Jagannath Mishra, one of Bihar's most powerful leaders for much of the late seventies and eighties, breathed his last on Monday at the age of 82.
A teacher-turned-politician, Mishra was a former Union minister who went on to become the chief minister of Bihar thrice. He was formerly a member of the Indian National Congress, and he later left the party to join the Nationalist Congress Party and later the Janata Dal (United).
Before he started his political career, Jagannath Mishra was a lecturer who then went on to become a professor of economics at Bihar University.
He was a member of both the Houses of the state legislature, but landed the chief minister's job in 1975 soon after his brother's killing in a bomb explosion at a railway function in Bihar's Samastipur. Mishra was also grievously injured in the bomb attack but survived.
His first tenure lasted barely a couple of years as Presidents Rule was clamped on the state, which had become the hotbed of the students agitation popularly known as the "JP movement" which provided the backdrop for Emergency.
Legacy in Bihar politics
Before Lalu Prasad Yadav emerged, he was a popular leader among the minorities. He was credited for consolidating Muslims in favour of the Congress and, for this reason, was even called as "Maulana Jagannath.". He had reached out to the community by declaring Urdu as the second language of Bihar.
Mishra is remembered for his initiatives in the field of education like setting up number of Sanskrit schools, madrasas and various educational institutions, as noted in an article in Hindustan Times. It was under his leadership that the Sanskrit Shiksha Board, Bihar Intermediate Council and academies of various languages in the state were established.
Mishra, otherwise considered media friendly, faced the collective outrage of the fourth estate when his government got passed the 'Press Bill', an instrument that sought to curtail the freedom of the press, in the Bihar Assembly on 31 July, 1982. The bill was said to have the blessings of Indira Gandhi.
It was seen as an onslaught on the freedom of expression and led to massive nation-wide outrage.
Later, with the emergence of Rajiv Gandhi as political heir apparent to Indira Gandhi, Mishra's distance with the party's high command began to widen. He went on to question the Centre's powers to fix royalty on minerals when mineral-rich Jharkhand was part of Bihar.
Subsequently, Mishra was removed as the chief minister and replaced by Chandrashekhar Singh.
'Fodder scam' controversy
In the latter part of his political career, he got embroiled in the fodder scam which came to light during the tenure of his successor Lalu Prasad. Along with Prasad, he was convicted in some of the cases. He was on bail for the last few months before his death.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Aug 20, 2019 18:24:44 IST