Nanaji Deshmukh (October 11, 1916 – February 27, 2010)
Nanaji Deshmukh was a social activist in India. He did exemplary work in the field of education, health and rural self-reliance and has been honored with Padma Vibhushan title by the Government of India. He was a leader of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and also a member of Rajya Sabha.
He was born on October 11, 1916 in Kadoli, a small town in the Parbhani District of Maharashtra to Shri Amritrao Deshmukh and Shrimati Rajabai Amritrao Deshmukh. Deshmukh’s career was full of strife and struggle. He lost his parents at an early age and was brought up by his maternal uncle.
His family had little money to pay for his tuition fees and books, but his keen desire to learn encouraged him to work as a vendor and sell vegetables to raise money to fund his education. He lived in temples and received a higher education at the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani before becoming an RSS activist in the nineteen thirties.
Though born in Maharashtra, the fields of his activities were Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Seeing his devotion, the then RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri Guruji sent him to Gorakhpur (U.P) as “Pracharak”. He rose to be the Saha Prant Pracharak of the whole of Uttar Pradesh.
Deshmukh became inspired by Lokamanya Tilak and his nationalist ideology, as well as showing an acquired interest in social service and activities. His family was in close contact with Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar who was a regular visitor to Deshmukh’s family. He could discern potential in Nanaji and encouraged him to attend RSS ‘shakhas’.
In 1940, after Hedgewar’s death, many youngsters inspired by him joined the R.S.S. in Maharashtra. Deshmukh was among those enthused youths who joined the RSS devoting their whole life in service to the nation. He was sent to Uttar Pradesh as a Pracharak. At Agra, he met Deen Dayal Upadhyaya for the first time. Later, Deshmukh went to Gorakhpur as a pracharak where he took great pains to introduce Sangh ideology in the eastern UP. It was not an easy task at that time as the Sangh had no funds to meet even day-today expenses. He had to stay in a Dharmashala but had to keep on changing Dharmashalas as no one was allowed to stay there for more than three days consecutively. Ultimately, he was given shelter by Baba Raghavdas on the condition that he would also cook meals for him.
Within three years, his hard work bore fruits and almost 250 Sangh Shakhas commenced in and around Gorakhpur. Nanaji always laid great emphasis on education. He established Bharat’s first Saraswati Shishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950.
When in 1947, the RSS decided to launch two journals Rashtradharma, Panchjanya and a newspaper called Swadesh,Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was assigned the responsibility of the editor and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya was made the Margdharshak with Nanaji as the Managing Director. It was a challenging task as the organization was hard up for money to bring out the publications, yet it did never dampen their spirits and these publications gained popularity and recognition because of their strong nationalistic content.
Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination led to imposition of ban on the RSS and publication work came to a grinding halt. When the ban was lifted and it was decided to have a political organization, Bharatiya Jana Sangh came into being. Deshmukh was asked by Shri Guruji to take charge of Bharatiya Jana Sangh in Uttar Pradesh as General Secretary. Deshmukh had worked as RSS pracharak in Uttar Pradesh and his groundwork proved of a great help in organizing BJS at the grass roots. By 1957 BJS had established its units at each and every district in Uttar Pradesh and credit for this goes to the Nanaji who had extensively traveled all over the state.
Soon, BJS became a force to reckon with in Uttar Pradesh. In 1967 BJS became the part of United Legislature Party and joined the Government headed by Chaudhary Charan Singh and consisting of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia.
In Uttar Pradesh, BJS gained strength from Upadhyaya’s vision, Atal Vajpai’s oratory skills and Deshmukh’s organizational work and it emerged as an important player in the state politics. In fact, he played a critical role in keeping Congress atrocities in check.
The months that followed the judgment of Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court, setting aside the election of Indira Gandhi in June 1974, were traumatic. An anti-Indira agitation, led by Jai Prakash Narayan, was gathering momentum.
In the latter half of the year a massive procession, led by Narayan was taken out in Patna. As the procession wended its way through the roads of the state capital, the police made a lathi charge and, it is said, the Sarvodaya leader was the target. The final assault came when Narayan’s supporters were escorting him to safety. One of the supporters sprang to his leader’s protection, covered him and took all the lathi blows on himself. That man was Deshmukh. One of his arms was fractured in this daring effort.
Later, Narayan himself and Morarji Desai, who became the Prime Minister heading the Janata Party Government, publicly praised the courage shown by Deshmukh and, as a reward, offered him the Cabinet portfolio of Industry, but Deshmukh spurned the overture. Deshmukh had won in the 1977 election held after revocation of the Emergency with a comfortable margin from Balrampur Lok Sabha constituency of Uttar Pradesh.
After retirement from active politics Deshmukh then served Deendayal Research Institute that he himself had established way back in 1969. He wanted Deendayal Research Institute to be devoted to strengthening the movement for constructive work in Bharat. Deshmukh did a lot of social work in Gonda(U.P.) and Beed(Maharashtra). The motto of his project was: “Har hath ko denge kaam, har khet ko denge paanee”. He established Chitarkoot Gramodya Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot- Bharat’s first Rural University and was its Chancellor. Nanaji implemented the philosophy of integral humanism to improve the living standard of more than 150 villages of bundelkhand.
In 1980, when he turned 60, he opted not only from the electoral fray but also politics. He later devoted himself completely to social and constructive work, lived in ashrams and never projected himself.
When Narayan gave the call for “Total Revolution” Deshmukh responded by giving total support to this movement. When the Janata Party was formed, Deshmukh was one of its main architects. Janata Party stormed into power by sweeping off the Congress.
He was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the NDA Government in the year 1999 in recognition of his services to the nation.He did pioneering work towards the anti-poverty and minimum needs program. Other areas of his work were agriculture and cottage industry, rural health and rural education.
He finally settled down at the picturesque Chitrakoot, a holy place on the borders of U.P. and Madhya Pradesh. Deshmukh made Chitrakoot the centre of his social work. Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) was founded in 1972 by Deshmukh to validate the philosophy of Integral Humanism propounded by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–1968). Integral Humanism gave a vision for Bharat that, with an approach to man and his relationship to society that is integral and complementary, could transform Bharat into a self-reliant and compassionate example for the world to follow.