BHOPAL: Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur Yadav who breathed his last at 89 on Wednesday after a prolonged illness, was to the state BJP what Atal Bihari Vajpayee was to the party at the national level. Not in stature, but in his ability to straddle both sides of the political divide. And like Atal Ji he was also not a Sanghi by temperament despite his lifelong association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since 1946. He became a pracharak during his teens after his parents moved to Bhopal from Pratapgarh (UP), his birthplace.

obituaryGaur’s popularity was the sole reason why he was consecutively elected a record 10 times by mammoth margins from the industrial seat of Govindpura situated bang in the middle of the Bhopal’s satellite township owned by the public sector giant, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL).

In fact, it was from Govindpura that Gaur began his working life as a contract labourer in the local textile mill while simultaneously pursuing his college studies. His penchant for public relations and negotiation helped him blossom into a union leader (he was a founder member of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh in 1956) and later a practising lawyer. Together they paved his way to a successful political career. Jailed for 19 months during the Emergency, a people’s man is what he remained till the very end.

Gaur first tasted power as minister for urban development during the short-lived Sunderlal Patwa regime between 1990-92. Though the government was dismissed in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, Gaur’s proactive anti-encroachment drives earned him the sobriquet of “Bulldozer Lal” and beautifier of Bhopal. Small wonder when the BJP stormed back to power in 2003 under Uma Bharti’s leadership, Gaur was given his old job in addition to other portfolios like Law, Environment, and Labour. Asked of his obsession with removing encroachments he told friends the logic was simple: “500 people may be displeased with the drive, but 50,000 would welcome it.” Hence, the push.

Gaur’s 15-month innings as chief minister from August 2004 onward was purely fortuitous. He would never have got the job if circumstances had not compelled Uma Bharti to quit following her indictment in the 1994 Hubli riots case, and her subsequent fall out with the party. Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the natural choice as successor, but Uma’s insistence that Gaur be appointed got him the job. The party fell in line with her, but everyone, Gaur included, knew that it was only a matter of time before which he would have to make way for Chouhan.

Ideally, Gaur should have hung his ‘angavastram‘ after serving as CM and confined his role to that of a party elder. His refusal to give up the trappings of power and serve as a minister in both the regimes of Shivraj S Chouhan was possibly the only shadow in an otherwise honourable career. In fact, even on the eve of the 2018 state poll, he held out a vague threaten of joining the Congress if denied a renomination. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and he agreed to retire and pass on the baton to his daughter-in-law.

Privately, Gaur never failed to admit that it was only in the BJP that a man of his humble origins could have become CM. His innate humility was his greatest strength. He was one CM whom even the most self-centred bureaucrats liked.