I first met Sunder Lal Patwaji in 1974. I was deeply impressed by his brilliance, dynamism and amazing oratory skills.
I came closer to him in 1985 when he contested from Bhojpur constituency. He never knew fatigue and inspired and motivated all to live up to their potential. It was only due to the hard work of party workers and popularity of Patwaji that BJP came to power in 1990.
Patwaji lived a pure and full life. Even at the age of 92, he was averse to being called “vridha” (elderly). I often met him to seek guidance. Patwaji had a deep impact on my personal life as well. It was Patwaji, who inspired me to get married and still devote my life to the service of society and nation.
He had appointed me as state Yuva Morcha president. It was the time when the Ram Janmabhumi movement had started at Ayodhya. A large number of ‘Rambhakts’ sacrificed their lives. After this, former Prime Minister VP Singh visited Bhopal. We decided to oppose him. Patwaji was the chief minister. The administration had made foolproof security arrangements, but the Yuva Morcha succeeded in disrupting PM’s visit. We were cane charged. In return, we pelted stones. VP Singh then staged a sit-in outside CM’s residence. I apprehended that Patwaji would be angry but he came out and told the media that when a large number of Rambhakts had lost their lives, a small agitation and little stone pelting would not bring down the sky.
Patwaji was a man at peace. When his government was dissolved in 1992 following Ram Janmabhumi movement, he remained calm and composed. He boarded a state transport bus in the evening and left for Indore.
He was always ready to fight for the right cause. He undertook a fast unto death protesting against the killing of farmers in Multai during Digvijaya Singh regime. He was a messiah to farmers and was first political leader to waive off ₹714 crore in farm loans. A strict administrator, he never gave in to any goonda element or terror and ruthlessly eliminated the mafia in Indore and Bhopal.
For the generations to come, Patwaji’s life would remain a source of inspiration.
I salute the noble soul.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan
(The author is chief minister of Madhya Pradesh)