Shekhawat -- a deft politician with friends in all parties
  • This Section
  • Latest
  • Web Wrap
Last Updated: Saturday, May 15, 2010, 12:48
  
Jaipur: Respected as a deft politician, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat enjoyed the enviable reputation of 'Ajatshatru' -- for having friends across the political spectrum in his over five decades-long political career.

The former Vice President, who died here at the age of 87, was undoubtedly among the top three leaders of the BJP along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani who brought him to the centre-stage as Vice President in August 2002 after the BJP-led NDA gained power at the Centre.

Known as 'Bhairon Baba' among his admirers for his immense political skills, he was thrice Chief Minister of Rajasthan and led the opposition for several years in the desert state.

In the course of his long innings, Shekhawat headed the Jan Sangh in the state and served as national vice-president of the BJP.

"Age is no bar for me", Shekhawat had said when he was Vice President and had climbed the Eiffel Tower at the age of 83.

The remark was significant and gave a clear indication that he would run for the Presidentship of India, the election for which was due in 2007.

When journalists accompanying him to Paris asked him whether he now planned to 'conquer new heights', a euphemism for the Presidential race, Shekhawat had cryptically remarked, "Age is no bar for me."

The remark showed his confidence even though the odds were clearly against him. Shekhawat eventually lost the Presidential race to Pratibha Patil.

The 2007 presidential election became an acrimonious affair with both sides levelling charges and counter-charges, seeking to dig up the past of the rival candidates and their families.

Born on October 23, 1923 in Khachariyawas, a small village in Sikar district, Shekhawat always credited his success to destiny and the 'magic of democracy'.

His father's early death forced the school-going Shekhawat, the eldest among eight siblings, to quit studies and join the police service to support the family.

After he had risen to the post of assistant sub-inspector in 1948, Shekhawat decided to quit the police.

Four years later, he successfully contested his first assembly election from Danta-Ramgarh constituency in Rajasthan on a Jan Sangh ticket.

Starting as a fiery legislator, Shekhawat gradually proved himself to be a formidable opposition leader and an able administrator as Chief Minister.

Shekhawat was the only member of the Rajasthan assembly to have won in every assembly election since 1952 till he became Vice President in 2002, except in 1972 when he lost from Gandhi Nagar in Jaipur.

His other major electoral loss was in 1971 when he contested from Barmer in the Lok Sabha polls.

Shekhawat was later elected to the Rajya Sabha from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in 1974.

He enjoyed the distinction of heading three non-Congress governments in the state during 1977-1980, 1990-1992 and 1993-1998.

In 1980 and 1992, his governments were dismissed by the Centre before they could complete their tenures. In 1993, despite a thin majority, the BJP government led by Shekhawat managed to complete its term.

His tenure as the Chief Minister of the desert state was marked by pragmatism as his government launched path-breaking policies.

His brainchild - the Antyodaya scheme to help the poorest of the poor, brought international accolades for Shekhawat with the then World Bank chief Robert McNamara describing him as the Rockfeller of India.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, May 15, 2010, 12:48


comments powered by Disqus