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Up for a challenge, always

india Updated: Sep 07, 2009 00:41 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times
Union Minister Pradeep Jain

Challenge Union Minister Pradeep Jain and he will place his hands on ice till they turn blue; tempt him and he will eat half a kilo green chillies to pocket the bet money: “It is not about money but winning,” says the don-type minister.

Not his fault, given that his mother had instilled the “agey baro, kuch karo” feeling in him. Move ahead and do something. Considering that Jain’s father was an engine driver in the railways, it was an uphill task.

He started off raising slogans in college, lost every election he contested as a student and there seemed little hope of his making it big.

His mother spent sleepless nights worrying about how he would manage. A job, she figured, meant salary and, better still, pension. But she wanted more from her son. One day when Jain was gargling to get his voice back to raise slogans for a rally, she served an ultimatum: “Contest an election or leave home.”

He tried the first but the party, the Congress, did not oblige. His being a Jain did not assure a substantial vote bank. It was not till 2004 that he managed to get the party nomination.

In less than five years he was twice MLA, once MP and minister. The last he did not expect. He was turned way from Rashtrapati Bhawan, where he went to see the swearing in of the cabinet: “Only ministers and their families,” he was told.

Jain trudged home, unaware that he would qualify in less than a fortnight.

His induction, in the second round, was a surprise. “He,” says Bihari Lal Arya, former minister, “admitted that he was junior and stood no chance. But his age, Rahul Gandhi’s support and Sonia Gandhi’s blessings did the trick.”

Jain’s belief: Kripa of munis. Saint’s blessings. Two years after Acharya Vidya Sagar, a Jain saint, prophesied that his disciple would be a minister, Jain made it to the Union cabinet.

That and the fact that he had started frequenting the famous temple in Datia in Jhansi seemed to weigh in his favour.

It was here that Indira Gandhi prayed after her rout in 1977. After the Chinese aggression in 1962, a yagna (invoking the gods) was performed here. When the ceasefire was announced, the locals attributed it to the yagna.

“His work,” says the BJP’s former minister Ravindra Shukla, “is less result- and more publicity-oriented”.

A poet of sorts, Jain has suffixed Aditya to his name. Reason: he does not like Pradeep and astrologically Aditya adds power to Pradeep.