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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 45, October 26, 2013

Mohan Dharia: Selfless Political Life of a Value-based Personality

Saturday 26 October 2013



by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

Mohan Dharia represented a rare breed of politicians who were not only selfless but expanded their field of activity from politics to social and allied subjects. He not only held important positions in the political world but also went to establish many of those institutions which with the passage of time highlighted such issues that confront human civilisation today as environmental degradation and decline of village life and infrastructure.

He contributed immensely by Vanarai, an NGO which campaigned for critical issues of contemporary importance. He was a great visionary in the ultimate sense. He was the founder President of this reformative institution which succeeded in many fields with the participation of the people.

He was a courageous fighter who fought for the right causes; howsoever strong the opposite power, he never succumbed to coercion nor to any other threat. He was instrumental in the liberation of the Janjira state in 1948. At a very young age of 23 years, he was the provisional Foreign Minister of this state before its merger with the Union of India. The same courage was manifest during the time of the Emergency when he resigned from the Cabinet of Mrs Gandhi and was the first Minister to do so.

He was an intellectual par excellence in the group of Young Turks which included Chandra Shekhar, Ram Dhan, Krishna Kant and consistently opposed the policies of Mrs Gandhi. He was the person who had proposed in 1971 that the Congress be overhauled by making it a more cadre-based party. His emphasis was on the restructuring of the Congress committees at the district, provincial and all India levels. His main emphasis was that these units must be empowered in order to guide and instruct the party leadership at the top, though the top leadership never heard him seriously. Even today his advice for the revitalisation of the Congress remains relevant as it is the top-to-bottom flow of power, as observed in the Congress power hierarchy at present, that is an evil about which Dharia had warned many decades ago.

His courage, blended with a high degree of intellectualism, helped him to associate with Jayaprakash Narayan with whom he wanted Mrs Gandhi to initiate a dialogue, an idea which was repugnant to Mrs Gandhi and her coterie who vehemently opposed it. This brought him close to JP and to the Praja Socialist Party earlier.

Mohan Dharia’s understanding of the Indian society, politics and extrapolitical issues, including environment, helped him to accomplish critical tasks during the time he was appointed the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (1990-1991) where he made significant contributions. In this capacity his knowledge about the socio-economic and agricultural conditions was extensively used; this he had gained during his public life and as a Minister in the Planning Ministry.

Earlier he was successful in introducing a scheme for self-employment and prepared a report known as the Dharia Report which is the only practical document available to contain the inflation of the agricultural commodities and take into account the financial conditions of the farmers and productive cost of the produce.

Although this report could not be implemented even during the time of the Janata Party Government due to the fluid political conditions in the country as the party had failed to act as a cohesive group, it had provided a vision that the farmers could be given their remunerative prices and commodities could be sold at stable prices in the market. This was an important step by which the farmers and consumers both could benefit. Such policy approaches are the need of the hour due to the almost impossible state of affairs of existence for the farmers and poor men and women of the country.

He remained committed to his values and had to face the strong industrial lobby, particularly the textile lobby in 1977, when after becoming the Commerce Minister he did not follow of the decision of Mrs Gandhi’s previous government which had allowed the import of polyester fibre as import replenishment for the manufacture of exportable nylon fabrics whereas he introduced the import by STC along with partial import by private players and also attempted to stamp ex-factory prices on all textile items. These policy decisions were not to the liking of many but he remained committed to his values of taking genuine and right steps based on his socialist ideas and concern for the common people. Mohan Dharia was in fact a great man who had a commitment to socialist thought which he wanted to introduce at every level of the Congress party in a realistic manner albeit his vision was never truly implemented by the party.

He was an erudite scholar. His comprehensive knowledge of everything in his surroundings helped him to produce some good writings including his own autobiography Safar in which he elaborated about the political struggle of his time. He also produced some other important works revealing his scholarship and command over the language. He wrote on diverse subjects including environment, population problem etc. It was a rare feat considering the fact that in general politicians are not good writers or they have the capacity to write only on political issues. But Dharia defied this limitation.

His writings and activity encompass different aspects of organised life. He was a vocal supporter of local participation in important areas of
human existence. He worked for many of the trade union organisations and was instrumental in activating the cooperative life in the State of Maharashtra in an influential manner.

Mohan Dharia will be remembered for representing the good and ethical values in Indian politics which has recently come under great stress with the conviction of influential politicians. The faith of citizens on their repre-sentatives is unflinching in the successful democracies but it has been dented consistently in our democratic life. This decline is a grave cause of concern for all but no attention has been paid by the ruling elites to this decline, a sad commentary on contemporary Indian politics.

His diverse personality, value-laden ideas, philosophical foundation of life have established that politicians of contemporary times must learn a lesson from his life, that is, how a selfless political life can be lived, that politics is not everything but it can be expanded to other varied areas of human existence that also need major and prompt attention, and finally, the only thought which needs to be given by these politicians is that history is their ultimate judge as to what manner they would wish themselves to be remembered: like Dharia or like those who have been stigmatised by the loss of political morality.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur. He can be contacted at vpy1000@

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