Sitaram Kesri

Sitaram Kesri

Sitaram Kesri (1919-2000) was born at Danapur, Patna in November 1919. He was a member of the Indian national congress and was the president of congress from 1996 to 1998. He died on 24 October 2000, at 2330 hours in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi due to cardio-respiratory failure. He is survived by one son, Amarnath, and two daughters, Malati and Madhuri.

Kesri had his education at Rashtriya Vidyalaya and Bihar Vidyalaya in Danapur, Bihar, India. He was a social and political worker and took active part in the Quit India Movement of 1942, and was arrested several times.


Sitaram Kesri started his Congress career as a street drummer cum announcer. Only once he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Katihar Lok Sabha Constituency (fourth) when he won on a janata party ticket and was given a last moment call by then Bihar Janata Party President S N Sinha; however, he represented Bihar in the Rajya Sabha several times: July 1971 to April 1974, April 1974 to April 1980, July 1980 to July 1986, April 1988 to April 1994, April 1994 to April 2000. He was Union Minister during the reigns of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister of India.

Kesri also served as treasurer of the Congress party for more than a decade.From September 1996 to March 1998. In addition, he was elected unanimously as the President of the Congress Parliamentry Party on 3 January 1997. For 16 years under 3 different Congress Presidents he was the treasurer.

After P.V. Narasimha Rao stepped down as president of Congress in September 1996, Kesri was appointed new President of the party. The following years were difficult for the Congress party. Kesri's lack of popular support among the masses caused further damage to the party. Kesri's most controversial act was the sudden withdrawal of support to H.D. Deve Gowda's United Front government that led to the fall of the government in April 1997. However compromise was reached and the UF elected I. K. Gujral as the new leader with continued support from the Congress party.In June 1997, he was duly elected President of the Congress party by defeating Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot.

In the first week of November 1997,part of report of Jain commission enquiring into the consipracy angle of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was leaked to the press.It was reported that the Jain Commission had indicted Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for its ties with LTTE, the organization involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.DMK was one of the constituents of the United Front that was in power at the center.Moreover the party had three ministers in the council of ministers headed by Prime Minister Gujral.Congress party demanded removal of the ministers belonging to DMK from the government.Between November 20 and 28,1997, exchange of letters took place between Sitaram Kesri and Prime Minister Gujral.However Prime Minister refused to meet the demand of the Congress party.Finally, on November 28,1997, Congress withdrew support to Gujral government. When no alternative government could be formed,Lok Sabha was dissolved, paving the way for mid-term elections .

Congress party was not adequately prepared for the mid-term elections. A number of senior leaders of the party, such as Rangarajan Kumaramangalam,Aslam Sherkhan and Abrar Ahmed openly expressed displeasure with Kesri's leadership and left the party. After Sonia Gandhi decided to campaign for the party,she replaced Kesri as the main campaigner for the party. Sonia attracted huge crowds in her campaign rallies but could not win the election for the party. Nevertheless Congress party could maintain a respectable tally of 140. During the election campaign, there was a series of bomb blasts in Coimbatore, where BJP President L.K. Advani was scheduled to address the election rally. About 50 people were killed in the blasts. After the blasts, Kesri made a statement that the bomb blasts in Coimbatore were the handiwork of RSS, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and moreover he had the proof of RSS involvement in the blasts. The RSS sued Kesri for defamation but Kesri was granted bail by a city court in 1998 [ [ Sitaram Kesri gets bail in RSS defamation case] Indian Express - May 5, 1998]

After the electoral defeat , Kesri was stripped of his post in March 1998 by the Congress Working Committee [ Kesri and three transitions in Cong.] The Hindu - October 26, 2000] . Sonia Gandhi was appointed President of the Congress party in his place.However,considering Kesri's contribution to the party, Sonia made Kesri a lifemember of the Congress Working Committee.

Kesri, along with other members of the Working Committee including Tariq Anwar was "roughed up" at Congress Party headquarters on May 19, 1999 by what has been described as an "angry mob" [" [ Congress Plans More Powers for Sonia] ", "The Indian Express", May 23, 1999] and "Congress goons", following the split in the Congress that led to the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party. After his exit from the office, he maintained a relatively low profile in politics. He was also denied party candidature for Rajya Sabha when his term ended in April 2000.

He passed away on October 24,2000.


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