Babulal Gaur (84) reached the zenith of his political career in the state through sheer luck when the then CM Uma Bharti — against whom a Karnataka court had issued an arrest warrant — resigned and chose him as her successor in 2004. Gaur had to quit at his party's instance more than a year later.
Known for his candid statements and controversies, the ten-time MLA and home minister Gaur completed four decades in electoral politics recently. Excerpts from an interview.
How would you define your entire political career?
I have been mostly a part of the Opposition. But, I effectively used the assembly's proceedings to raise public issues and corner the Congress governments in 70s and 80s.
I became a minister when the BJP came to power in 1990. The then CM Sunderlal Patwa gave me a free hand to launch a drive against encroachments. This was when Congress leader Arjun Singh gave me the name 'Bulldozer Lal'.
But why has the Bulldozer been silent for several years?
The circumstances are different now. The governments these days are not as strong as they used to be.
Were you not hurt when you were asked to step down from the CM's post by your party leaders?
God has given me much with both hands (Chhappar fad kar diya). So, why should I hold any grudges? However, the then governor Balram Jakhar was not happy with the party's decision.
But you became a minister again. Don't you think you compromised on your dignity?
When I complied with the party's decision to quit, Atal ji asked me to choose what I wanted to be: a Rajya Sabha member or state BJP president or a minister. I chose the latter to serve the people.
While naming you as her successor, Uma Bharti had asked you to give up the CM's position whenever she was to return. But didn't you refuse to oblige her?
I had told her: "I will quit the CM's post only if it is decided by the party." Uma Bharti said she would become the CM only after the party's consent. However, when the party didn't favour her for the post, she told me not to resign.
What kind of an equation exists between you and Bharti?
She is very rash (Wo gussail hain). She formed her own party and ahead of 2008 assembly elections, she told me she was going to return to power. But, her party Bha-ratiya Janshakti could win only five seats and she herself lost the election. However, she talked to me on some occasions for a few works.
One of the reasons why you were removed from the CM office was your proximity with Congress leaders like the then union ministers Arjun Singh, Kamal Nath etc. Do you think the BJP couldn't have won in 2008 with you as the CM?
The Congress has only raised slogans in the last 50 years. It has lost base not just in Madhya Pradesh, but in the entire country. Hence, the BJP would have won with either Uma Bharti or me in the CM's chair.
What kind of relationship do you have with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan? It is said there are occasions when he doesn't talk to you. Any comment?
We both have good relations. But I make candid statements. Like (recently), I opposed a hike in the VAT on petrol and diesel. It was only once when the CM was upset with me — when a local newspaper misquoted me on Uma Bharti's return to the BJP before she rejoined the party.
Who do you think is the best chief minister of the state?
In my view, Arjun Singh and Sunderlal Patwa both have been the best.
Would you like to contest the next assembly elections?
I will do whatever the party says and serve people, without any conditions.
When there is a talk that former PM Manmohan Singh would be questioned in the coalgate scam, then why should the CM or the governor not be questioned in connection with the MPPEB scam despite the fact the CM's PA and governor's officer-on-special-duty are the accused?
There should be evidence (for questioning). And now, the HC has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to monitor the investigation.