Former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra passed away in a hospital in Delhi on Monday. He was 82. He had been unwell for the last several months.
Dr. Mishra was Chief Minister of the State in 1975, 1980 and in 1989-90. He was the State’s last Congress Chief Minister. In December 1989, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made him Chief Minister to control the situation in the wake of the Bhagalpur communal riots. He ruled for 95 days, but could not stop the Janata Dal from coming to power in March 1990.
Dr. Mishra, who was affectionately called Doctor Sahib, later joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and then moved on to JD(U).
He was Agriculture Minister in Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao government at the Center in 1995. His elder brother Lalit Narayan Mishra was Railway Minister in Indira Gandhi’s regime. His son Nitish Mishra was a Minister in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet, but subsequently joined the BJP.
Dr. Mishra, before he joined politics, was an economics professor at Bihar University. He has authored several research papers and books.
He courted controversy when his government brought in the draconian “Bihar Press Bill” in 1982, which prohibited the publication, sale and possession of any printed matter that was “scurrilous, grossly indecent or intended for blackmail.” The move was slammed as an attempt to “gag the freedom of the Press.” A year later, however, the bill had to be withdrawn as it did not get the presidential assent.
Dr. Mishra was also an accused in the multi-crore fodder scam cases and was convicted in some. But he was granted bail by a court in Ranchi.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared a three-day State mourning.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi extended her condolences. “As a three-time Congress Chief Minister of Bihar, Union Cabinet Minister and PCC President on many occasions, Dr. Mishra always stood for the interests of the deprived and the marginalised minorities in society,” she said. Dr. Mishra will be cremated with full State honours at his ancestral village Balua Bazar in Supaul district on Wednesday.