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Three-time Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra dies at 82

A three-time Chief Minister who could not complete a single term and a Congress stalwart whose son served as a minister in an NDA government, Mishra died Monday at a Delhi hospital after prolonged illness at the age of 82.

Jagannath Mishra, Jagannath Mishra dead, Jagannath Mishra passes away, Jagannath Misra dead, Jagannath Mishra news, india news, bihar news Jagannath Mishra (1937-2019)

At Jagannath Mishra’s home in Patna, there is a bust of Indira Gandhi on one hand and a portrait of Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the other, summing up the dichotomy of his politics.

A three-time Chief Minister who could not complete a single term and a Congress stalwart whose son served as a minister in an NDA government, Mishra died Monday at a Delhi hospital after prolonged illness at the age of 82.

He is survived by three sons, including former Bihar minister Nitish Mishra, and three daughters. His wife died last year.

A professor of economics, Mishra was catapulted to the Chief Minister’s post after his elder brother and then Union Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra was killed in a blast at Samastipur in 1975. Mishra, too, was injured in the attack, but survived.

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Known to enjoy proximity to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Mishra became CM at the height of Emergency. His first tenure witnessed arrests of several activists of the JP Movement. His tenure lasted only a couple of years as President’s Rule was clamped on the state.

When he became CM for the second time in 1980, his government made Urdu the state’s second official language. The decision brought him in conflict with people from his region of Mithilanchal, who accused him of neglecting Maithili and resorting to appeasement politics.

His second term ended in 1983 amid controversies, especially his decision to bring the Bihar Press Bill in 1982. He was accused of attempting to curb press freedom and the decision led to nationwide protests. Later, Mishra had told The Indian Express that he had brought the Bill “to keep Indira Gandhi in good humour”. He had also expressed regret over the decision.

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Although the Bill was passed by the state legislature, the government moved a motion to withdraw it in 1983 while it was waiting for President’s assent. During his second term, Mishra also questioned the Centre’s powers to fix royalty on minerals when mineral-rich Jharkhand was part of Bihar. Soon after, he was replaced as CM by Chandrashekhar Singh.

Mishra became CM for the third time in 1989 when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi removed Satyendra Narayan Sinha for his failure to properly handle the Bhagalpur riots. By that time, however, the era of Mandal politics had begun and Lalu Prasad had emerged as a new force in Bihar. In the 1990 elections, the Congress lost power in the state.

Mishra then served as Union Minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government. He parted ways with the Congress in 1997 after his old adversary Sitaram Kesri took over as party president.

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Mishra floated a forum called Bharatiya Jan Congress in 1999. He merged this forum with the NCP in 2001. He subsequently joined the JD(U) and his son Nitish Mishra went on to serve as a minister in the NDA government headed by Nitish Kumar.

Mishra was convicted in a fodder scam case along with Lalu Prasad and was out on bail.

The Bihar government has announced state mourning for three days. Governor Phagu Chouhan called Mishra “a scholar of economics, able administrator and sensitive politician”. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remembered him as “an able administrator and politician”.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Mishra always stood for the interests of the deprived and the marginalised minorities.

Mishra’s mortal remains will be cremated at his village Balua Bazaar in Supaul district on Wednesday.

First published on: 20-08-2019 at 02:51:09 am
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