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The making of Maken

When Ajay Maken joined politics, his family members kept their fingers crossed. Two politicians in the family died: both young. The first was Satya Prakash, a member of Delhi’s Metropolitan Council; and the second Lalit Maken, member of Parliament, writes Kumkum Chadha.

delhi Updated: Nov 16, 2009 00:11 IST
Kumkum Chadha

When Ajay Maken joined politics, his family members kept their fingers crossed.

Two politicians in the family died: both young. The first was Satya Prakash, a member of Delhi’s Metropolitan Council; and the second Lalit Maken, member of Parliament.

Both were Maken junior’s uncles: Satya Prakash died at 26 in a road accident and Lalit Maken was 34 when he was gunned down.

So the family shot down Ajay Maken’s proposal: “No question,” his father had then said. Not that Ajay had originally planned to. He was studying chemistry in Delhi and preparing to join the family business. In college he had dabbled in union politics but never thought of pursuing it as a career.

As a child, Maken jeered at politicians. In school, he was nicknamed “netaji” (leader). Everyone was in splits when he aped doddering politicians. When he joined college, he was ragged for a whole month: “Oye neta” the seniors would holler, pull Maken by the collar and command: “Acting kar” (act).

The BJP’s Vijay Goel hopes the “young politician” does something for Delhi: “I would like to see some extraordinary work for the constituency. Maken is a good politician, a decent fellow. Of course, I would not like to comment on the writ petition filed against him for the excessive expenditure on his election campaign.” A writ petition was filed against Maken in the Delhi High Court. The petitioner, Adesh Gupta, had alleged that Maken had overspent in his election campaign and thus violated the model code of conduct. He had sought Maken’s election be declared null and void.

Even though Maken praises the late Rajiv Gandhi and says the latter was his inspiration in joining politics, it was Oscar Fernandes and the late P.R. Kumaramangalam who goaded him into taking the plunge. “I was elected MLA in 1993 but the man (Rajiv Gandhi) for whom I joined politics was no more,” Maken said, saying that following Gandhi’s assassination, his (Maken’s) wife, Radhika, had to be put on sedatives: “The shock was too much,” he said.

His political career, rather ministerial tenures (three of them), has been a roller-coaster ride. As state transport minister, the onus of switching to CNG fuel was on him. His dilemma: to do or not to do? He went ahead and of course got the flak but did not relent. As state power minister, he was in the firing line on privatising power distribution in Delhi. As Union minister of state for urban development, he took a tough stand on demolitions. That he thawed is another story. Whodunnit? None other than his “Guru” — Gurinder Singh of the Radha Soami sect of Beas: “It was Maharajjee” (as the Makens refer to Singh),” said Radhika, “who asked him to adopt a ‘humane approach’ towards traders”.

It is not hers but Maharajjee’s picture that finds place in Maken’s wallet.