Politician with a difference
Posted November 21, 2015on:
Madhya Pradesh minister of home and jails Babulal Gaur belongs to the rare breed of politicians. He contested his first Assembly election in 1974 as an independent supported by the parties which later formed Janata Party to dislodge Indira Gandhi and the Congress from power at the Centre and in several States. Gaur revealed at a public function a few years ago that he had won that election mainly because of the help from Congress leader Arjun Singh. As a Minister in the BJP government of Sunderlal Patwa in the early 90s, Gaur had displaced thousands of Muslim families from old Bhopal and dumped them at inhospitable terrains near Gandhinagar outside the city. He was in the forefront of the welcoming party when the Kar Sevaks returned from Ayodhya after demolishing Babri Masjid that resulted in communal riots in several part of the country, Bhopal being one of the worst-hit with 192 recorded killings. Still Gaur continues to be more popular among Muslims than any other BJP leader and more popular than most of the State Congress leaders also.
Patwa hated his guts but had to induct him into his cabinet at the insistence of (then BJP president) Lal Krishna Advani. When Uma Bharti was declared BJP’s chief ministerial candidate and had her absolute say in selection of candidates, she had convinced almost the entire party leadership that Gaur would better serve the party in Lok Sabha than in the Assembly. She had even selected Lok Sabha constituency for him – Bhopal. It was Atal Behari Vajpayee at the Central Election Committee who vetoed it down and said that Gaur, being a senior leader, should be allowed to contest for the Assembly if he so desired. Then, Uma Bharti trusted only Gaur to hold the chief minister’s post when she was made to resign in the wake of the non-bailable warrant against her from the Hubli court. Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s manoeuvrings have failed to keep Gaur out of his cabinet.
Gaur is not a stickler to the RSS/BJP code in the matter of his food habits. Still, the hard-core puritan like Kushabhau Thakre had tremendous affection for him. A retired executive of a private sector industrial unit tells me that in the 1980s he was assigned by his boss the task of giving ‘donations’ to important leaders towards their election expenses. When he reached Gaur with Rs 60,000 (earmarked for him), the BJP leader consulted a register where he had apparently noted down the amounts he was hoping to collect from companies and individuals and told the executive that he had counted on Rs 3,000 from his company. He refused to accept more, the retired executive said.
Gaur has had, by and large, a clean public life. The only black spot was the blatant manipulation to which he resorted, with the help of then State Election Commissioner A V Singh, to get his widowed and apolitical daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur elected as Mayor of Bhopal in 2009. A V Singh, who belonged to the IAS, never disturbed his conscience when it came to going against the rules and propriety to keep himself on the right side of the powers that be. Defeated Congress candidate Abha Singh’s supporters had alleged that then PCC president Suresh Pachauri had also betrayed the party.
Gaur occasionally displays a sense of humour which is not common among BJP leaders. One day he invited some journalists for dinner. He called me up to remind me. I said that I had no option but to obey his command because, being the home minister, he would otherwise send a police party to pick me up. Gaur was silent for a few seconds, then said quietly: ‘Yes. You know I am minister of jails also’.