"How many thorns have you removed on your way from school today son?" Mother asked the child.
"How many thorns have you removed on your way from school today son?" Mother asked the child.
Son, you are lucky to walk down to school with shoes to protect your feet, but think about the poor children who have to walk barefoot to school, how are they saved from the thorns on their way? Mother calmed down his anxiousness.
Since childhood, Hemvati Nandan was taught by his mother to remove thorns for others. Many such examples will be found in the life of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, born and bought up with these rituals and teachings, while he always helped the needy and the poor and come forward to struggled and get justice for them, regardless of how much the price has been paid.
H.N. Bahuguna, the sixth child, of his parents, was born on 25th April, 1919 in a small village called Bhugani in the district of Pauri Garhwal in Uttar Pradesh. His father Ravati Nandan Bahuguna was a village Patwari and his mother Dipa, a simple house wife.
An accidental confrontation with the Deputy Commissioner Garhwal Region at the age of eleven, enamored him towards the 'Indian Civil Service' a top bureaucratic hierarchy in the British Empire. The young boy, determined to make way into civil services began to learn and study English language most studiously, a pre-requisite then for the Indian Civil Services.
Horizons began to moves as he read more of history and literature and consequently, this dampened his enthusiasm for the services, for now stood exposed, the myth of the British Empire.
His convictions against the tyranny of the British Ray were gradually turning into a firm belief, when one day while preparing for the high school examinations at Dehradoon, he saw his elder sister Durga cry as she read the daily news. The incident she was moaning was Jalianwala Bagh where thousands had been slaughtered by the British. This shook the young mind, and he resolved to keep up the struggle against the tyranny of the British Raj. Yet at the examinations he stood first.
In 1937, he moved to Allahabad for further studies and was admitted into the Government Intermediate College. His political germination began when he founded the first "Students Parliament" in the college and was elected its "Prime Minister". At the Intermediate Board Examinations his brilliance was matched by another first division.
In 1939 - 40 he was enrolled in B.Sc. at Allahabad University. The University besides being known as the Oxford of the east was also a pivot of the freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi by the year 1940 had already beckoned the youth to join the Non - Cooperation Movement. In 1941 when the president of the Allahabad University Union was declared an absconder, Bahuguna was elected the 'dictents movement in Uttar Pradesh. His plunge into the freedom movement was deep. The British declared him a rebel and Bahuguna had to go underground. Subsequently a reward of Rs. 5000/- was offered by the British to anyone who aided in his arrest dead or alive.
An active participant in the freedom movement, Bahuguna was jailed several times in the prisons of Allahabad and Sultanpur. Finally in 1942 he was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment till 1946. At the 'Amhat' jail in Sultanpur he was plagued with 'tuberclebacillus', a fatal infection in the lungs. The British offered to release him on health ground subject to an oath, that he would never indulge again in the freedom struggle. Bahuguna declined. He was finally released in 1946 on completion of the jail sentence.
Pale and haggard, he came out to pursue his studies again. In 1946 he completed his graduation in Arts.
India finally attained independence on 15th August 1947. Post independence period saw Bahuguna playing a major role in Trade Unions. He was instrumental in organizing labour Unions at Allahabad in the Power House, Government Press, Central Ordinance Depot, Symonds, and Dey's Medical. Unrelentlessly he espoused their cause and never compromised with their cause and never compromised with their welfare. A contemporary of Bahuguna, a union labour leader, at Allahabad, Janab Abdul Hamid, said once, "Bahuguna Ji always fought for the cause of the labour and he was the only labour leader on whom we hed absolute faith in those days". In 1953 he became a member of the Indian National Trade Union Congress.
In 1952 Bahuguna entered into the main stream of Indian politics. He was elected M.L.A. from Karchana and Chail constituency in Allahabad. In the house he impressed all with his deep understanding of the legislative process. The proceedings in the house reflect his deep concern for the proletariat, the downtrodden and the minorities. He was again elected to the U.P Legislative Assembly. This time from Sirathu in 1957. The same year Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, then Chef Minister U.P impressed with Bahuguna's political acumen appointed to him Parlimentary Secretary and entrusted to him the portfolio of labour and industry. In 1960 he was elevated as a Deputy Minister with the same portfolio. In 1967 he was made the Finance Minister with the U.P Government. The sharp administrator in him was gradually becoming manifest. His genius was getting acclaim and subsequently he was appointed the General Secretary of the A.I.C.C. in 1969. His organizational deftness brought closer, the rank and file of the Congress Party.
In 1971 he was made State Minister for Communication in the Central Cabinet.
1973 was him as the Chief Minister of the largest state in India. The state was Uttar Pradesh. The state was then in a deplorable state. Law and order problem, administration, and finances were at here lowest ebb. But when nature has work to be done she creates a 'genius'. Efficiency and progress became the hallmark of his administration. He left indelible print as the messiah of the landless, downtrodden, and the minorities. He personally saw, that 'Pattas' to the landless were just not made on paper. The state never was torn again with communal clashes nor were atrocities heaped on the Harijans. His 'alma-mater', the Allahabad University and other universities of the State were reeling with debts. They all had overdrafts to their credit, Allahabad University in particular was credited with an overdraft of Rs. 55 lakhs. He not only wiped off their overdrafts but also bolstered their finances with additional grants. He was the first chief minister then to revise the pay scales for the teachers from the primary to the university level. Subsequently pay scales of the state employees were also revised forthwith. The autonomy of the universities was never respected so much before as under him. Mr. Ram Sahay, the ex-Vice- Chancellor of Allahabad University, vouched for this when he said, 'He left me alone to work independently and never did I hav to wait upon education secretaries to get my job done. Instead they came up to me under instruction from Bahugunaji and he from himself, was always available to me for discussions".
The condition of the oppressed and deprived was no longer the same. As the Chief Minister of the State, he initiated several schemes and projects and developmental plans for the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes. He instituted a corporation with capital of Rs. 4 crores to do so. He was the first chief minister to have initiated 'Debt Redemption Act' to rescue the schedule cast and schedule tribes from the clutches of the money lenders. A quota of 18% was allocated in non-gazetted posts for selection and promotion of schedule castes and schedule tribes. Many members of proven ability belonging to the schedule caste were nominated by him as members of the Public Service Commission and also in Executive Councils of various Universities of the State. It was at his behest, that scholarship of schedule cast and tribe students was doubled and government sponsored coaching centers were established to help them prepare for competitive examinations. Chaudhari Chunni Lal, former of U.P Public Service Commission is of the view that Bahuguna was a 'true Gandhian'. "In tune with Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar he is the only leader since independence who has ever cared so much for the progress and upliftment of the Schedule Cast and Schedule Tribes". Thus, a place very dear and near was carved for him amongst the community members of the schedule caste and schedule tribes.
The interest of the minorities were also taken care of. His tenure was free from communal riots. To aid the weaves of the state he established a corporation which supplied raw material to them at a nominal interest rate of 4%. His argus eyes also looked into the interests of the artisans as well.
His name was gradually becoming a legend in his own life time. The saying was commonly heard, "give him a place to stand, and he can move the earth".
1976 saw parting of ways with the Congress and 1977 he was elected to the Parliament from Lucknow constituency. He was subsequently appointed as Cabinet Minister in the Department of Petroleum and Chemicals by the Prime Minister Morarji Desai. His brief stint as Petroleum Minister saw various projects which enabled the country to achieve self-sufficiency in Petroleum products.
1979 saw him as the Finance Minister with the Union Government of India. But by then the Janta Party was Plagued with conflicts amongst several Pressure groups. Disenchanted was Bahuguna again and Mrs. Indira Gandhi took pains in convincing him, that the Congress still stood by its ideals of socialism, and secularism. Thus the spirit was brought back in to the body.
In 1980 he won the Parliamentary elections from Garhwal with a thumping majority. But the spirit was restless again with the Congress. He left the party and resigned his seat as well. He there by established the highest norm in the history of Indian Parliamentary Democracy. Acharys Narendra Deo, earlier being the only exception, but Bhuguna with a difference, while the Acharya lost, when he recon tested, Bahuguna won again in 1982.
Between 1982 - 84 he revived his 'Democratic Socialist Party'. Later he joined the Lok Dal and became its Vice - President and subsequently its President.
His last endeavor was to forge a common minimum programme amongst the like minded opposition parties. But they did not reciprocate. He warned the heads of parties against believing their own lies and Bahuguna parted company with them for he upheld Emerson’s maxim of a 'genius' , To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you I your private heart is true for all men".
He was later taken ill, for his heart was choked. Doctors advised him another By-pass surgery. He flew to the United States of America to find a 'by- pass' to establish the truth for all men, but Alas ! 17th March 1989, he breathed his last at the Cleveland Hospital. He was dead and perhaps something was dead in each of us, and want was dead was 'Hope'.
It does no credit to any government which called itself democratic or civilized if it does not take some positive initiative
Desperate diseases require desperate remedies
My shoulder shall carry my head
I challenged people when they are in authority
I am politically Indestructible
It is an irony of fate that in 1989 when the nation was gearing to felicitate H.N. Bahuguna on completing 50 years of his chequered and dedicated career in Indian politics, it had to mourn his death.
He was a patriot wedded to democratic, socialist an secular ideology. He possessed a sharp intellect and a clear perception and refused to compromise with fundamentalism, regionalism and bigotry of any kind. Having a tremendous understanding of man and issues, he always said, "there is no substitute to experience and hard work". In his chequered political career of five decades he came to grips with all aspects of political, social and economic life of the nation. Addressing the last historic rally organized by him at Lukhnow on 23rd December, 1988, he declared that India was a multi-religious, multi-lingual and a multi-ethnic nation and it is in the realization of this diversity that national integrity can be guaranteed and for this it is essential to build self-governing and democratic institutions from the center to the grass root level.
Since youth, he was committed to socialist ideology. After independence, he undertook the onerous task of organizing the Industrial Workers of Allahabad. It was a long struggle for just wages, confirmation of temporary employees and for hosing and medical facilities to them and he even appeared on their behalf in Labour Tribunals. By 1952 he had established himself as the champion of the Industrial Workers of U.P. The major part of his speeches in the Vidhan Sabha between 1952-1958 is related to issues of workers welfare. At times, his remarks were so sharp and scathing, that one doubts, whether they were the utterances of a member of the ruling party. He never deterred from speaking the truth. His commitment to them was selfless. One cannot help, but appreciate the fact that there did not occur any strike in the departments of which he was the minister. It was his firm conviction that the workers, the employees were also patriots dedicated to the cause of the nation, but they needed to be understood and there was no problem or grievance to which an amicable solution could not be found. There is an unforgettable example of his style of personalized communication with the workers. In 1977 when he became the Petroleum Minister of India, he found, that the Barauni Refinery was on the verge of a closure due to labour agitation. The officers at Barauni apprised him of the fact. That the Barauni Refinery was on the verge of closure due to labour agitation. The officers at Baruani apprised him to the fact, that the union leaders there were unruly gangsters and were armed. The officers felt that Barauni lacked industrial culture and it was a mistake on the part of the government to set up a refinery there. The Minister was advised to declare a closure for six months and dismiss the gangsters and unruly elements as the only solution to bring peace and order to the refinery. Between 1970 to 1977, seven agreements and three judgments had been turned down by them. No officer dared to visit the plant Bahugunaji invited the three union leaders involved in the Barauni refinery dispute to Delhi. In one single month of October, 1977 he had with them no fewer than ten meetings. At times the deliberations lasted the whole night. The upshot was, that by early November, the refinery began to produce 90% of its rated capacity and wonder of wonders by early December, it began to give 110% output. He proved, that there was no fault with the public sector but the fault lay in the approach of those who managed it.
His concern for the agricultural sector can well be understood by the fact, that he was the only Congress Chief Minister in 1974 who relentlessly implemented the Land Reform Policy of the Government. He personally monitored the distribution of land to the landless, who held pattas but not the actual possession of land. His concern for the have-nots was passion throughout his life. In 1987-88 he struggled for justice to the landless peasants of Mdhubari, Bihar, to whom pattas had been distributed long back, but were unable to secure possession of the land. My father himself yoked the oxens to plough the land for them. This outraged the land lords of Madhubani and warrant of arrest to this effect was issued against him.
In 1983 while speaking on the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha he declared, that if we wish to pull the country out of the quagmire we will have to grant agriculture the status of an Industry. Incidentally, the present government today has won popular rural support on a similar slogan, but the notes of the tune were set by Bahugunaji way back in 1983.
All through his life he was opposed to the multinational and was piqued at the monopolization of wealth by big Industrial houses. An incident, never to be forgotten is when in 1974, he flouted the wishes of the party leadership to ensure K.K Birla's defeat to the Rajya Sabha form U. P. His socialist groundings never allowed him to compromise with the idea of industrialists delving into politics.
He was also against large scale foreign borrowing and disliked the restrictions imposed upon the country by the I.M.F. He once remarked, "At the present rate of borrowing India would soon become a permanent member of the Beggars Club."
H. N. Bahuguna, my father, was above parochial politics. Few perhaps know, that he was an ardent Sanatani Hindu Brahmin, who in private life performed his religious obligations with great zeal. He regularly performed pooja, observed important fasts, visited holy polices took a dip in the Ganges on important Bathing days during the month of Magh (January) and could quote extensively form Hindu religious text. Yet, he never lost sight of the reality that India was a multi-religious country and religious rhetoric could cause irreparable damage to the unity and integrity of the nation. His conviction was that it devolved upon the majority to generate trust in the hearts of the minority, which everywhere in the world lives under the shadow of fear. He never deterred from this stance even in most compelling situations. I recall the 1969 Assembly elections in U.P. in which he suffered a marginal defeat. It was his first electoral set back caused primarily due to swing in the Muslim votes against him. His constituency comprised of substantial Muslim voters. His friends, well wishes and workers spoke harshly about the Muslims, whose cause he had never failed to espouse. But Bahugunaji's attitude surprised all. He observed, that there must have been something failing in him, that they had rejected him and thereafter he intensified his interaction with them. Such was the greatness of the man. He unrelentlessly made efforts to contain communal violence and careless of his personal safety, visited riot torn areas. When he was the Chief Minister there did not occur a single riot in U P. even though he was not at the helm of affairs in 1987 he visited Allahabad when it was wreathing with communal clashes. No leader of significance dared to visit the city but he flew into Allabad, defied section 144 and courted arrest. Regarding the Ram Janam Bhoomi and Babri Masjid issue he advised the government at the National Integration Council in 1986 to refer the issue to the court.
His success as the Chief Minister of U.P. has been phenomenal. It is baffling how in a short span of less than 3 years he had endeared himself to every section of society, who to this day remember his contributions towards the growth and development of U. P. Once, I asked him the secret of his success, he said, "I have not only read an pondered at length upon the problems of this country but have also toured widely and interacted with cross section of the society to gain an insight into their problems". With a smile he continued "Do you know that since 1952 when I joined the U.P legislature for the first times an M.L.A. I began to engage my mind with the thought as to how would have I solved this problem if I were the Chief Minister? So by 1993, I knew my business and guided by experience I could deliver the goods." He did substantiate his view, that there is no substitute to experience and hard labour.
My father was against personalized politics. He had risen in politics form the lowest rung and always emphasized, that workers and not leaders constitute the back-bone of a political party. His prodigal memory was legendary. He was perhaps one of those few leaders, who knew thousands of his workers by their names, gave them respect and patted them for good work. This naturally aroused immense love and trust in the hearts of his followers. His last workers rally at Lucknow in December, 1988 was a historic event. A one-man show, the rally established beyond doubt the mass appeal my father had amongst the peasants, the down-trodden and the intellectuals who flooded the capital of U.P to repose their faith in the leader. This put an end to his opponents rhetoric who often use to dub him as a leader without popular base. He was unhappy with the falling standards in political life and deteriorating parliamentary behavior. He often use to say, "It is not necessary to use harsh words to say a right thing". His differences with political leaders was purely on ideological grounds. Despite sharp differences on issues, his personal relationship with them was never marred, and he continued to hold them in esteem and remained friendly with them. In 1975 when he was the Chief Minister of U.P. Shri Jai Prakash Narain had beckoned the youth for a total revolution against the Congress Government in all the States. Mobilising the movement, Jai Prakash came to U.P. from Bihar Duly respecting his status my father issued a Gazette Notification declaring him a state guest. He even visited him and discussed several issues with him. Jai Prakashji met cross-section of people and before he left U.P. he declared, that he was content with the functioning of the U.P. government as such, there was no need for a movement in the State.
The preponderance of money and muscle power in recent politics, the replacement of dedicated service by sycophancy. the desire for instant reward and corruption used to plain him. In the Lok Dal manifesto, 1988 he inserted the clause, that no individual, who was not an active member of a political party be allowed to contest an election. To contain corruption, he as the Chief Minister made it mandatory for all ministers and legislators to declare their assists. Even in the manifesto presented by him to the National Front Presidium in 1988 he had advocated, that all political leaders should declare their assets. Not only that, he also maintained that the assets. Not only that, he also maintained that the assets of all the ministers, governors and ambassadors should be audited annually and those found in possession of illegal wealth should be severely punished, their property should be confiscated and such individuals be debarred from elections for life. He also advocated that the accounts of the political parties should be audited by the Election Commission. He practiced what he preached and is one of those few politicians in India, who left no assets behind, despite the fact that he held ministerial positions for long terms. He had inherited some landed property in his native village Bhugani in Garhwal U.P., but he had distributed it among the Harijans of the village and pattas had been drawn in their names without making a show of it.
He always respected the autonomy of institutions like the Universities. During his tenure, no Vice-Chancellor visited the Secretariat. For to him, it meant undermining the status of the august office. The tremendous love and concern which he manifested towards the teaching community is still fondly remembered by them to this day with gratitude. Though a strict disciplinarian and an efficient administrator, who was held in awe by his officers. He never reprimanded them in public. They had in fact become very responsible and responsive and above all quite found of him.
My father was also opposed to unholy opportunistic alliances. He was against securing fall all governments by means of defection. In 1981 he opposed the Congress move to oust Janata State Governments by means of defection. Though a protagonist of larger unity amongst the opposition, yet he wanted it to be based on policies and programmes. The left Democratic Alliance forged by him along with the C.P.M., C.P.I., Jan Morcha and Congress (S) was a move towards achieving such an unity among the opposition parties. A strong exponent of the principle of one-man one post he was opposed to idolized politics and never cowed-down to any inferior leadership for personal political gain.
Hemwati, the son of the mountains proved true to his name. He never lost his cool, despite the odds emerging off and on in his life. He always upheid his self respect. In 1969 when he lost the Vidhan Sabha elections, Mr. C.B. Gupta, the Chief Minister, offered him a seat in the Vidhan Parishad, which he promptly declined. Seven M.L.As. offered to vacate their seats for him but he refused on the ground that he had lost from the peoples, court and therefore, would wait till he had won the confidence of the same people Similarly when he resigned form the Congress Party in 1981 he forth with resigned his seat in the Lok Sabha, which he had won as a Congress candidate. He was the second person after Acharya Narendra Dev to promote this healthy parliamentary tradition. But while the Acharaya lost when he reconceived my father won the same parliamentary seat as an independent candidate with an impressive majority. Later he also refused a seat in the Rajya Sabha as a Lok Dal candidate after his defeat in the 1984 Lok Sabha Elections. He was against back door' entry in politics.
He was a Nationlist to the core, so when Shibban Lal Saxena in an articie in Blitz accused him of being a K.G.B. agent, he promptly sued him in court and the former had to render a public apology in the same weekely and later Mr. Saxena said" All we have done was wrong thing". One my father told me, that his preference for Russia was primarily due to the fact that our relationship with them is based on equality while the U.S.A. always tries to impose terms on us. He said, " To me it would not only be unpatriotic but treacherous to seek power through the aid of anyone other than the people of India".
His career had invoked mixed reactions from political critics. Besides a large number of admirers there were, some, who accused him of being a charmer, a trickster or a Natwar Lal. These accusations relate to the period of his struggle with Shri C.B. Gupta within the U.P. Congress Party and later to the success of the Congress Party in the U.P. Vidhan Sabha elections in 197594, when he was the Chief Minister of this State. The only trick up his sleeve in that success was his total commitment and dedication to the cause of the people. He had identified himself with the masses, who had supreme trust and faith in his capacity to deliver the good. Their hopes were not belied because in the short span of less than three years in office he had greatly contributed towards the progress of this State.
My father has remained an enigma to Indian politics. Some have accused him of being an opporturtist. But what is opportunism? Opportunism means self-aggrandizement. It means, to make hay while the sun shines. An in depth study of my father's long political career which witnessed 50 years in Indian politics is much too sublime to be dismissed summarily. I fail to comprehend, how a man who always challenged the leadership at its height of power be charged of opportunism? He parted ways with the Congress in 1976 when it was at its pinnacle. Few at that time ever thought that the Congress in 1981, it has just returned to power for five years with a thumping majority. I am inclined here to ask, as to what he could have gained personally at those junctures? Had he been an opportunist, the charmer, the intriguer of Indian politics he would have waited patiently for the popularity of the Congress party to wane and then would have forsaken it. But did lie do so? Opportunism is to wait for the right moment with folded hands, wear ones heart under one's sleeves and to ditch when the glory wanes. Moreover, does an opportunist resign his seat form the Parliament on moral grounds and contest a by-election, which in the given circumstances was impossible to win? What perhaps the leveller of this argument misses to see is his adherence to a political ideology which always meant much more than a party or an individual to him. The interest and well being of the nation were foremost on the mind of my father.
His only drawback, it may be called so, was, that he was too, self respecting and thoroughly committed to a value system which was fast disappearing, "My tragedy" he said once "is that nobody had studied me in depth"
Fe could understand the frustrations of a dedicated nationalist, who was pained at the existing state of the nation. In one of his speeches, he had remarked, Desperate disease require desperate remedies". He was a man in a hurry, who possessed the ability to pull the country out of the existing morass and put it back on the rails. He was frantically looking for an instrument, which could help him create a political climate in which the value system which he cherished could be re-established. His last effort to save the country form reactionary and communal forces took the shape of the National Campaign Committee forged between like minded parties.
H.N. Bahunguna was a man of the masses. Sri Vonoba Bhave had aptly called him Mitti Nandan (son of the soil), Whatever his detractors might say, one cannot help but ask, as to how could a man who was incorruptible, who never wavered in his ideology and was a thorough nationalist become irrelevant in Indian Politics? Indeed! The nation needed him most today.