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The memorial at Lala Tola will be built by the ministry of culture and will include a virtual museum and an institute to research democracy. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The memorial at Lala Tola will be built by the ministry of culture and will include a virtual museum and an institute to research democracy. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Govt plans memorial at Jayaprakash Narayan’s birthplace in Bihar

Move comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Emergency and barely months ahead of Bihar polls this year

New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Wednesday announced a slew of measures to develop the birthplace of the pro-democracy icon Jayaprakash Narayan. The move, announced on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the imposition of Emergency, looked designed to co-opt the legacy of the man who led the movement against prime minister Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian rule, analysts said.

Mint reported on Monday that the village in Bihar where JP was born lacked basic infrastructure, including roads, healthcare and educational facilities.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s decision to develop JP’s birthplace comes a few months ahead of planned assembly elections in Bihar, due later this year.

JP has a key political reference in the state, where most of the second generation socialist leaders, including chief minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, are his followers.

The government said that it will build a national memorial, including a virtual museum, a research institute as well as a khadi centre, to promote the use of the indigenous fabric at Lala Tola, JP’s birthplace in Sitabdiara village of Bihar.

“He (JP) created awareness about democracy among the common masses but the tragedy is that the place where he was born…there is no national memorial there, and today, the cabinet met and under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was decided that a national memorial will be built there in the name of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash," union home minister Rajnath Singh said after the cabinet meeting.

The memorial at Lala Tola will be built by the ministry of culture and will include a virtual museum and an institute to research democracy, the role of panchayats and Gandhian thought in recognition of JP’s role as a prominent follower of Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. The government will also build a centre for khadi and constructive work based on the philosophy of “Lok Nayak (people’s hero) Jayaprakash Narayan" as well as establish the Lok Nayak Khadi Gaurav Samvardhan Kendra which will promote women’s clusters to make the national flag.

JP, a socialist, led a massive people’s movement during the Emergency, which later became one of the biggest anti-corruption movements in Indian history.

He rallied the masses to question the state of Emergency and paved the way for India’s first non-Congress government—led by the Janata Party in 1977.

His birthplace has often been visited by veteran politicians, including former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani who chose Lala Tola to launch a rath yatra against corruption in 2012.

Nitish Kumar, too, has made regular visits to Lala Tola, especially on JP’s birth anniversary.

“Jayaprakash Narayan led one of the biggest movements in the country and, especially in Bihar, his followers are split across the Janata Dal (United), RJD and the BJP. By taking a decision like this just before elections, the BJP is trying to project he was ‘their’ leader too," said Sachidanand Sharma, professor of political science, Patna University.

According to Sharma, this is unlikely to have any impact in the state polls scheduled for later this year.

“Most of the younger generation does not know about our historical personalities. And more than that, Bihar is so entrenched in caste politics that any other factor hardly plays any significant role," he added.

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