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An Indian Political Life

An Indian Political Life
Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1937 to 1961

First Edition
  • Paul R Brass - Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science and International Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Volume: 1

July 2011 | 612 pages | SAGE India

An Indian Political Life: Charan Singh and Congress Politics, 1937 to 1961 focuses on the role of Charan Singh in the politics of the period while providing a broader perspective on the major issues, controversies, and developments of the time.

The book is the result of a careful study of Charan Singh's personal collection of political files coupled with a series of extensive interviews with politicians, public personalities, and local people. It provides an account of the principal issues and events of the period, including Hindu–Muslim relations, the conflict between the Nehruvian goal of rapid industrialization and the desires of those favoring primary attention to agriculture, issues of law and order, the rise of corruption and criminality in politics, the place of caste and status in a modernizing society, and the pervasive factional politics characteristic of the era.

This work is much more than the biography of an important politician; it is also an analysis of issues, movements, and political conflicts that marked the late pre-Independence and early post-Independence era.

This book is the first volume of a multi-volume work on The Politics of Northern India: 1937 to 1987.


Chronology of Principal Events in the Life of Charan Singh

I: INTRODUCTION: An Indian Political Life
II: BEGINNINGS: Social Origins, Early Life, and Beginning of a Political Career
Partition and Hindu–Muslim Relations

III: TOWN VERSUS THE VILLAGE: Discrimination against the Village: Reservation of 60 Percent of Places in Government Jobs for Agriculturists (1939—62)
Transformation of the Agricultural Economy of Northern India: Land Reforms and Charan Singh’s Defence of Peasant Agriculture (1946—60)

Urban Development and the Peasantry: Land Acquisition in Ghaziabad and the Cultivators (1950—2009)

Integrity and Reputation in a Corrupt System (1948—57)

Origins of the “Permit–License–Quota Raj” (1949)

Land Grabbing and Land Development in the Tarai (1952—55)

The Political Economy of the Hindu Joint Family (1959)

Political Parties and Crime in Early Post-Independence Uttar Pradesh (1954—61)

V: STATUS, HIERARCHY, AND GENDER: A Death in the Family: Status, Hierarchy, and Gender in the Indian Bureaucratic System (1950)
Vi: CASTE, FACTION, AND PARTY : Caste, “Casteism,” and “Communalism” before and after the First General Elections (1947—56)
The Struggle for Control of Meerut District (1954—56)

The Leader and His Followers: Loyalty, Betrayal, and Trust (1949—69)

Resignation After Resignation: Charan Singh in the Governments of Pandit Pant and Dr Sampurnanand (1947—59)

VII: CONCLUSION: Power, Principle, and Policy





A well-researched book by Paul Brass…The book recreates unique persona of the former Prime Minister of the country Chaudhary Charan Singh who had the unsurpassed following of the agrarian classes. The book revolves around the politics of his period with a broader perspective on major issues, controversies and development, especially in Uttar Pradesh. It narrates about the very beginning of the political career of the former PM – the man who was known for his principles and self-belief…The book has an elaborate description of the politics and social orders of his period with special reference to Hindu-Muslim relations…The book very well describes Charan Singh’s understanding of the system, his fight against it…[The book] makes an excellent interesting read for people interested in politics and who want to know about the State of the largest electorate.

Sahara Times

This book presents the biography of Chaudhuri Charan Singh, who went on to become prime minister for very brief period …and twice served as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh during his long political career in that state…The book follows the early career of a man of principles and pride, a dedicated nationalist who loved his country while being critical of the leaders who ran the government...The book explains Charan Singh’s role as a crusader for the backward castes of northern India and whose interests he always promoted and in whose advancement, he played the most important role.


The book, which is the result of extensive research of documents written by Charan Singh, throws light on hitherto unexplored aspect of his personality…His penchant for taking copious notes of political events could only be matched by an archivist’s enthusiasm for meticulous record-keping. All these documents helped Brass to unravel the mystery behind the personality and events of the most tumultuous phase of the republic…The book is a must read for those keen to know about the emergence of anti-congressism in UP politics through the evolution of one of the most charismatic leader of peasant-proprietary class in India.

Governance Now

Based on the personal papers of former Prime Minister Charan Singh, An Indian Political Life by Paul R Brass comes at the right time…[The book] is travails of an ambitious Congress politician at the time when leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Govind Ballav Pant, Rafi Ahmed and Lal Bhahadur Shastri dominated Uttar Pradesh’s politics…This book is a primer on the realities of politics and power at state and district levels.

The Indian Express

This book traces the life of Charan Singh, a politician who played a decisive role in the politics of Uttar Pradesh and later on national platform… Brass brings forth the various facets of Charan Singh in an impartial manner.

The Tribune

Prof Paul R Brass brings out in an encyclopaedic study of his [Chaudhary Charan Singh] life and times….The first of a proposed three volumes, Brass's monumental work is based on a wide range of sources spread over almost half a century from the time he first met Singh and became a keen student of north Indian politics. But the sheer scale and detail of the volume leaves it as one mostly of interest to scholars. Yet, in the present-day cynical and dismal national mood, Singh has as much relevance as he had in his lifetime.

The Week

The first volume of Paul R Brass’s brilliant biography of Charan Singh and Congress politics in UP from 1937 to 1961, written after a rare access to private papers of the late leader … The book chronicles the fight around land, the distress it caused to peasants and how compensation was always contentious.

The Times of India

Brass must be complimented for pointing to Indian scholars, a neglected terrain in their academic ventures.... The book fills the vacuum. The book puts the life, work and character of Charan Singh in the right perspective.

Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 47, 11 August 2012

This book on Charan Singh’s political life couldn’t have come at a better time—with agriculture in a deep crisis, acquisition of farmland for industry becoming so controversial and issues of corruption and governance on centerstage.

Professor Sudha Pai, in Outlook

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ISBN: 9788132106869