Babulal Gaur displayed resilience to survive in MP’s political labyrinth
Ahead of the 2003 assembly elections too, he was almost denied a ticket when Uma Bharti led the party campaign in the state to dislodge the 10-year-rule of Congress. But Gaur didn’t relent and managed to get a party ticket again after conveying his concern to party patriarchs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.Updated: Aug 21, 2019 13:53 IST
Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP leadership from Bhopal to Delhi had to sweat it out to pursue Babulal Gaur, 89, to withdraw his claim for candidature so that it could field some other leader from his Govindpura assembly constituency.
Gaur wanted to know reasons behind it as he had won the assembly elections ten times in a row till the 2013 assembly polls. Sensing the trouble brewing within BJP, Congress leaders lost no time in contacting Gaur requesting him to switch sides. This made the BJP worry even more than before.
However, Gaur could be persuaded only when the party decided to field his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur in his place. She won the election.
It was not the first time that Gaur had faced rough weather. Ahead of the 2003 assembly elections too, he was almost denied a ticket when Uma Bharti led the party campaign in the state to dislodge the 10-year-rule of Congress. But Gaur didn’t relent and managed to get a party ticket again after conveying his concern to party patriarchs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
Not only did he win the election but later also became one of the most trustworthy ministers for Bharti in her cabinet. When the latter stepped down from the chief minister’s chair in 2004, in the wake of a Hubli court’s arrest warrant against her she chose Gaur as her successor. It was another matter that the relationship between the two turned sour when Gaur refused to relinquish his position when Bharti, as claimed by certain party functionaries, wanted to be at the helm of affairs again. Though, Bharti always denied that she ever wanted to replace Gaur.
Gaur drew his strength from the movements he had been a part of right from the days when he was a labourers’ leader while working as a labourer in a textile mill in Bhopal. He rode bicycles on Bhopal roads, travelled in government buses and accompanied leaders of towering personality like Jaiprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and several other anti-Congress leaders in their journeys. He remained in jail for 19 months during the Emergency.
Such was the grit and courage of Gaur that he didn’t bow to party diktats ever when he didn’t like it even when the tide seemed to be going against him. He was the only cabinet minister in the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan government who had courage to challenge Chouhan’s decisions.
When party leadership decided that no leader would remain in active politics after attaining the age of 75, Gaur, the then home minister, and another minister in Chouhan’s cabinet Sartaj Singh were asked to step down from their positions in 2016. Though he stepped down from his chair, he challenged the party decision overtly.
He was a leader who enjoyed an excellent relationship with Congress leaders too. However, this became a shot in the arm of his detractors within the BJP when he was chief minister, to dislodge him from the post.
One of the most accessible leaders for the people and the media, Gaur got his surname from a teacher.
In Gaur’s words, “I am from a Yadav family in Uttar Pradesh. One of my teachers was very impressed with my focus on studies in the primary school at my village in Pratapgarh. He said to other teachers ‘Ye ladka bahut gaur se parhta hai (This boy is focussed on his studies)’. And from then my teachers and classmates started calling me Gaur.”
According to Gaur, when his family had moved from UP to Bhopal his father started a liquor business at Bairagarh in the outskirts of Bhopal. There was good income from it. “But when I joined the Bharatiya Jansangh, I told my mother that I would not sit at the shop. Later, my mother agreed to close the business,” he had said.
Gaur stoked controversies too many times with his statements which caused embarrassment to party leaders but such was his position in the party and commitment to the party ideology that nobody could challenge his position until a new dispensation in the BJP after the Atal-Advani era came to an end more than five years back.
His contribution to the development of Bhopal was appreciated even by his political rivals.
“Gaur saheb’s hearth thumped for Bhopal. Nobody can ever match this”, said Congress leader Manak Agrawal.
Though a strict disciplinarian on the health front, Gaur underwent trauma in the last 10 months or so. He suffered from a brain hemorrhage last year. Then he had to undergo an angioplasty process in Delhi and before he could recover after returning home last month he had a respiratory problem and had to be hospitalised for about two weeks before his end came in the hospital on Wednesday morning.