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Back to roots: Stranger in own village, Hridayesh counts Haldwani as second home

Septuagenarian Hridayesh, a former teacher, has long been settled in Haldwani and represents it in the state assembly.

dehradun Updated: Jan 20, 2017 21:19 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
Cabinet minister Indira Hridayesh’s cousin sister Bhagirathi Devi at her ancestral village Dashauli in Pithoragarh district. (Deep Joshi/HT Photo )

This quaint little village is cradled in a scenic valley with emerald green wheat fields adding to its tranquil charm. Dasauli though is a prominent spot in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district as it happens to be the ‘maika’ (mother’s place) of Congress veteran and state parliamentary affairs minister Indira Hridayesh.

Not many know that Hridayesh visited her ancestral place long after she started her political career. “Indiraji visited here for the first time in the early 1990s when this state was part of Uttar Pradesh,” recalled Trilok Mani Pathak, 63, of Pankhu, a nearby village. “She was then canvassing in the Kumaon region as she was contesting the election to be a member of the Uttar Pradesh legislative council.”

Septuagenarian Hridayesh, a former teacher, has long been settled in Haldwani and represents it in the state assembly. Her father, the late Tikaram Pathak, was said to be an associate of Mahatma Gandhi. “He (Tikaram) with his family had migrated to Allahabad long ago. Hridayeshji was born there only,” said Trilok Mani. According to him, Tikaram died when she was around six. Some of her relatives, however, said she was born in Pilibhit, now a part of Uttar Pradesh.

A seasoned politician, Hridayesh is also known for her erudition and in-depth knowledge of parliamentary affairs. No wonder, she often acted as a trouble shooter for chief minister Harish Rawat whenever his government landed in crisis. Congress insiders said she played a crucial role in averting the political crisis that gripped the state last year.

Her name figured among the chief ministerial candidates when the Congress won the 2012 assembly polls with a wafer thin majority. Many see her as one of the probable chief ministerial candidates if the ruling party wins the assembly election to be held on February 15.

Hridayesh remains a stranger for the residents of her native village. Many say they have not even seen her. “I met her years ago when she visited nearby Pankhu,” recalled Bhagirathi Devi, 81, a cousin of Hridayesh. “We never met after that.”

Trilok Mani recalled that during her maiden visit to Pankhua, Hridayesh was accorded a grand welcome by the locals. “In fact, we were pleasantly surprised when while speaking at the function she disclosed that Dasauli is her maika,” he said. “She also shared that she kept searching for her ancestral place all her life and was happy to have located it, finally.”

During that trip, Hridayesh visited a celebrated temple of goddess Kot-gadi to seek her blessings. “She negotiated a four-km tough trek snaking through a mountainous area to reach there. But while returning she got too tired to walk and had to be ferried back in a palanquin,” Trilok Mani recalled, adding that “such an arduous trek perhaps made her realise the difficulties the highlanders in the region face” in absence of roads.

According to him, immediately after that she sanctioned an approach road up to Kot-gadi temple. “She sanctioned more roads after she took over as a public works department minister after the formation of the mountain state in 2000,” Trilok Mani said, adding that the new network of roads gave a boost to the economy of about 25 villages in the area.

Barring road connectivity, Dashauli remains devoid of almost all other basic facilities, rued its residents. “We don’t have even a hospital here,” said Chandra Shekhar Pathak, 59, a merchant. “Similarly, Dashauli has just one state-run high school and, that too, is without a building of its own.” JC Pathak, a trader, said, “Joblessness among the local youth is a major problem.”

First Published: Jan 20, 2017 21:18 IST