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Charan Singh, India Ex-Prime Minister and Independence Leader, Dies at 84

May 31, 1987|From Times Wire Services

NEW DELHI — Charan Singh, an independence leader who championed the cause of landless peasants and became India's fifth prime minister, died Friday after a long illness. He was 84.

Singh, who held several state and federal government posts during a career spanning 50 years, withdrew from political activity after a stroke in November, 1985, from which he never fully recovered.

Helped to Form Party

Popularly known as "Chaudhuri Saheb," Singh played a crucial role in the formation of the Janata Party and its victory over Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1977 general elections.

But as federal home minister, he developed serious differences with Prime Minister Morarji Desai that led to the breakup of the Janata government in 1979.

Singh formed a coalition government in July, 1979, and became prime minister with the support of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress Party.

But a month later Mrs. Gandhi withdrew her party's backing. Singh remained head of a caretaker government for the next four months, until the Congress Party won elections in January, 1980.

Singh opposed the development of heavy industry and favored small-scale, rural-based factories and moderately sized owner-tilled farms.

Singh, who set up a legal practice in 1929, gave up his profession to participate in India's independence movement against Britain. He was imprisoned several times during the nonviolent freedom struggle led by Mohandas K. Gandhi.

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