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Mr Muscles MP

He is arguably the most powerful man in the Lok Sabha, but only in the physical sense, writes Manoj Joshi.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 23:59 IST
Manoj Joshi
Manoj Joshi

He is arguably the most powerful man in the Lok Sabha, but only in the physical sense. He’s got to be — 19-inch biceps and a 47-inch chest alone qualify him for the position. And the two silver and two bronzes at the 1984 Asian Power-lifting Championship in Bandung, and a national gold make it a cinch — never mind his five-foot three-inch height.

KC Baba, member of Lok Sabha from Nainital, has played a long innings in UP and Uttaranchal politics, working his way up from chairmanship of the Kashipur municipality, to MLA and Speaker of the Uttaranchal legislature. But as a freshman in the 2004 Lok Sabha (incidentally he’s the only Congress MP from Uttaranchal), he maintains the strong and silent tradition of the professional farmer that he is.

‘Baba’ could well suggest a person of other-worldly proclivity. Though personally deeply religious, KC is renowned for his secular politics and minority outreach for the Sikhs and Muslims, even at the cost of losing some majority community votes. ‘Baba’ is the nom de-guerre of a blue-blooded prince who has become a politician.

His name, when I was at school with him, was Karan Chand Raj Singh, and his Chandravanshi Rajput lineage goes back to old Kannauj. From his mother’s side he’s closer to the current — and disgraced — King Gyanendra. (The king is a nephew.)

His father, the Raja of the erstwhile state of Kashipur, would refer to him as ‘Baba’ (as in ‘Baba-log’) to the family retainers, and the name stuck. Later, when he decided to go into politics, it became a convenient way for KC to transcend barriers of caste and his background. His father, the old Raja, educated in England, Cambridge Blue in boxing and rowing, fluent in several European languages and a well-known fixture in the sailing circuit in Nainital, was the quintessential easy-going aristocrat, known to all as daju, or elder brother.

KC, on the other hand, is the ‘farmer next door’, and has worked hard for a living. He is uncomfortable in clubs and palaces and most relaxed with his political cronies, some of whom also double as his gym buddies. He finished school at St Joseph’s College, Nainital, and then his Nepal link led to a most piquant situation: he was summoned by his fond aunts, then queen mothers of Nepal, to study in Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. A singular case, perhaps, of academic traffic going from India to Nepal, at least for undergraduate work.

Kashipur is an old kingdom in the terai area of Kumaon. Since a great-grand uncle remained a bachelor, KC is accepted as the lineal successor to the rajas of Kumaon. During Dussehra every year, he conducts the main puja at the ancient Nanda Devi temple in Almora. For Kumaonis, he is ‘Raja saheb’. But to the modern, democratic world, he’s KC Baba.

First Published: May 11, 2006 23:59 IST