Balramji Dass Tandon: A bold voice of Punjabi Hindus, votary of communal harmony
A six-time state legislator and three-time cabinet minister in the Punjab government, Tandon, 91, became a minister for the first time in the first non-Congress government .punjab Updated: Aug 14, 2018 23:36 IST
The demise of Chhattisgarh governor Balramji Dass Tandon, who remained the bold voice of Hindu community in Punjab for decades, has ended the era of leaders who nurtured the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology in the state since pre-Independence period.
A six-time state legislator and three-time cabinet minister in the Punjab government, Tandon, 91, became a minister for the first time in the first non-Congress government — headed by Akali leader Justice Gurnam Singh — in 1969-70.
Staring his political career as an RSS ‘pracharak’ in his native city of Amritsar in 1946, Tandon got elected to its municipal corporation in 1952 before entering the state legislature on the Jan Sangh ticket from Amritsar Central seat in 1957.
Revered as a value-based politician and an epitome of political grace, Tandon — according to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders — never compromised on ethics and was a tireless votary of communal harmony between Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab, even while keeping the “saffron” flag flying high during militancy in the state.
Forged SAD-BJP alliance
In 1997, Tandon played a key role in the first ever pre-poll alliance between Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP. His close associates say that Tandon would often say that only the SAD-BJP alliance could strengthen ties between the two communities that had been strained by terrorism.
After getting elected from Rajpura — having represented Amritsar Central five times between 1957 and 1980 — in 1997, be became the No. 2 in Badal government.
“Guru” for most of the present-day leaders in the state BJP, Tandon would fearlessly speak his mind and never restrained from calling a spade a spade during coordination meetings between the two parties or cabinet meetings.
Even as Badal’s and his political career nourished together and the two leaders shared close ties, when it came to issues concerning Hindus, Tandon didn’t even spare the Akali leader.
“He shared a strong connect with party workers and this was his strength. It was because of his closeness with Badal and Advani that the SAD-BJP alliance materialised and the Hindu-Sikh ties came back to normal in Punjab,” said former BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia.
Tandon used to criticise radicals openly and unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls from terrorism-hit Amritsar seat when the disturbance was at its peak in 1991.
A rich legacy
In June this year, Tandon was in news when he decided not to accept the enhancement in salary of governors and announced that he would withdraw his old salary.
“He always wanted to be active in politics or in social fields. A few months after he was appointed the Chhattisgarh governor, I got an opportunity to meet him in Raipur where he shared on a lighter note that the post was a ‘golden cage’ for him,” said former state BJP chief Kamal Sharma, who used to seek guidance from Tandon.
The BJP stalwart’s son Sanjay Tandon — chief of the party’s Chandigarh unit — now has the tall task of carrying on his legacy.
Blurb: ‘Guru’ for most of the present-day leaders in the state BJP, Tandon would fearlessly speak his mind and never restrained from calling a spade a spade during coordination meetings with SAD
First Published: Aug 14, 2018 23:36 IST