.

One morning we both went to the market and bought vegetables worth two paise. We returned and had almost reached home when Deendayalji suddenly stopped. His hand was in his pocket and he said, ‘Nana, there has been a mistake.’ When I asked him, he replied, ‘I had four paise in my pocket, and one of them was a bad coin. I have given that bad coin to the old woman selling vegetables. What would she say? Come, let us go back and give her a good coin.’ A sense of guilt could be seen on his face. We returned to the vegetable-seller and told her what happened. She said to him, ‘Who will find out your bad coin? Go along, whatever you have given is ok.’ But Deendayalji would not listen. He searched in the old woman’s heap of coins and found out the bad paisa. Only after he had given her a good one did a look of relief and satisfaction light up his face. The old woman’s eyes became moist and she said, ‘Son, you are a good boy. May God bless you.’


When the Jana Sangh was formed in October 1951, Deendayalji was one of the first batch of pracharaks that Shri Guruji deputed to assist Dr Mookerjee in building the new party. At the party’s first national conference in Kanpur in January 1953, Dr Mookerjee made him the party’s all-India General Secretary. Indeed, he was so impressed with this thirty-seven-year-old trusted lieutenant that he remarked, ‘If I could get two or three more Deendayals, I will change the entire political map of India.’ Tragically, destiny snatched away Dr Mookerjee within a few months and the party was robbed of a towering leader. All its other office-bearers were young and inexperienced. This prompted quite a few political pundits to write-off the Jana Sangh. In that hour of gloom and despair, Deendayalji assumed the reins of leadership and, after fifteen years of untiring efforts, brought the party to a level where a new set of political pundits began to see it as a distinct alternative to the Congress. Although the Jana Sangh had a succession of Presidents between 1953 and 1967, as its constitution stipulated that the President’s tenure could be of only one year, everybody knew that Deendayalji, its General Secretary in charge of the organisation, was the mind, heart and soul of the party. As a matter of fact, he was more than the organisational head of the party. He was its philosopher, guide and motivator all rolled into one.

It was Deendayalji’s conscious choice not to become the party President and, instead, remain in relative anonymity to build the party, patiently and meticulously. He travelled across the country, training thousands of young men and women with his motivational lectures, encouraging them to live a life of struggle and sacrifice in service of the nation, grooming new leaders, and giving the right guidance to the fledgling party on a wide variety of political, economic and social issues that dominated the national scene. Deendayalji loved to interact with people of all categories and of diverse ideological inclinations, giving them a patient hearing and also communicating his own thoughts to them. Thus, he soon had admirers all across the political spectrum.

In view of Deendayalji’s track record of service to the party and his growing stature in national politics, his colleagues at the Central level as well as the state units of the party would, almost every year, urge him to become the party chief. But he would politely decline each time. Such was the level of his natural inclination for self-effacement that he was uncomfortable carrying the designation of presidentship of the party; attachment to any symbol of power was out of sync with his personality.


It is only towards the end of 1967, when Balraj Madhok’s presidency the previous year had created serious destabilising problems for the party, that Deendayalji could no longer resist accepting the call from colleagues all over the country. Accordingly, he was elected the party President at its plenary session in Calicut in Kerala in December 1967. About this, Shri Guruji later wrote: ‘He really never wanted this high honour, nor did I wish to burden him with it. But circumstances so contrived that I had to ask him to accept the presidentship. He obeyed like a true swayamsevak that he was.’ The Calicut session was an unforgettable landmark in the history of the Jana Sangh, generating a new wave of self-confidence and hope among members and sympathisers of the party, and heralding a new possibility of change in the Congress-dominated politics in India. I regard his Presidential speech in Calicut as one of the most significant documents in Independent India’s political history.

The decade of the 1960s saw a major upsurge in mass protests in various parts of the country. This was due to the Congress governments’ failure to fulfil people’s legitimate expectations. There was a minority view within the Jana Sangh that the party should not get associated with agitational politics. Deendayalji refuted this view in his Presidential speech by saying, ‘People’s agitations are natural and necessary in a rapidly changing social system. As a matter of fact, they are a manifestation of a new awareness in society.… Hence, we have to go along with them and provide leadership to them. Those who want to perpetuate the status quo in the political, economic and social fields, are fearful of people’s agitations. I am afraid we cannot cooperate with them. They want to stop the wheel of time, they want to halt India’s pre-destined march, which is not possible.’

In his inspirational address, Deendayalji gave another proof of his forward-looking vision. ‘We are energised by the glory of India’s past, but we do not regard it as the pinnacle of our national life. We have a realistic understanding of the present, but we are not tied to the present. Our eyes are entranced by the golden dreams about India’s future, but we are not given to sleep and sloth; we are karmayogis who are determined to translate those dreams into reality. We are worshippers of India’s timeless past, dynamic present and eternal future. Confident of victory, let us pledge to endeavour in this direction.’


Inscrutable are the ways of the Almighty. Just when the Jana Sangh had ascended one peak of glory, and was all set to scale further summits of success in the years to come, tragedy struck. The cruel hand of destiny took away Deendayalji’s life within two months of his becoming the party President. He was murdered by unknown assailants while travelling in a night-train from Lucknow to Patna on 11 February 1968. His body was found near the tracks at Mughal Sarai railway station.

I went numb with shock hearing the tragic news. Rarely in my life have I been shaken so completely as I was on that day. Indeed, the entire nation was shell-shocked. Till date, his murder has remained an unsolved mystery, although outwardly it appeared to have been a case of ordinary crime. The government accepted the demand of a group of MPs belonging to different political parties for a judicial enquiry, which was headed by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud. (He later became the Chief Justice of India.) The report he submitted, in which he said that he found no political angle to the murder and that it was a case of ordinary crime, satisfied no one. All of us in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh found ourselves suddenly pushed under a pall of gloom. It was the second calamity to have struck our young party in less than fifteen years. The first was the death of Dr Mookerjee, founder of the Jana Sangh, in 1953, under equally mysterious circumstances while he was under arrest in Srinagar.

Rail journey was almost an inseparable part of Deendayalji’s political life. A leader who led the life of an ascetic, he mostly travelled by passenger train, and rarely by air. ‘This gives me two advantages,’ he would say. ‘Firstly, it gives me an opportunity to meet common people. Secondly, it gives me time to read and write.’ He travelled light, carrying with him a small suitcase with a couple of sets of clothes, bedding and a bag full of books, notebooks and letters. The last was always the heaviest item in his luggage!

Years later, at the founding session of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Mumbai in 1980, Atalji would recall the loss of Dr Mookerjee and Deendayalji in his own inimitable style. Reminding workers of the newly born party of the Herculean task that lay in front of them, he said, ‘Dr Mookerjee and Pandit Deendayalji have been our tallest leaders. One died in prison, and the other breathed his last on a train. Our entire political journey has been so full of hardships and sacrifices that it can be summed up as—Ek pair rail mein, ek pair jail mein (one foot in the train and the other in prison). But we remain undeterred. We have decided that we shall rebuild the party on the basis of three points of action: sangathan (organisation), sangharsh (struggle) and samrachana (constructive social service).’ Who could have any motive in killing an ajatashatru (a person without enemies) like Deendayalji? I asked myself, after recovering from the initial shock. I haven’t found an answer to the question yet. My only surmise is that: It was a crime not so much against an individual as against the nation, since Deendayalji embodied the best of the Indian tradition in politics and was by far the most promising political leader towards the end of the 1960s. And at the time of his death, he was not even fifty-two years old!


Deendayalji’s personality was a rare combination of commitment, clarity and pragmatism. I recall an incident that took place at the Calicut session of the Jana Sangh. An issue that caused a heated debate was whether the Jana Sangh should have joined hands with the CPI to form the SVD governments in Bihar and Punjab in 1967. Several delegates argued that it was wrong on the part of the Jana Sangh to have allied with the CPI. In particular, Vishwanathan, a Tamilian whose family had settled in Punjab, delivered a powerful speech criticising Deendayalji’s line. He was a compelling public speaker of those days. He said, ‘Let not the Jana Sangh delude itself that by cohabiting with the communists, we will be able to change them.’ He then tried to drive home his point with a vivid metaphor: ‘Kharbooja chakkoo par gire ya chakkoo kharbooje par, katega to kharbooja hi.’ (Whether the melon falls on the knife or the knife falls on the melon, it is the melon that gets cut.)

Deendayalji’s speech that day at the end of the debate was full of practical wisdom, and has served as a beacon of light for the party till today. He said, ‘It is an irony of the country’s political situation that while untouchability in the social field is considered to be evil, it is sometimes extolled as a virtue in the political field. If a party does not wish to practise untouchability towards its rivals in the political establishment, it is supposed to be doing something wrong. We, in the Jana Sangh, certainly do not agree with the communists’ strategy, tactics and their political culture. But that does not justify an attitude of untouchability towards them. If they are willing to work with us on the basis of issues, or as part of a government committed to an agreed programme, I see nothing wrong in it…. These (SVD) governments are a step towards ending political untouchability. The spirit of accommodation shown by all parties, despite their sharp differences, is a good omen for democracy.’

This sage advice by Deendayalji would later guide our party both in our fight against the Emergency rule (1975–77) and also in the post-Emergency period. It was on this basis that the BJP decided, in 1989, to lend outside support to V.P. Singh’s government, which also received support from the communists. In fact, it has been the guiding principle in the various strategic alliances adopted by the Jana Sangh and the BJP in later years.


Another example of Deendayalji’s creative and non-doctrinaire approach is the following important joint statement for the Indo-Pak confederation that he signed, on 12 April 1964, with Dr Lohia. They were both good friends despite differences on certain ideological issues. Their friendship became stronger after the Chinese aggression of 1962, when Dr Lohia endorsed the Jana Sangh’s demand for India to produce its own nuclear weapon. Their joint statement said:

“Large-scale riots in East Pakistan have compelled over two lakh Hindus and other minorities to come over to India. Indians naturally feel incensed by the happenings in East Bengal. To bring the situation under control and to prescribe the right remedy for the situation it is essential that the malady be properly diagnosed. And even in this state of mental agony, the basic values of our national life must never be forgotten. It is our firm conviction that guaranteeing the protection of the life and property of Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan is the responsibility of the Government of India. To take a nice legalistic view about the matter that Hindus in Pakistan are Pakistani nationals would be dangerous and can only result in killings and reprisals in the two countries, in greater or lesser measure. When the Government of India fails to fulfill this obligation towards the minorities in Pakistan, the people understandably become indignant. Our appeal to the people is that this indignation should be directed against the Government and should in no case be given vent to against the Indian Muslims. If the latter thing happens, it only provides the Government with a cloak to cover its own inertia and failure, and an opportunity to malign the people and repress them. So far as the Indian Muslims are concerned, it is our definite view that, like all other citizens, their life and property must be protected in all circumstances. No incident and no logic can justify any compromise with truth in this regard. A state, which cannot guarantee the right of living to its citizens, and citizens who cannot assure safety of their neighbours, would belong to the barbaric age. Freedom and security to every citizen irrespective of his faith has indeed been India’s sacred tradition. We would like to reassure every Indian Muslim in this regard and would wish this message to reach every Hindu home that it is their civic and national duty to ensure the fulfillment of this assurance.

“We hold that the existence of India and Pakistan as two separate entities is an artificial situation. The estrangement of relations between the two Governments is the result of lop-sided attitudes and the tendency to indulge in piecemeal talks. Let the dialogue carried on by the two Governments be candid and not just piecemeal. It is out of such frank talk that solutions of various problems can emerge, goodwill created and a beginning made towards the formation of some sort of Indo-Pak Confederation.”

The idea of an Indo-Pak Confederation was born out of an intensive discussion between Deendayalji and Dr Lohia. It had its origin in the latter’s concern that the Jana Sangh’s and RSS’s belief in the concept of ‘Akhand Bharat’ (India Undivided) put Muslims in Pakistan at unease and posed a hurdle in the progress of Indo-Pak relations. Dr Lohia told Deendayalji: ‘Many Pakistanis believe that if the Jana Sangh came to power in New Delhi, it would forcibly reunify Pakistan with India.’ Deendayalji replied: ‘We have no such intentions. And we are willing to put to rest Pakistani people’s concerns on this score.’

This dialogue, and its outcome, is one of the finest examples in India’s political history of cooperation and consensus-building between two leaders with divergent ideologies, but common commitment to national interest. In later years, I have often approvingly reiterated the concept of an Indo-Pak Confederation by referring to the joint statement of these two great leaders.

When the Arab-Israel war broke out and almost everybody in the Jana Sangh was pro-Israeli, Deendayalji issued a word of caution: ‘We should not become blindly pro-Israeli just because the Congress is blindly pro-Arab. We should not view the world as if it were peopled by angels and devils. We must judge every issue on its own merit.’

The same principled flexibility, the same readiness to revise one’s previous views on a subject in the larger interests of the nation was also evident in his approach to the issue of language. Deendayalji, like most leaders of the Jana Sangh those days, was a strong proponent of Hindi. But when the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in the mid-1960s took a virulent turn, and some of its influential leaders started to threaten the state’s secession from the Indian Union, he agreed to the continuation of according official language status to English. He was criticised for doing so, by several North Indian colleagues in the party, but he stood his ground. Also, in a clear departure from the Jana Sangh’s tradition, he got his Presidential speech at Calicut printed in both Hindi and English, on facing pages, in the same booklet. Earlier, the official version of the presidential speeches would invariably be printed first in Hindi, and only later in English.

Around the same time, another issue that was being hotly discussed in the media was whether the Civil Services examination should be conducted only in Hindi besides English, or in other Indian languages too. The debate had assumed a confrontational form of Hindi versus regional languages. When Deendayalji’s opinion was sought on this issue, he said, ‘Leave the question to be decided by the candidates themselves. Those who opt for service in any state of India, outside their own, will naturally choose Hindi. Others will choose their own regional language.’ The only time Deendayalji entered the electoral fray was in 1963, when he contested and lost a by-election to the Lok Sabha from Jaunpur in UP. In spite of the defeat, he proved to be a leader of unshakeable principles. An election in Jaunpur, and in many other constituencies in eastern UP, invariably used to be fought on caste lines, mainly between Rajputs and Brahmins. Since Deendayalji was born into a Brahmin family, the Congress fielded a Rajput candidate and conducted an aggressive campaign to woo Rajput votes. When some local Jana Sangh leaders wanted to play the Brahmin card, Deendayalji warned them: ‘If you try to win the election on caste lines, I shall immediately withdraw from the contest.’


I first met Deendayalji in Delhi sometime in late 1947. It was a very brief meeting. I came in closer contact with him only after 1948. My early interaction with him was during extremely difficult times of the ban on the RSS after Gandhiji’s assassination on 30 January 1948. I was a pracharak in Rajasthan at the time. After my release from prison, I had come to Delhi. Shri Guruji, the RSS Chief, was also in town. I went to meet him at the residence of Lala Hansraj on Barakhamba Road, where he was staying. It was here that I met Deendayalji, bespectacled, soft-spoken, and completely unassuming in his dhoti and kurta.

When I started interacting with him more closely in later years, what struck me was that Deendayalji was very creative in his thinking. The notion that conventional wisdom was necessarily right was alien to him, just as the rebuke of juniors for questioning the beliefs of seniors was abhorrent to him. He once asked me: ‘There is a quotation that says, “The younger generation these days has no respect for elders. They are not carrying forward the traditions of the past. They are getting corrupted. Things were so good when we were young.” Tell me whose quotation is it?’ I said it was Socrates. To which Deendayalji said, ‘So now you see that this complaint against the younger generation has been going on since the past 2,000 years. And it will continue in the future too.’ Deendayalji would regularly come to our house at Pandara Road and spend hours together in the balcony reading or writing. He was fluent in English but Hindi was his natural language of communication. I used to translate his speeches and statements in Hindi, into English. A powerful writer, Deendayalji had a flair for conveying motivational thoughts by invoking familiar idioms. For instance, he once wrote an article in a special issue of a Hindi magazine on the occasion of Navaratri festival, when it is common in many families to play the traditional Indian game of stakes. (Pandavas and Kauravas played it in the Mahabharata). It is especially popular among Vaishyas (the business community), who have to take risks and gamble in order to succeed in their profession. Titled ‘Dao lagaao zindagi pe’ (put a stake on your life), Deendayalji’s article, after giving a fascinating history of the dice game, exhorted the readers: ‘A monotonous life, lived without any purpose or direction, is not worth much. To achieve anything big in life, you should be prepared to risk your all and take a leap of faith for whatever they believed in.’ I always remember this advice of Deendayalji whenever there is risk involved in taking an important but necessary decision in politics.


No tribute to Deendayalji would be complete without introducing the philosophical dimension of his life to contemporary readers. He will be remembered not only as the principal architect of the Jana Sangh, but also as the author of a profoundly original political treatise, which has come to be known as ‘Integral Humanism’. India after Independence has produced few leaders who were also political philosophers. Deendayalji was one of the few, and the finest.

After the formation of the Jana Sangh in 1951, there was an intense urge to anchor it in a distinctive and comprehensive ideology of its own. Dr Mookerjee’s life at the helm of the party was too short, and too eventful, for him to undertake this exercise. After his demise, the need for a guiding ideology continued to hover in Deendayalji’s mind. It was a time when the world was witnessing a conflict between two rival ideologies—Capitalism and Communism. The debate had also dominated the political thinking in India after Independence, with various parties subscribing to either of the two theories with different degrees of rigidity.

Deendayalji felt that both Capitalism and Communism were flawed philosophies, which view the human being and society essentially from a partial, materialistic perspective. One considers man a mere selfi sh being hankering after money, having only one law, the law of fi erce competition, in essence the law of the jungle; whereas the other views him as a feeble lifeless cog in the whole scheme of things, regulated by rigid rules, and incapable of any good, unless directed. The centralisation of power, economic and political, is implied in both. They pit one section of society against the other, the individual against the collective, man against nature, etc. This is one of the root causes of all the poverty, injustice, strife and violence in the world. Both, therefore, result in dehumanisation of man. In contrast, according to Deendayalji, the Indian perspective of viewing human aspirations in a four-fold manner—dharma, artha, kama and moksha, and its well-conceived four-stage progression of individual’s life through brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa—promised the balanced development of both the individual and society. ‘The keynote of Bharatiya sanskriti (Indian ethos),’ Deendayalji noted, ‘is its integral approach to life.… Man, the highest creation of God, is losing his own identity. We must re-establish him in his rightful position, bring him the realisation of his greatness, reawaken his abilities and encourage him to exert for attaining divine heights of his latent personality.’

Deendayalji presented his thoughts for the first time at a four-day Chintan Shibir (camp for collective thinking) at Gwalior in 1964, in which some five hundred Jana Sangh activists participated. A fuller version of the same philosophy was presented at the party’s plenary meeting in Vijayawada in 1965. Shortly thereafter, he presented it in its final form in a series of four lectures in Bombay. The title ‘Integral Humanism’ was deliberately chosen by him to contrast it with the thesis of ‘Radical Humanism’ put forward by M.N. Roy, a renowned one-time communist leader. I was present both at Gwalior and Vijayawada, and was witness to a new persona of Deendayalji.

The great merit of ‘Integral Humanism’ lies in its successful attempt to deal with a problem that has defi ed so many political philosophers of our age: how to conceptualise a practical approach to achieve peace and harmony within man and society. Hence, rejecting the theory of class conflict (as in communism), it posits inter-dependence between various sections of society and working together for common welfare. Similarly, rejecting notions of any inherent contradiction between the individual and society (as in capitalism), it emphasises the essential concord between the two. ‘A flower is what it is because of its petals, and the worth of the petals lies in remaining with the flower and adding to its beauty.’ Deendayalji was anything but doctrinaire in his approach. Though a strong critic of imitating the western way of life, he accepts that ‘western principles are a product of a revolution in human thought and it is not proper to ignore them’. His critique of the western political and economic thought does not call for its total rejection; it only highlights its inadequacy. Referring to ‘nationalism, democracy, socialism, world peace and world unity’, which were the hotly debated ‘Big Ideas’ in India and elsewhere in the sixties, he says, ‘All these are good ideals. They reflect the higher aspirations of mankind.’ But the manner in which the West has voiced them shows that ‘each stands opposed to the rest in practice.’

To those who criticised Hinduism as an oppressive, change-resisting belief-system, Deendayalji gave a reply befitting a social revolutionary. For ‘Integral Humanism’ calls for rejection of all those customs (‘untouchability, caste discrimination, dowry, neglect of women’) that are symptoms of ‘ill-heath and degeneration’ of our society. It affirms the self-regenerative impulse of Indian society by saying: ‘We have taken due note of our ancient culture. But we are no archaeologists. We have no intention to become the custodians of a vast archaeological museum.’ Deendayalji’s espousal of Dharma Rajya (which does not connote theocracy but only a law-governed state and a duty-oriented citizenry) echoes Gandhiji’s concept of Ram Rajya. ‘Dharma sustains the nation. If dharma is destroyed, the nation perishes.’

Does Dharma Rajya negate democracy? Not at all. Deendayalji creatively expands the meaning of Lincoln’s famous words: ‘In the definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, of stands for independence, by stands for people’s rule, and for indicates dharma. Dharma Rajya encompasses all these concepts.’

A unique conceptual contribution of ‘Integral Humanism’ is that it resurrects, from the works of ancient Indian rishis (sages), two definitional traits of nationhood—called chiti, the nation’s soul, and virat, the power that energises the nation. ‘The ideals of the nation constitute its chiti, which is analogous to the soul of an individual. Chiti determines the direction in which the nation is to advance culturally. Whatever is in accordance with chiti is included in the national culture. On the strength of this chiti, a nation arises, strong and virile. It is this chiti that is demonstrated in the actions of every great man of a nation.’

‘Integral Humanism’ likens virat in the life of a nation to that of prana (life force) in the human body. ‘Just as prana infuses strength in various organs of the body, refreshes the intellect and keeps body and soul together; so also in a nation. With a strong virat alone can democracy succeed and the government be effective. Then the diversity of our nation does not prove an obstacle to our national unity. When the virat is awake, diversity does not lead to conflicts and people co-operate with each other like the various limbs of the human body or like the members of a family. We have to undertake the task of awakening our nation’s virat. Let us go forward in this task with a sense of pride for our heritage, with a realistic assessment of the present and a great ambition for the future. We wish neither to make this country a shadow of some distant past nor an imitation of Russia or America.’

Deendayalji concludes his treatise on a note of supreme self-confidence and unshakeable resolve. ‘With the support of Universal knowledge and our heritage, we shall create a Bharat which will excel all its past glories, and will enable every citizen in its fold to steadily progress in the development of his manifold latent possibilities and to achieve through a sense of unity with the entire creation, a state even higher than that of a complete human being; to become Narayan from nar (man). This is the external divine form of our culture. This is our message to humanity at a cross roads. May God give us strength to succeed in this mission.’

The Jana Sangh adopted ‘Integral Humanism’ as its guiding ideology at the party’s Vijayawada session in 1965. Similarly, the BJP, in its constitution, has enshrined it as the ‘basic philosophy of the Party’. Deendayalji’s basic impulse in developing his discourse was humanistic, and not political in the narrow sense of aiding a particular party. No wonder, its appeal transcends its political affi liation and resonates in the mind of every rightthinking person in the world.

The reasons for devoting so many pages to the life of a person that ended four decades ago are two-fold. Firstly, Deendayalji was, and still remains, a central figure in my political life. Secondly, I firmly believe that the India of today—and tomorrow—has as much of a need to know him and his philosophy as it did during his lifetime. ‘Integral Humanism’ may not have received the kind of attention that has been showered on various shades of Marxism and other western political theories in India. However, I have no doubt that serious and unbiased seekers of truth will find it illuminating and inspiring, and worthy of being placed alongside the works of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, with both of whom Deendayalji had so much in common.


Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since. Freedom with the passing of years transcended the mere freedom of my country and embraced freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel—above all, it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become the passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else.


Every age in history is characterised by one ‘Big Idea’ that shapes the destiny of nations by influencing what many scientists and political thinkers have termed as the ‘Collective Mind’ of the people. When that idea grips the minds and hearts of a large number of people, it becomes a motive force of history. Viewed from this perspective, it can be clearly seen that much of the movement of world history in the twentieth century was influenced by two inter-related big ideas: Freedom and Democracy.

Nation after subjugated nation struggled against colonial rule in search of freedom. Although most of these struggles for national liberation began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they fructified mainly in the twentieth century. Along with national Independence came another powerful aspiration: People’s Rule, as against the rule of a monarchy, a military dictator, a totalitarian communist party, or another kind of authoritarian regime. In some countries, this struggle for democracy was nearly as difficult, and as violently suppressed, as the campaign for national liberation. Future historians will record that, if the two World Wars were a blot on the twentieth century, the triumph of freedom and democracy was the glorious achievement of this age.

We, in India were fortunate that, unlike many of our neighbouring countries and elsewhere, we did not have to wage a separate battle for democracy after India gained Independence from British rule in 1947. Democracy came to independent India as naturally as secularism did, and the natural adoption of both these ideals, as shall be discussed later, was principally on account of India’s Hindu philosophy. Nevertheless, human history is replete with examples that no ideal, however exalted and deeprooted in a country’s cultural-spiritual being, is permanently immune to attack from individuals driven by egotism and blinded by lust for power. When such attacks are mounted, the targeted ideal does suffer a momentary eclipse. But in its very suffering, it inspires large masses of people to struggle for the eradication of resultant darkness. It is almost as if history deliberately creates the ordeal as an opportunity for the nation to learn the right lessons and thereby reinforce its commitment to that ideal. This is precisely what happened in India, in June 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought democracy under an eclipse by bringing India under Emergency Rule. Nineteen months later, the eclipse disappeared as the result of a glorious struggle launched by the people of India against the Congress party’s authoritarianism. If the Emergency was the darkest period in India’s post-Independence history, the righteous struggle for the restoration of democracy was undoubtedly the brightest. It so happened that I, along with tens of thousands of my countrymen, was both a victim of Emergency and a soldier in the Army of Democracy that won the battle against it.


One of the rare boons of my life in Bangalore jail was solitude, and the means to put it to good use. Apart from a well-stocked library and a quiet reading room, the jail premises had a badminton court and table tennis hall, where I played regularly. In fact, Jayant, who is now a regular and top-class table tennis player, first picked up a liking for this game when he, along with Kamla and Pratibha, came to visit me in the Bangalore jail. Since many of the fellow-prisoners were from Karnataka, I started learning Kannada and made considerable progress both in reading newspaper headlines and speaking basic sentences.† My favourite pastime, of course, was burying myself in books in the library. I recall reading, amongst many other books, William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a definitive and widely acclaimed account of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. It was this book that provided me with valuable inputs for a booklet I wrote, titled A Tale of Two Emergencies, as my contribution to the underground literature for use by pro-democracy activists through the Lok Sangharsh Samiti formed by JP. I had compared what Hitler had done in Germany to what the Congress government was doing in India.

When the Weimer Constitution was adopted in 1919, it was hailed as the ‘most liberal and democratic document of its kind the 20th century had seen’. Shirer described it as ‘mechanically well-nigh perfect, full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy.’ But the Weimer Constitution, like our own, had its Emergency provisions, incorporated into it in good faith by the founding fathers with the confidence they would be used only in the times of grave crises, such as war. In the essay, I wrote:

‘Every other day, Indira Gandhi and her cohorts keep asserting that whatever they have been doing these past months is ‘within the four corners of the Constitution’. The charge being leveled against them by the opposition and by the Western press that they have subverted democracy is therefore untenable, it is argued. The history of Nazi Germany conclusively shows that doing anything constitutionally is not necessarily the same thing as doing it in a democratic manner. Hitler always used to boast that he had done nothing illegal or unconstitutional. Indeed, he made a democratic constitution an instrument of dictatorship.’

Shirer has noted: ‘Though the Weimer Republic was destroyed, the Weimer Constitution was never formally abrogated by Hitler. Indeed, and ironically, Hitler based the legality of his rule on the despised republican Constitution.’ A vigorous Opposition, a free press and an independent judiciary are the three essential features of democracy. These are the institutional checks which a democratic polity possesses to restrain the executive from going the authoritarian way, but also the legislature from becoming the handmaid of an arbitrary tyrannical majority.… Hitler had no use for the opposition: nor has Indira Gandhi, who never tires of referring to opposition parties as ‘a minority seeking to subvert the wishes of the majority’.

Workers carrying on a campaign against the Emergency outside chose to distribute this pamphlet at a Commonwealth conference which was being held in New Delhi. The government was naturally upset about it. Some officials were actually sent to Bangalore to inquire from the state government and prison authorities whether this had emanated from our jail. It so happened that only a few days earlier, I, with a desire to learn typing, had requested the Jail Superintendent whether I could be permitted to get a typewriter from outside. He declined to do so. Therefore, when the officials from Delhi asked him about the pamphlet, he was able to tell them with a straight face that there was no way anyone from his jail could have written it.

But later the same Jail Superintendent and some other officers came to me and said, ‘As far as the inquiry from Delhi is concerned, we have said what we had to say and it has been wound up. But if the pamphlet has really been written here, can we have a copy of it? We would like to read it.’ I smiled, and gave them a copy. In fact, I wrote five pamphlets while in prison and all of them were published during the Emergency as underground literature. They were later included in my book A Prisoner’s Scrapbook.

It would infuriate me to read, in the newspapers and magazines that we got in prison, glowing accounts by the apologists of the Emergency about how the trains in India, infamous for running late, were now running on time, how agitations had come to an end and how there was ‘discipline’ all around. Refutation of this kind of rationalisation of authoritarianism was the subject matter of another of my underground pamphlet titled Anatomy of Fascism. ‘Indira Gandhi,’ I wrote, ‘never tires of branding her opponents as “fascists”. Apparently she thinks that by sheer repetition, people will come to believe her. But “fascism” has a precise meaning and connotation. Besides, there is historical experience of how “fascists” behave and what the purpose of “fascism” is. This should serve to show who are the real “fascists” in India—Indira Gandhi or her opponents.’ In this essay, I quoted from the famous educationist Maria Montessori: ‘Discipline must come through liberty. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered artifi cially silent as a mute, and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.’ Indira Gandhi’s talk of discipline was a smokescreen for suppression of democratic rights—shackling the judiciary and emasculating the Constitution.