From a teacher to Bihar CM, the journey of ‘Jan Nayak’ Karpoori Thakur

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Patna, March 30 (IANS) President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday conferred the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna to two-time Bihar chief minister ‘Jan Nayak’ Karpoori Thakur.

Karpoori Thakur, who joined the freedom struggle at a young age and became a ‘Jan Nayak’ of the country, was known for simplicity in his entire life and never promoted his family members in politics.

During his young age, Thakur was initially a teacher in a school in his native village but he soon joined the All India Students’ Federation and participated in the Quit India movement. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Congress leader Satyanarayan Sinha during the freedom struggle. During the Quit India movement, he stayed in jail for 26 months.

He was born in a poor barber’s family in Pitaunjhia village (Now Karpoori Gram) in Bihar’s Samastipur district on January 24, 1924. His father's name was Gokul Thakur and Ramdulari Devi was his mother.

After the Independence, he worked as a teacher in his village. He was elected as MLA for the first time from the Tajpur assembly constituency in Samastipur district in 1952 and reached the Bihar assembly.

Thakur always promoted the Hindi language in the state. When he was the education minister of Bihar, he removed English as a compulsory subject from the curriculum in matriculation. He served as a cabinet minister and deputy chief minister of Bihar before becoming the first non-Congress chief minister of state in 1970. He served as chief minister of Bihar from December 22, 1970 to June 2, 1971.

Karpoori Thakur was close to Jay Prakash Narayan. During the Emergency from 1975 to 1977, these two leaders spearheaded the total revolution movement in the country.

When the Bihar assembly election was held in 1977, Janata Party defeated the Congress with big margins and Thakur became the chief minister of Bihar for the second time. He served as chief minister of Bihar from June 24, 1977 to April 21, 1979. He introduced 26 per cent reservation for backward caste people in government jobs in Bihar. In this layered reservation regime, Other Backward Caste (OBC) was given 12 per cent, Most Backward Caste (MBC) was given 8 per cent, 3 per cent for women and 3 per cent for economically weaker section people in upper caste. Karpoori Thakur was always thinking about the welfare of poor people in the state. This is the reason why he was popularly known as ‘Jan Nayak’ (People’s hero) in the country.

The Janata Party was split in 1979. During the 1980 assembly election, Thakur was elected as a candidate of the Janata Party (Secular) from the Samastipur assembly constituency. He contested the 1985 assembly election but passed away on February 17, 1988, without completing his tenure of five years.

Thakur was considered a political mentor of leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan, George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav and others. Karpoori Thakur’s son Ram Nath Thakur is a Rajya Sabha MP of JD-U.