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Mahajan: a leader of flair and promise

The "why" of that numbing act on the Saturday morning now remains a matter for police investigation that is still on.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 17:22 IST

In Pramod Mahajan, who succumbed on Wednesday to the bullet injuries inflicted by his younger brother, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost one of its brightest leaders and the country a politician of great flair and promise.

The BJP will eventually find replacements for the many tasks Mahajan was slated to do, but it is doubtful whether it would find a doer of his calibre -- one who did things with aplomb and with a smile that made him one of the party's best known public faces.

For one who graduated from being a "pracharak" (preacher) of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the BJP and other Hindu nationalist groups loosely called the Sangh Parivar, the irony lies in being felled by a member of his own family whom he had brought up like a son.

The "why" of that numbing act on the Saturday morning, April 22 now remains a matter for police investigation that is still on.

Mahajan himself, despite showing signs of recovery and even a semblance of recognising his visitors on the second and the third day, did not survive to tell his side of the story.

In whatever capacity Mahajan worked in the last two decades, he stood out as an articulate face of the BJP.

Many political analysts rated him as "prime ministerial material".

India Inc liked him for his pleasant, business-like and articulate disposition and uncanny ability to store and marshal facts and figures to his advantage.

He was dubbed the CEO of the BJP, whatever his position in the party.

He enjoyed proximity to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whom he addressed with the honorific "Baapji", and served as his political advisor during a part of the tenure as prime minister.

LK Advani was his mentor and the two remained close despite occasional hiccups. Yet, it was Mahajan's distancing from Advani in the wake of the row over his adulatory remarks pertaining to Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah last year that set the tone for many others in the party.

As general secretary in charge of the parliamentary polls in 2004, Mahajan was the first to own up moral responsibility for the party's shocking defeat.

Even as other leaders were angry and tongue tied, he went on TV channels, accepting defeat and offering to resign.

Even those who had reservations about Mahajan's political integrity never doubted his political acumen.

His tenure at the helm of key economic ministries like telecom and civil aviation during the Vajpayee government was marked by several innovations.

As information and broadcasting minister, he was also the government's spokesman for cabinet meetings.

He was equally comfortable speaking Marathi, Hindi or English. Indeed, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he once escorted, praised his command over English.

He was a good political organiser who combined this acumen with strategic thinking. Mahajan was the architect of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance that ruled Maharashtra for five years (1994-99).

His brother-in-law Gopinath Munde was deputy chief minister in that government.

Born in 1949, Mahajan joined the RSS in the early 1970s and worked largely in rural Maharashtra.

In 1979, he was in the select batch of RSS activists co-opted to the BJP to work on the political front. He had not looked back after that.

He was president of the All India Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in 1986, general secretary of the party's Maharashtra unit 1978-83 and national party general secretary later.

He represented Mumbai in the Lok Sabha in 1996-98 and was defence minister in the 13-day Vajpayee government in 1996.

He was elected to the Rajya Sabha, after two earlier stints, again in July 1998.

Mahajan was preparing to take up the task of revamping the party in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh when the April 22 shooting occurred.