The journey of Babulal Gaur, a veteran BJP leader, who passed away on Wednesday in Bhopal at the age of 89 after a prolonged illness, is that of an accidental chief minister. A mill worker and a trade union leader, Gaur became a chief minister of Madhya Pradesh ‘by chance’.
In 2003, the BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh with a sweeping majority by toppling 10-year Congress government under Digvijaya Singh. BJP’s firebrand leader Uma Bharti became the chief minister but in August 2004, she stepped down, when an arrest warrant was issued against her regarding the 1994 Hubli riot case. Gaur was appointed as the chief minister in her place.
Those aware of Madhya Pradesh politics know well that Uma Bharti made Gaur the chief minister on condition that after her return, the latter would vacate the seat. But, when the time came Gaur declined and the rest is history. Gaur, who was appointed ‘by chance’ for the top job, remained chief minister till 29 November 2005, and was succeeded by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and not Bharti.
In Madhya Pradesh politics and especially in the BJP, Gaur’s contribution was immense both as an able administrator and as a grassroots politician. He used to know party workers of his constituency individually by name.
Popularly known as a ‘development man’, Gaur had been instrumental in the development and beautification of Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal as one of the most beautiful and clean cities of the country. In fact, the foundation he laid as Minister for Urban Development, Local Administration and Bhopal Gas Tragedy Rehabilitation during the tenure of chief minister Sunderlal Patwa, has today helped Bhopal to be ranked as the second cleanest city in India after Indore consecutively for the second time.
The VIP road that runs along the Bhopal Lake from Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj airport to the main city that has drawn international tourist attraction due to its beautification and maintenance – is an example of Gaur’s administration. As commerce and industry minister, he travelled both across the country and abroad to woo investors for the state.
Despite being a hardcore right-wing politician who started his career from erstwhile Jan Sangh, Gaur was at equal ease with the leaders of opposition parties whether it’s the Congress or the Left, Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party.
In fact, during the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh in 2018, a few Congress candidates who’re now ministers in Kamal Nath government had visited Gaur for his guidance and blessings.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath have stated Gaur’s demise as a ‘great loss’.
Shri Babulal Gaur Ji served people for decades. From Jana Sangh days, he worked constantly to strengthen our Party. As Minister and CM of Madhya Pradesh he undertook many efforts to transform the state. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 21, 2019
“It’s a great loss. When I was a Union minister, both of us had been part of a delegation abroad. He shared an excellent personal relationship with all his opponents,” said Kamal Nath.
Born on 2 June 1930 as Baburam Yadav in Naugeer village at Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Gaur’s shift to Bhopal is equally interesting and ‘by chance’.
His father Ram Prasad Yadav was a wrestler and after winning a wrestling competition, the then British government rewarded him with a job in a Parsi-owned liquor company. Gaur came to Bhopal with his father, where the company allotted them a liquor shop. But after his father’s death, he went back to Pratapgarh. After facing financial difficulties, he returned to Bhopal and joined a cardboard factory (Puttha Mill) as a mill worker and stopped selling liquor at the behest of RSS. Gaur had once shared that he was renamed ‘Babulal Gaur’ by his school teacher.
A 10-term MLA and a law graduate, Gaur’s journey to politics had never been a bed of roses. His trade unionism began when he started fighting for the cause of cardboard and textile mill workers by joining the Congress-backed Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). But later he switched over to RSS-backed union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) as its founder member.
It’s said that during the JP movement in the 1970s, Jai Prakash Narayan had politically and financially supported Gaur to contest the election.
“Babulalji used to visit RSS shakha when in school. Later, he went to Nagpur at RSS headquarters and got his training under the then Sarsanghchalak Golwalkarji. After completing his law degree, he fought cases of mill workers free of cost. He won his first election from South Bhopal seat as an independent candidate in a bypoll in 1974. Though he was highly capable, his becoming CM was an incident by chance,” Umesh Chandra, an old-timer from Bhopal, who closely knew Gaur, reminisced.
Gaur had also actively participated in Goa’s freedom movement.
It was a severe jolt for Gaur when he lost his only son 47-year old Purushottam in 2004 but it didn’t deter him from pursuing politics. In fact, he started grooming his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur as his political heir, who rose from being Bhopal’s Mayor to BJP MLA in Bhopal at present.
“I have faced severe hardship in my life from my childhood days until I became an MLA. As a trade unionist and political activist, I used to visit newspaper offices and BHEL office on a bicycle to give our press releases and invitations. Even for meetings, I used to go on a bicycle. This helped me to remain grounded and practical even today as chief minister. Decades of struggle has made me stronger, and, ups and downs in personal life and political field do not deter me from my goal. It’s the blessings of the Almighty that keeps me going,” Gaur had told this correspondent in one of the many meetings in Bhopal, when he was the chief minister and later as a commerce and industry minister of Madhya Pradesh.
An astute politician, with strong brand equity, Gaur had no ego hassles. Despite having served as the chief minister, he never shunned from working as a minister (Home Department and later as Commerce, Industry and Commercial Tax) in Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet between 2005 and 2008.
Though he had to lose his ministerial berth and later failed to get a ticket for himself on grounds of the BJP’s upper age limit of 75, Gaur managed a ticket for his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur from Govindpura seat -- his pocket borough which continues to remain invincible.
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2019 15:32:55 IST