Octogenarian Congress leader ND Tiwari is a man full of surprises. The next one he pulls out could be aimed at the party itself.
Congress leader ND Tiwari hugs Rahul Shekhar (R) at Uttrakhand Bhawan in New Delhi. (Arun Sharma/HT photo)
The 89-year-old politician, a former chief minister of Uttarakhand, is actively considering contesting the Lok Sabha polls from his pocket borough Nainital as an independent in what could be his last electoral battle, according to his trusted lieutenants.
Earlier this month, Tiwari sprung the biggest surprise of his career when he accepted the 35-year-old Rohit Sekhar as his biological son after year of legal wrangling in the highly-publicised paternity case.
Ever since Sekhar dragged Tiwari to court, the three-time chief minister of undivided Uttar Pradesh had vehemently denied any relations with him till a 2012 DNA test nailed his lie. But Tiwari had continued to contest the paternity suit till he finally relented.
Tiwari, who needs support to move about, had last represented Nainital in 1999 in the 13th Lok Sabha.
The Samajwadi Party has also offered the ticket to Tiwari to contest from Nainital but the veteran leader’s officer on special duty (OSD) Bhawani Bhatt has dismissed such a possibility.
“There is no need for Tiwariji to claim ticket from Samajwadi Party as he enjoys support across party lines. Tiwariji supports Samajwadi ideology but he is never in favour of leaving the Congress,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt hinted that the SP and even the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) might extend outside support to Tiwari in case he makes up his mind to contest from Nainital.
However, the SP took objection to the OSD’s statement and asked him not to speak on behalf of the veteran leader.
Tiwari fighting on an SP ticket would enhance the image of the party and a win would be the icing on the cake for it.
It is another matter that the party has already announced the name of Avtar Singh in Nainital. Sources said the SP’s local unit would be happy to accept Tiwari.
“We have high respect for Tiwariji and urge the OSD to not meddle in political affairs,” SP state president Satyanarayan Sachan said.
In the midst of claims and counter-claims, Tiwari himself has maintained a studied silence on the issue.
Tiwari is credited with the rapid industrialisation in the Nainital parliamentary segment and is seen as a leader with a vision for development.
However, as far as political equations are concerned things are apparently not in his favour now.
Tiwari’s support base has withered in the last few years particularly after he was sidelined in the Congress in 2009.
In the 2012 assembly polls, his nephew Manishi Tiwari’s deposit was forfeited as Congress candidate from Bazpur assembly seat which falls under the Nainital parliamentary constituency.
Tiwari’s one-time die-hard supporter KC Baba is now a two-term member of parliament from Nainital.
In all likelihood, Congress will go with Baba from this seat, leaving Tiwari in the lurch once again.
The Congress is also concerned about the ongoing political developments.
However, party spokesperson Rajiv Mehrishi thinks Tiwari will not do anything “that dents the Congress”.