Raj Narain, the only politician ever to defeat the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the polls, died Wednesday. He was 69.
Narain, a lifelong Socialist who was the political bane of both Gandhi and her father, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and who was active in India's struggle for independence in the 1940s, died of cardiac arrest at a New Delhi hospital to which he was admitted Sunday after a heart attack, the hospital said.
After learning of his death, Gandhi's son and successor, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, said, "The nation will miss a person of strong convictions who had a place all his own in public life."
Narain, always forthright in expressing his views, was known as a maverick and iconoclast in Indian politics.
He entered Parliament's upper house in 1966 as a member of the Socialist Party. In 1971, he ran for the governing lower house but lost to Gandhi.
He later filed a petition challenging her victory, alleging that she rigged the election.
The historic petition was upheld in June, 1975. But Gandhi declared an internal emergency a few days later and arrested major opposition politicians, including Narain.
After his release in February, 1977, Narain (pronounced Nar-a-yan) helped found the Janata, or People's Party, to unite opposition against Gandhi's Congress Party. Janata was swept to power in elections that year as the nation rejected the stringent emergency rule and threw the Congress Party out of power for the first time since independence in 1947.
Narain won's Gandhi's parliamentary seat, handing her the only election loss of her career. He became health minister in the Janata government but remained a critic even when in office.
He resigned from the Cabinet in July, 1979, over the dual membership of some Janata Party members in a right-wing Hindu group, saying he wanted to uphold secular ideals.