(Last Updated on : 15/01/2009)
Morarji Ranchhodji Desai was born on February 29, 1896 and died on April 10, 1995. He was an Indian freedom fighter and the first non-Congress Party Prime Minister of India. He is the world`s oldest person to become prime minister. He is the only Indian to receive the highest civilian awards from both India and Pakistan, namely the Bharat Ratna and Nishaan-e-Pakistan.
Morarji Desai was born into a Anavil Brahmin family in Bhadeli, Gujarat. Originally a college-educated civil servant in Gujarat, Desai left the service of the British in 1924 and joined the civil disobedience movement against British rule in India in 1930. He spent many years in jail during the freedom struggle and owing to his sharp leadership skills and tough spirit, became a favorite amongst freedom-fighters and an important leader of the Indian National Congress in Gujarat. When provincial elections were held in 1934 and 1937, Desai was elected and served as the Revenue Minister and Home Minister of the then Bombay Presidency.
Desai led a disorderly collage of a coalition government, and thus failed to achieve much owing to continuous conflict and controversy. With no party in leadership of the coalition, rival groups competed to unseat Desai. During his time Desai greatly improved relations with Pakistan and Zia-ul-Haq. Diplomatic relations were also re-established with China. His greatest contribution was that his Government brought back people`s faith in democracy. His Government erased many amendments made to the constitution during emergency and made it difficult for any future Government to impose National emergency.
In 1979, Charan Singh pulled his party out of the Janata alliance, and Desai resigned from office and retired from politics at 83 years old. He lived in the city of Mumbai, and died at the ripe old age of 99. He will be most popularly remembered for something that has become tradition is that he often admitted to consuming quantities of his own urine. It was this, he said, that allowed him to live in remarkably good health for so long. He had been honoured much in his last years as the last great living freedom-fighter of his generation. Morarji Desai was a strict follower of Mahatma Gandhi`s principles and holding great moral values.