By Vikash Anand
Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh, born on 11 October 1916 at Kadoli in Hingoli district of Maharashtra, came in contact with RSS at the age of 13. He made Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh his field of activities. On 15 August 1940, he was sent by RSS to Gorakhpur as pracharak. With only 14 rupees, he went to Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur was a challenge for him. Because, he was new to the place and there was no one known to him there. But he accepted the challenge and in a short span of three years, he expanded work of RSS and started 250 Sangh Shakhas in and around Gorakhpur. In 1950, he founded first Saraswati Shishu Mandir of India in Gorakhpur. Later on, he became Sah Prant Pracharak of Uttar Pradesh. From 1948 till the formation of Jana Sangh in 1952 he also worked successfully as Managing Editor of Lucknow based Rashtra Dharm Publication.
He strongly believed in not shunning of politics but its refinement. He spent three decades of his life in active politics. When Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed under Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, RSS sent him along with Deendayal ji and some other karykartas in BJS to help Dr. Mookerjee for expanding organization of the new party. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s oratory skill and Nanaji Deshmukh’s organizational skill helped the Jana Sangh to expand its base of support in UP. Also, he was given responsibility of making organization strong in eastern India. Nanaji was one of the main architects of Jai Prakash Narayan’s movement against emergency in 1975.
On 20 June 1975, on the initiative of Nanaji Deshmukh four parties (BLD, Congress(O), Socialist Party and BJS) jointly held their executive meeting in Delhi and unanimously decided to form Lok Sangharsh Samiti to coordinate the movement. Nanaji was made General Secretary of Lok Sangharsh Samiti. He spent 17 months in jail during emergency. When emergency was lifted, he became a key person in formation of Janata government. He played main role in merger of Jana Sangh with Janata Party. In the Morarji Desai led Janata Party government, he was offered cabinet berth as he won Lok Sabha election from Balrampur. He declined to accept the cabinet berth. He also represented Janasangh in Rajya Sabha.
Apart from politics, he worked in the field of education, health, and rural self-reliance and participated in Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement.
At the age of 60, he took sanyas from politics and spent his remaining life of 34 years in constructive work. With the aim of integrated development of backward area of Chitrakoot, Nanaji Deshmukh founded Deendayal Research Institute (DRI). He also founded a rural university in Chitrakoot and acted as first chancellor of that university. Here, he started many prakalps like Arogyadham, Udyamita Vidyapith, Gaushala, Vanvasi Chhatravaas, Gurukul, Surendrapal Gramoday Vidyalay etc.
In such a way after sanyas from politics, he devoted his remaining life in development of rural area and made successful experiment of making 500 villages as developed and empowered. Due to his selfless service to the socity and the nation, he was called ‘Rashtra Rishi’. Shri Nanaji Deshmukh was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 1999 and posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 2019 by Government of India. He left for his heavenly abode at the age of 94 in Chitrakoot on 27 February 2010.