MP BJP’s old guard not in a mood to fade away

Bhopal: They are blowing hot and cold. They are threatening, cajoling and playing victim. But they are not ready to give up or give in. The old guard of the Madhya Pradesh BJP is clear that age cannot and should not be the criterion for deciding who can contest elections. “The Constitution says you cannot contest an Assembly election unless you are 25. Does it say anything about the maximum age of a legislator?” is the pointed poser of Babulal Gaur. But he is as willing to play the victim.

“When I was chief minister, I was asked to resign for no reason. Then, I was thrown out of the council of ministers and now, I’m being denied a party ticket. I’m healthy and active. I meet hundreds of persons visit my constituency every single day. How can the party humiliate me?” he had asked news persons in Bhopal on November 4. The very next day, however, he asserted the party would give him a ticket.

Unparalleled electoral record

Gaur’s electoral record can be the envy of any politician. He has, so far, won 10 elections without a break since 1974. He has been the chief minister, minister and Leader of the Opposition.

At 88, he is one of the seniormost MLAs of the country. Born Babulal Yadav in June 1930 in Uttar Pradesh, Gaur’s father shifted base from UP to Bhopal and took up a job at a liquor shop. Babulal, too, was asked to start working at the shop, but he refused and, instead, joined the RSS. Subsequently, he worked in a textile mill, did his LLB and started practising in the district court.

Gaur’s chance came when, in 1974, the Govindpura seat fell vacant due to the death of sitting Congress MLA Mohanlal Asthana. A by-election was called, Gaur was nominated as the Jansangh candidate and he won. Thereafter, as they say, he never looked back. In 1977, he contested from the Bhopal-South constituency, defeating Ladli Sharan Sinha. From 1980 onwards, he confined himself to Govindpura, defeating RD Tripathi in that year and again in 1985, Narimal Nariyani in 1990, RK Bisarya in 1993, Karnail Singh in 1998, Shivkumar Urmaliya in 2003, Vibha Patel in 2008 and Govind Goyal in 2013. Twice, his victory margin was the highest in the state.

Conspiracy, or controversy?

  • He entered the Council of Ministers for the first time in the Patwa govt (1990-92) and was Leader of the Opposition during Digvijaya Singh’s rule (1993-2003). After the BJP came to power in 2003, he was named as the CM in August 2004, after the resignation of Uma Bharati. He had to resign in December 2005 following an unsavoury controversy some say it was a conspiracy involving two women.
  • Gaur’s feat is unparalleled in the sense that there is hardly any other leader in the state besides Jyotiraditya Scindia who has never lost an election. Digvijaya Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sunderlal Patwa, Kamalnath all have tasted defeat one time or another.
  • The million-dollar question is whether Gaur will revolt. He had earlier said in so many words that Krishna will contest from Govindpuara as Independent candidate and he, himself, will contest from some other constituency. If this happens, it will be very damaging for the ruling party. And he is sore that the BJP is honouring the Iron Man of another party (Sardar Patel) while ignoring its own (LK Advani).
  • He served as a minister in the Shivraj Singh government from 2005 to 2015, when he was dropped under the 75-plus criterion. And now, the party seems to be in a mood to deny renomination to him. Not only that, but the party also seems unwilling to field his daughter-in-law, Krishna Gaur, a former mayor of Bhopal.

Sartaj Singh, too, up in arms

Besides Gaur, another former minister has also announced his intention to contest as an Independent. He is Sartaj Singh. Along with Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh, 78 was also ousted from the Sartaj Singh is a five-time Lok Sabha member and a two-time MLA. He was also a member of the ministry headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and has the distinction of defeating Congress veteran Arjun Singh in Lok Sabha elections. Kusum Singh Mahdele, 75, is a minister in the current government. But her ticket too has not been cleared by the party to date. Mahdele, however, is preferring to keep quiet for the present.