A walk down memory lane with HN Bahuguna

A walk down memory lane with HN Bahuguna
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A walk down memory lane with HN Bahuguna

Highlights

Though nine out of 14 Prime Ministers were from Uttar Pradesh, it remains a puzzle as to why UP continues to be in economic backwaters and a BIMARU state

Though nine out of 14 Prime Ministers were from Uttar Pradesh, it remains a puzzle as to why UP continues to be in economic backwaters and a BIMARU state.

The main reason for the highest populated state being always mired in political crisis is mostly because of caste politics which exists even today. This has badly affected the economic push. On one hand we have surging Western UP and on the other there is stagnating eastern UP. The GDP of western UP is double that of eastern UP.

Not that the state did not have chief ministers who were dynamic enough to steer it towards progress or lack of resources but it is the political culture which kept the state backwards.

Let us take a look at two chief ministers Hemawati Nandand Bahuguna and his son Vijay Bahuguna who could have done a lot for the state but somehow got embroiled most of the time in politics. Hemawati Nandan Bahuguna who served as a Union Minister an later as chief minister is among those who left an indelible impact on Indian politics more than the development of the state.

He was a hardcore Congressman and was considered to be close to Indira Gandhi. From the level of being the general secretary of Congress party, he rose to become the union minister and chief minister, quit the grand old party, floated a new party and joined the Janata alliance and two years later returned to Congress and soon left the party again. He earned the distinction of being known as Natwarlal in Indian politics.

His simplicity can be gauged from the fact that when Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister he was asked to organise a massive rally in Allahabad (now Prayagraj). "On the day of the rally, Purushottam Lal Tandon Park in Allahabad was packed with people and Bahuguna was not allowed to go onto the stage. So, he went to a food stall behind the congregation and started eating some 'chaat'."

Born in Pauri Garhwal area of present-day Uttarakhand in 1921 he had his education in Allahabad. Though he had been in and out of Congress more than once, he always kept a distance from the saffron party.

His active role in the freedom struggle during Quit India movement gave him the tag of being a rebel leader and the British had placed a price on his head. He was arrested and put in jail between 1942 to 1946. Later he pursued higher studies and played key role in labour unions and was appointed as member if INTUC (Indian National Trade Union Congress).

He entered the assembly in 1952 from Karchana constituency in Allahabad, became the parliamentary secretary in 1957 and moved up the ranks to serve as deputy minister for industries and labour. His political growth was seen between 1960s and 1970s . Four years later, Bahuguna was appointed the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh but he resigned from the post on November 29, 1975.

According to an interview to BBC, Bahuguna once spoke about his disillusionment with the Congress leadership and then prime minister Indira Gandhi during his tenure as Uttar Pradesh chief minister. "As soon as I took an oath for the CM's position, I had a fight with Indira Gandhi on a foundational issue. She felt that I should consult her for every work. My stand was that "back seat driving" was not possible. A CM who runs such a big state must take his own decisions…She wanted that I take her son (Sanjay Gandhi) across UP just like the CMs of Rajasthan and Maharashtra. I declined (to do so). I told her that he should walk on his feet, work, move ahead but this cannot happen on my shoulders."

Some of the important measures taken by Bahuguna were meant to benefit to the Harijans, establishing "a happy rapport with the Muslims" by acting boldly to suppress "anti-Muslim rioting, and taking measures to eliminate "rural indebtedness". He never lost his cool even in the odds emerging off and on in his lire He was one of those few politicians in India who advocated corruption free neat and clean administration. His government gave high priority to maintaining dignity and status of Vice Chancellors. He was an efficient administrator.

But Indira Gandhi who was not willing to allow such independence, she replaced Bahuguna with N D Tiwari. Bahuguna then formed his own party which was known as Congress for Democracy. Two Congress stalwarts like Babu Jagjivan Ram and Nandini Satpathy also joined him in the CFD. Bahugana later merged his party with Janata Party in 1977. Political analysts say that his exit from Congress led to congress getting wiped out from UP.

After emergency, he joined the Morarji Desai government and held the portfolios of petroleum, chemicals and fertilisers in 1977 and finance in 1979. But Bahuguna being what he was, went back to Congress party in 1979. Interestingly, his political journey started and ended at Allahabad when he was defeated by film star Amitabh Bachchan by a huge margin of nearly two lakh votes. He passed away in 1989 at hospital in US.

To be continued next Sunday

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