He was an Indian independence activist and served between 1977 and 1979 as the 4th Prime Minister of India and led the government formed by the Janata Party. During his long career in politics, he held many important posts in government such as Chief Minister of Bombay State, Home Minister, Finance Minister and 2nd Deputy Prime Minister of India.
The popular anti-corruption movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan and the Janata-wave in 1977 led to the complete routing of the Congress party in Northern India, and a landslide victory for the opposition Janata alliance in the National elections held in March 1977. Morarji Desai was selected by the Janata alliance, later Janata Party as their parliamentary leader, and thus became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India.
Prime Minister of India (1977-79)
Foreign policy :
Desai restored normal relations with China, for the first time since the 1962 war. He also communicated with the military ruler of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq and established friendly relations.Despite his pacifist leanings, he refused to sign the non-nuclear proliferation treaty despite the threat of stopping supply of uranium for power plants by the USA Congress.
Nuclear programme :
Domestically, Desai played a crucial role in the Indian nuclear program after it was targeted by major nuclear powers after India conducted a surprise nuclear test in 1974. Desai kept India’s nuclear reactors stating “they will never be used for atomic bombs, and I will see to it if I can help it”. Internationally, he reaffirmed India’s stand that it would not manufacture nuclear weapons and would refrain from conducting even peaceful nuclear explosions.
Retirement and death
Morarji Desai campaigned for the Janata Party in 1980 General Election as a senior politician but did not contest the election himself. In retirement, he lived in Mumbai and died on 10 April 1995 at the age of 99. When former French Prime Minister Antoine Pinay died on 13 December 1994, Desai became the world’s oldest living former head of government. He was much honoured in his last years as a freedom-fighter of his generation. Morarji Desai was a moralist. He was a vegetarian “both by birth and by conviction.
Morarji Desai was a Gandhian follower, social worker, institution builder and a great reformer. He was the Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith. Even during his term as the Prime Minister he used to visit and stay at Vidyapith during the month of October. He lived simply and used to write post cards himself even when he held the office of Prime Minister. Sardar Patel deputed him to conduct meetings of farmers in Kaira district which finally led to the establishment of the Amul Cooperative movement. During his rule, he withdrew intervention in Public Distribution System and rationing shops were literally lost due to cheap sugar and oil available in the market.