6 politicians whose sudden deaths sparked controversies

Was the CIA responsible for Lal Bahadur Shastri's sudden death in Tashkent? The deaths of 5 other prominent politicians were no less controversial

In Indian politics, there have been leaders who ascended to great heights and popularity. However, their success was shortlived as they passed away suddenly. Some politicians like Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh were assassinated, and their perpetrators were brought to the book. However, leaders like Sanjay Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri or Syama Prasad Mookerjee died leaving behind a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Some called it accidental whereas some smelled a conspiracy in the manner in which they died. Here are six politicians whose sudden demise raised a lot of controversies.

Lal Bahadur Shastri:

India’s second prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri led India during the 1965 war against Pakistan. On January 10, 1966, he met Pakistani president General Ayub Khan in Tashkent for a summit organised by Russian (then the Soviet Union) premier Alexei Kosygin. A declaration was signed between two countries and both the armies agreed to retreat to their original positions after the war. However, in the intervening night of 10-11 January, Shastri died under mysterious circumstances. The official reports stated that the prime minister had died of multiple heart attacks. However, his wife claimed that his body had turned blue with cuts all over. Besides this, the two witnesses to Shastri’s death met mysterious accidents. RN Chugh, the former prime minister’s doctor who accompanied him to Tashkent, died after being hit by a truck. Also, his personal servant Ram Nath was hit by a car and lost his memory.

Lal Bahadur Shastri death

Relatives mourn beside the body of Lal Bahadur Shastri in New Delhi. (Photo: Express)

However, the most startling revelation came from Robert Crawley, a former CIA agent who, in a book Conversations With The Crow, when asked by author Gregory Douglas about the clandestine operations that CIA undertook during his tenure claimed that it was the US intelligence agency that ‘nailed’ Shastri along with nuclear scientist Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

Also read: From Rajiv Gandhi to Pramod Mahajan, these 10 political assassinations shook India

Sanjay Gandhi:

At a young age of 33, Sanjay Gandhi passed away in a horrific air crash in the national capital on June 23, 1980. He was considered as the heir apparent to Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power after a stupendous victory in the Lok Sabha elections six months ago. Many had questioned the nature of the crash, as the plane took an unnatural turn before nosediving to the ground. No inquiry was set up to probe his death. However, there were innumerable conspiracies theories regarding the role of insiders behind his death. In 2013, US cable Wikileaks claimed that three assassination attempts were made on Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency.

Shyama Prasad Mukherji:

In 1951, Shyama Prasad Mukherji resigned as industry and civil supplies minister in from the Jawahar Lal Nehru government and started his new party, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), with help from pracharaks (volunteers) belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). According to reports, Mukherjee wanted Nehru to demand land from Pakistan to rehabilitate around 1 million refugees who had migrated from East Pakistan to West Bengal.

In those days, a permit was required for people from other parts of India to enter Jammu & Kashmir. The Jana Sangh founder called for a complete integration of J&K with India and decided to defy the permit rule. He along with few volunteers entered Kashmir in 1953 wherein he was arrested by the state police. On June 23, 1953, Mukherjee died in police custody under mysterious circumstances.

In 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had accompanied Mukherjee as a young journalist, alleged that the Nehru government had entered into a conspiracy with Sheikh Abdullah’s government to ensure that the Jana Sangh leader would enter the Valley but not be allowed to return.

Also read: Divya Bharti to Sheena Bora, 7 mysterious deaths that left India shell-shocked

Deen Dayal Upadhyay:

The co-founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Deen Dayal Upadhyay succeeded Shyama Prasad Mukherjee following the latter’s mysterious death in 1953. Son of an astrologer, he was an active RSS worker before entering the Jana Sangh. Upadhyay led the Jana Sangh from 1953 till his mysterious death in 1968. He was found dead on the railway tracks of Mughalsarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh. Following a huge outcry due to slow police investigations, the case was handed over to the CBI which claimed that Upadhyay was killed by either train robbers or luggage-lifters on the Patna bound trains. However, there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding his death. When the Janata Party was in power, Subramanian Swamy had urged the then home minister Chaudhary Charan Singh to set up a panel to probe the death. Even though a commission was set up, it came to no avail. However, veteran leader Balraj Madhok claimed that his rivals Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nanaji  Deshmukh had repeatedly thwarted a probe into Upadhyay’s death.

Lalit Narayan Mishra:

Lalit Narayan Mishra, the railway minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet, was killed in a bomb blast on January 2, 1975, at Samastipur railway station in Bihar. More than 40 years later, a Delhi court sentenced four people to life imprisonment for the influential Congress leader’s murder. Mishra’s murder sparked a controversy with many speculating a Congress hand as he supposedly gave the government and party a bad name. It so happened that the opposition in September 1974 had questioned Indira Gandhi in Parliament on the Pondicherry license scam. An MP named Tulmohun Ram was indicted for forging signatures of at least 21 MPs to seek license from the Foreign Trade Ministry for favouring some Pondicherry-based inudstrialists. Mishra was rumoured to be behind the operation.

Lalit Narayan Mishra

A file photo of former railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra. (Photo: Express)

Haren Pandya:

Haren Pandya, the former Gujarat Home Minister, was shot dead in his car in the morning of March 26, 2003, when he was out on a walk in the Law Garden area of Ahmedabad. The Gujarat High Court in 2011 had acquitted 12 people, including the prime accused Asghar Ali in the murder case. Pandya’s death evoked a number of conspiracy theories with the slain minister’s father pointing fingers at a larger political conspiracy. He claimed that the CBI was under pressure from erstwhile Deputy PM LK Advani and Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time. A known BJP face, Pandya refused to vacate his Ellesbridge seat for Modi who was sworn in as the CM in 2001. Later, he was denied a ticket to contest the 2002 Assembly polls.

Do you believe these deaths resulted out of a conspiracy?

Also read: Gulshan Kumar murder mystery: Recalling the day when 16 bullets were pumped into him


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