New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid rich tributes to former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur, who has been named for the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna, on his birth centenary on Wednesday, and said he left an unforgettable imprint on Indian society and politics.
Modi said Thakur’s relentless pursuit of social justice created a positive impact in people’s lives.
Sharing his write-up on the pioneering backward caste leader, Modi posted on X, “I bow to Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji on his birth centenary. On this special occasion, our Government has had the honour of conferring the Bharat Ratna on him. I’ve penned a few thoughts on his unparalleled impact on our society and polity.”
Thakur’s most significant contributions to India was perhaps his role in strengthening the affirmative action apparatus for the backward classes, with the hope that they were given the representation and opportunities they deserved, he said.
His decision was met with heavy opposition but he did not bow to any pressure and his policies laid the groundwork for a more inclusive society, where one’s birth did not determine one’s fate, the prime minister wrote in an article which appeared in many newspapers on Wednesday.
Modi said his government over the last 10 years has walked on Thakur’s path, bringing in schemes and policies that have brought transformative empowerment.
The prime minister said, “He belonged to the most backward strata of society but he worked for all the people, He had no trace of bitterness in him, which is what makes him truly great.” He said the life of ‘Jan Nayak’, as Thakur came to be known as, revolved around the twin pillars of simplicity and social justice, and his simple lifestyle and humble nature resonated deeply with the common people till his last breath.
“Those who worked with him recall how he preferred to spend his own money for any personal matter, including his daughter’s wedding. During his tenure as Chief Minister of Bihar, a decision was taken to build a colony for political leaders but he himself did not take any land or money for the same,” he said.
When Thakur passed away in 1988, several leaders went to his village to pay tributes and were moved to tears seeing the condition of his house, he noted.
Looking at his torn kurta at an event to mark the birthday of socialist icon Jayaprakash Narayan in 1977, Chandrashekhar, another political stalwart, asked people to donate some money so that Thakur could buy a new kurta, but the then Bihar chief minister donated the amount to the CM Relief Fund, he recalled.
Modi said social justice was most dear to Thakur and his political journey was marked by monumental efforts to create a society where resources were distributed fairly, and everyone, regardless of their social standing, had access to opportunities.
He took a distinctly anti-Congress line because he was convinced very early on that the Congress had deviated from its founding principles, Modi said.
Education was a subject very close to his heart and he worked throughout to improve education facilities for the poor, the prime minister said.
One of the biggest tragedies of our polity has been that barring a few leaders like Thakur, the call for social justice was restricted to being a political slogan, he said.
Modi added, “Inspired by Karpoori Ji’s vision we implemented it as an effective governance model. I can say with confidence and pride that Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji would have been very proud of India’s feat of freeing 25 crore people from the clutches of poverty in the last few years.” Today, when people from OBC, SC and ST Communities are becoming entrepreneurs due to MUDRA Loans, it fulfills Thakur’s vision of economic independence, he said.
“Likewise, it was our government which had the privilege of extending SC, ST and OBC reservation. We also had the honour of setting up the OBC Commission (which was opposed by Congress, sadly), which is working on the path shown by Karpoori Ji,” he added.
As a person belonging to the backward classes himself, Modi said, he has much to thank Thakur for.
He said, “Unfortunately, we lost Karpoori Ji at a relatively young age of 64. We lost him when we needed him the most. Yet, he lives on in the heart and minds of crores of people due to his work. He was a true Jan Nayak!”