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Cruel end for best of Gen Next

Pramod Mahajan was the best-known face among the BJP's second-generation leaders, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: May 04, 2006 02:29 IST

Pramod Mahajan was the best-known face among the BJP's second-generation leaders. In fact he played a major role in the virtual "corporatisation" and re-structuring of the trader-centric saffron party.

It was Mahajan who got industrial houses to back the BJP in a big way. His functioning was also different — more akin to the Congress than the outdated methods of senior BJP leaders.

Both Vajpayee and Advani

Mahajan was perhaps the only second-generation leader who enjoyed the trust of both Atal Behari Vajpayee (whom he often addressed as "Baapji") and L.K. Advani.

When Advani ventured on his first Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990, Mahajan was his companion. Reason: his exceptional organisational and man-management skills.

NDA days

But for some time — soon after the NDA came to power — Mahajan became closer to Vajpayee. Observers often called him the most important man after the PM.

Things changed after Advani became deputy PM and the official No. 2.  Mahajan's importance, however, continued because of his grasp of the government's functioning and his ability to deal with allies and the opposition. Being Vajpayee's main troubleshooter, the government turned to him for any trouble.

Mahajan played the most important role in several crucial NDA government decisions. When the NDA and the opposition were still trying to work out an arrangement for getting a president chosen by consensus, Mahajan introduced A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's candidature. The rest, of course, is history.

Early days

Mahajan had started out as an ABVP activist and was greatly influenced by professor Bal Apte, who later became a fellow MP from Maharashtra. He also had a short stint in an RSS daily.

He shot into prominence when Vajpayee (who became the BJP's first president in 1980) appointed him chief of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP's youth wing.

His rise was phenomenal. But for his part, he had cordial relations with even adversaries, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

At the centrestage

After accompanying Advani on his rath yatra, Mahajan arrived on the centrestage of BJP politics. He was first appointed a secretary by Murali Manohar Joshi and elevated as general secretary by Advani when he took over as president in 1993.

He became a key player but rubbed many contemporaries the wrong way. Accused of being arrogant and abrasive, Mahajan was a true practitioner of realpolitik.

2005 and 2006

When Advani was in trouble with the RSS last year, Mahajan got the RSS to tone down its offensive by seeking the help of Sangh's general secretary, Mohan Bhagwat. When Madan Lal Khurana was reinstated after Vajpayee's intervention last year, Mahajan drafted the Delhi strongman's regret letter.

In Mumbai, at Advani's last public meeting as party president, Vajpayee described Mahajan as Lakshman to Advani's Ram. This statement — which undermined Rajnath Singh's position — demonstrated Mahajan's importance.

The RSS also had mixed feelings towards Mahajan. But on hearing he was shot, RSS leaders cancelled a crucial meeting in the Capital on April 22. Mahajan's lavish lifestyle attracted many controversies. But he learnt to live with them.

On April 21, a day before he was shot, he called up Khurana to inquire if he was one of the leaders the former Delhi CM was planning to attack through his disclosures. Being told that he was not on Khurana's hit list, Mahajan felt relieved.

But little did he know he was already on his brother's hit list.