Bhubaneswar: Born in an aristocratic family, former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray (90) scripted unerasable chapters in many spheres – from patriotism by joining the freedom struggle to a socialist in JP movement, a politician and Lok Sabha speaker.
He was one of the last surviving socialist leaders who were closely associated Ram Manohar Lohia’s revolutionary saga.
After over three decades of active politics, Ray called it a day in 1997 to be closely associated with Loka Janashakti, an organisation espousing the cause of socialism.
The foundation of Ray’s distinguished political career was laid when he was elected president of the students union of the premier Ravenshaw College in Cuttack in 1948-49. Later, he became president of the Madhusudan Law College Students Union in 1949-50.
Ray had also plunged into the freedom struggle. He courted arrest in 1947 fighting for unfurling of the National Flag in educational institutions. Though India was still not free, Britishers yielded to the students demand.
A believer in socialism from college days, Ray joined the Socialist Party in 1948 while still a student. Due to his innate qualities of leadership and commitment to the socialist cause, he remained in the forefront of the socialist movement.
During 1953-54, he held the post of joint secretary of All India Samajwadi Yuvak Sabha. In 1956 under the leadership of Rammanohar Lohia he founded the Socialist Party in Odisha, then called Orissa.
He was also a member of the national executive of the Socialist Party and in 1960 became its general secretary.
Ray’s innings in Parliament began in 1967 when he was elected to the fourth Lok Sabha from Puri. He was the leader of the parliamentary party of Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP).
He was known for his outspoken and forthright views and for constructive opposition.
He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1974 and completed his full term of membership in 1980.
He was jailed in Ambala during JP movement (emergency). Impressed by Ray s selfless service, former prime minister Moraji Desai had inducted him into his cabinet as health and family welfare minister in January 1979. Ray continued in that post till January 1980.
Rabi Ray returned to Lok Sabha on Janata Dal ticket from Kendrapara in 1989 and was unanimously elected speaker of the ninth Lok sabha.
His tenure witnessed both the victory and defeat of V P Singh government in a vote of confidence.
Lok Sabha proceedings were also telecast live for the first time when Ray was the speaker.
Another important decision taken by Ray as speaker was admitting the first ever notice of a motion for presenting an address to the president for removal of a Supreme Court judge.
He had admitted the notice and set up a committee to investigate the grounds in which the removal was prayed for.
The motion was finally decided by the 10th Lok Sabha and the judge had to quit.
In order to provide opportunities to the MPs for raising matters of urgent public importance, Ray had brought in change in institutional arrangement to regulate proceedings during the zero hour for better utilisation of time.
Ray has also edited ‘Samata’, an Odia monthly, and ‘Chaukhamba’, a Hindi weekly brought out by the erstwhile Socialist Party. He had also authored a book Parliamentary Diplomacy’ which was very well received.