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Narayan, Jaya Prakash


NARAYAN, JAYA PRAKASH (1902–1979), Indian political figure and nationalist leader A prominent socialist leader in the Indian nationalist movement against British rule and in postindependence politics, Jaya Prakash Narayan was known popularly as "J. P." and was often referred to as Lok Nayak, the "people's leader." Narayan was born in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) in 1902. He studied at Patna College in Bihar and married in 1920. He thereafter went to the United States for graduate studies in sociology, leaving his wife behind at one of Mahatma Gandhi's ashrams. In the United States, Narayan worked part time in grape fields, factories, and restaurants to pay for his education. He changed universities a few times until settling at the University of Wisconsin for a doctoral degree in sociology; there, his paper "Social Variation" was described as one of the best papers of the year. He was influenced by Karl Marx's Das Kapital, which inspired much of his socialist ideology. He had to cut short his doctoral studies and return to India in 1929 when his mother became seriously ill.

On his return, Narayan joined the Indian National Congress at Jawaharlal Nehru's invitation, becoming part of the freedom movement. He declared, however, that freedom was more than freedom from British rule, but freedom from poverty, hunger, disease, and ignorance. In 1934 he founded the Congress Socialist Party, a socialist wing of the Congress Party. He was arrested several times by the British during the nationalist movement, and he served several years in jail for his nationalist activities.

The Congress Socialist Party after independence became the Praja (People's) Socialist Party. In the first national general elections of 1952, his socialist party lost badly to the Congress Party. Nehru nevertheless invited Narayan to join his Cabinet, though he could not promise to fulfill Narayan's fourteen-point plan to reform the Constitution, the administration, the judicial system, redistribute land to the landless, nationalize banks, revive "Swadeshi" (home-produced goods only), and set up village cooperatives. Narayan therefore declined to join Nehru's Cabinet. In 1954 Narayan joined Vinobha Bhave's Sarvodaya Movement to redistribute land to the landless in India's villages. He was also active in India's trade union movement. Narayan in 1976 established the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights, an organization that sought to draw people from various political parties together for the defense of civil liberties and human rights.

Narayan achieved national prominence during the Congress Party rule of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1974 India faced a severe economic crisis, with high inflation and unemployment and a shortage of basic necessities. Narayan was alleged by the Congress government to have called upon the armed forces to overthrow Indira Gandhi. A year later, in June 1975, following Indira Gandhi's conviction by the Allahabad High Court for the misuse of government vehicles in her election campaign, the prime minister declared a state of "National Emergency." Fundamental rights were suspended. Under that "National Emergency," Narayan was arrested and sent to prison.

In March 1977 the emergency was lifted, and Narayan spearheaded the opposition campaign in the subsequent elections, forging an alliance of almost all opposition parties (except the Communist parties) into a new party, the Janata Party. The Janata Party, led by Narayan, defeated the Congress Party in 1977, the first time that Congress had lost since independence. Narayan declined to lead the new Janata government as prime minister, or to accept any other public office, epitomizing the combination of Gandhi's philosophy with the practice of Western democracy. His book, The Reconstruction of Indian Polity, reflected this blend and won him the Ramon Magsaysay Award as Asian statesman of the year. J. P. Narayan died in 1979.

Raju G. C. Thomas

See alsoBhave, Vinoba ; Congress Party ; Nehru, Jawaharlal


Das Gupta, Nitis. Social and Political Theory of Jaya Prakash Narayan. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1997.

Nath, Jyoti Bikash. Socialist Leadership in India: A Tribute to Jaya Prakash Narayan and Rammanohar Lohia. Delhi: Kaniksha Publishers, 2002.

Singh, Bhola. Political Ideas of M. N. Roy and Jaya Prakash Narayan: A Comparative Study. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, 1985.

Sinha, Renu. Samagra Kranti: Jaya Prakash Narayan's Philosophy of Social Change. Delhi: Siddharth Publications, 2002.

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