Dec 31, 2007

Uma Bharati - Alice In Wonderland

 Bhopale Uma Bharati On the eve of the prolific victory of Narendra Modi in Gujrat elections, it is tempting for the Bhopali to wonder what happened to the widely popular firebrand BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh. There is no denying that the leadership question in the BJP from among the second-generation leaders has been settled with the verdict. Modi is the first one who has emerged from the second row to a place in the front row, and it is only a matter of time that he may occupy the corner seat representing the supreme leader. Uma Bharti, the only other mass leader among the second-generation, has been left far behind. By her flip-flops in Gujarat, she has damaged her position considerably.
For a quick background check, Uma Bharati was born at Dunda village in Tikamgarh district on May 3, 1959, Bharti started giving religious discourses at the age of five, having attained mastery over the teachings of the Gita and the Ramayana. With six siblings, the prodigal daughter of a peasant family belonging to the backward Lodh community, she was raised under the care of the late Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia of Gwalior. Bharti traveled across the country and to 75 countries across the world to 'broaden her horizon' from the age of 16. Uma has told people close to her that she has two identities. One belongs to a Sadhu who saved her life (and died the very same day) when she was three. He is the Sanyasi within her, who made her give religious discourses. Having decided early not to marry and remain wedded to Hindutva. She also became closely associated with RSS, VHP and other saffron organizations. Bharti first contested Lok Sabha elections from Khajuraho at the age Bhopale Ek Dhakkaof 25, but lost in the post-Indira Gandhi assassination sympathy wave in 1984. She soon became one of the beacon lights of the Ram Janambhoomi movement and in 1988 was made Vice-President of the Madhya Pradesh unit of BJP. Riding the Ram wave, she won the Lok Sabha election from Khajuraho in 1989. She went on to retain the seat four times consecutively in 1991, 1996 and 1998. She contested and won from Bhopal in 1999. An accused in the Babri demolition case along, with BJP president L K Advani and senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, she had reportedly egged Kar Sewaks on December 6, 1992 saying, 'ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do' (give ano ther push and demolish Babri mosque). However, she denies this. 
Appointed President of BJP youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, she came to be associated with then party ideologue K N Govindacharya. When the National Democratic Alliance came to power, she was made Minister of State for Human Resource Development under Murli Manohar Joshi. When brought back to the Vajpayee ministry, she subsequently handled the portfolios of tourism, youth affairs and sports and coal and mines. Recognizing her oratorical and organizational skills, BJP had projected her as its chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in 2003. Leading the party to a thumping victory, Bharti, who was elected to the Assembly from Bara Malehra, became the state's first woman chief minister and the first from the Bundelkhand region.
However, within a few months of her becoming the chief minister, the power brokers of the state started feeling the heat. It has been always a cozy relationship between the ruling and opposition parties of Madhya Pradesh assembly. The latter had always come to the aid of the chief minister in times of crisis. In return, the opposition leaders enjoyed powers far beyond those of the cabinet ministers. Vikram Verma, now a Rajya Sabha member and vice-president of the BJP, was the Leader of the Opposition during Digvijay Singh's first term. Not even once did he raise an issue, inside the Assembly or outside, which could discomfit the Chief Minister. Present PCC chief Subhash Yadav was one of the ministers constantly nagging Digvijay Singh. One day in the Assembly, Verma demanded Yadav's resignation or his dismissal from the cabinet in view of the Lokayukta finding that he (Yadav) had made illegal appointments in the Apex Bank (Yadav was chairman of the Apex Bank also). Bhopale Digvijay UmaThere was quite a ruckus in the Assembly. The Lokayukta had not yet finalised his finding but had written to the Chief Minister, seeking the government' comments. No special intelligence is required to guess where Verma got his ammunition against Yadav. The inevitable outcome was that Yadav surrendered to the Chief Minister. The tradition of "constructive" cooperation between the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition started during Arjun Singh's time in the early eighties. He enjoyed, and still enjoys, almost legendary friendship with veteran BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa who was the Leader of the Opposition during Arjun Singh's term. Arjun Singh had, among other things, turned a blind eye to the activities of Mohammad Shafi, a notorious narcotics smuggler from Mandsaur and a close friend of Patwa. (Shafi was last heard to be in a Tamil Nadu jail a few years ago). When Patwa became the Chief Minister in 1990, Shyama Charan Shukla was the Leader of the Opposition, but the Congress MLAs were mostly from the Arjun Singh camp. So, Patwa had smooth sailing till his government was dismissed after the Babri Masjid demolition. Contrary to this long tradition, Uma Bharati, who was the chief minister for nine months, did not appear to be inclined to seek friendship with the Congress. She had rather struck a terror in the hearts of the Congress leaders. As if with a vengeance, she had started taking on the senior bureaucrats who had played Digvijay Singh's game. She had directed her full attention to the cooperative sector, stinking with corruption, which had been controlled by Congress leaders for ages and had been a major source of funds for them. Her Minister of Cooperatives Gopal Bhargava had the brief to expedite investigations and prosecute the culprits. An important Congress leader, a protégé of Arjun Singh, was on the verge of being sent to jail when the pressure was brought on Bhargava through predictable channels to go slow in the matter but he, with the support of Uma Bharati, resisted. The things eased with Uma Bharati's exit. Babulal Gaur, who succeeded her, was only too happy Bhopale Babulal Gaur and Uma Bharatito oblige the Congress leaders. So he took away the cooperative portfolio from Bhargava and gave it to Himmat Kothari, a Patwa man. Digvijay Singh had an equally cosy relationship with Babulal Gaur who had become the Leader of the Opposition during Singh's second term.Gaur, in fact, had an excellent relationship with most of the Congress leaders including Arjun Singh and Kamal Nath. When he became the Chief Minister after Uma Bharati's resignation in the wake of the Hubli court case, Gaur was so frequently hobnobbing with the Congress leaders that his own party men dubbed him as the Congress chief minister of the BJP government.
Uma Bharati resigned as the CM in August 2004, on the issue of the right to hoist the National Flag, when a decade old case against her was resurrected. The party was relieved that Chief Minister N Dharam Singh gave it a convenient excuse to ease Bharti out of Bhopal. Party bigwigs were none too happy with Bharti's style of functioning, her extraconstitutional aides who claimed to act on her behalf, and her whimsical ways. Senior ministers and BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh were biding their time waiting for an appropriate occasion. The non-bailable warrant issued by a Hubli court came as a godsend. As for Bharti, being a free-spirited sanyasin, the nitty-gritty of running the administration of an economically backward state was annoying for someone who likes to keep her politics simple. So when the ruling United Progressive Alliance stalled Parliament seeking her removal after a non-bailable warrant was issued against her in connection with a 14-year-old case, involving her hoisting the national flag on Independence Day at the disputed Idgah maidan in Hubli, she took the wind out of its sails by promptly tendering her resignation. Now basking in the glory of being a martyr defending the national flag, she does not appear to have noticed that the BJP leadership was only looking for an appropriate occasion to remove her. Uma Bharti wondered if she was wrong in resigning as chief minister to appear in a Hubli court. A sulking Uma, in November 2004, was suspended from the Bharatiya Janata Party "till further action" and served a show-cause notice asking why she should not be expelled following her outburst against Mr Lal Krishna Advani, in full glare of Television cameras. However, due to RSS pressure, her suspension was revoked and in May 2005, she was appointed as a member of the party's national executive. Later in the year, she was expelled from the BJP when she revolted against the appointment of Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Post expulsion, she undertook a Herculean 'padyatra' from Bhopal to Ayodhya and called it the Ram Roti Yatra (spiritual journey for Rama and bread). With her youthful, smiling face and the garb of a sanyasin, she drew large crowds, particularly of the youth and women, as she traversed through the interior of Madhya Pradesh on her Bhopal to Ayodhya Ram-Roti yatra. Bhopale-Ram Roti YatraThey came to have her darshan and touch her feet rather than hear her harangues against the BJP leaders for denying her the Chief Minister's post, which she considered as her right. She did not spare even Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. The media followed her for several days, keeping her constantly in focus. While making angry outbursts against the BJP leaders, she continued to nurse the hope that they would call her back. Accordingly, she continued to extend deadlines for a reply from the BJP leadership. It did not come. Soon the crowds started thinning out and the media also gave her up. Of the 100 and odd BJP MLAs, who she had always claimed were with her, only five had followed her. Then came another disaster. Her candidates lost in all the by-elections held in Madhya Pradesh. More disgraceful was the defeat of her candidate in Bada-Malehra which is her own constituency. 
Then on, the downward spiral of her career remains unabated. She has lost almost all by-elections her Bharatiya Janashakti Party (BJS) has contested. Most of the people who joined her party have left for BJP, including Madanlal Khurana. She has withdrawn her candidates from UP assembly elections, following a directive from RSS. She tried to do the same for Gujrat elections, where she was serving as the focal point of rebel activities of BJP. The thumping win of BJP in Gujarat has dashed Uma Bharati's last hope of getting back into the mainstream politics. Her position has become untenable even in her own Bharatiya Jana Shakti (BJS) owing to her constant flip-flop. Knowing fully well the BJP's high stakes in the Gujarat Assembly elections, Uma Bharati first announced her determination to defeat the BJP there. She changed her tack following an "advice" from her spiritual guru Visveshtiratha Swami of Pejavaradhokshaja Mutt to work for consolidation of the Hindutva forces and declared that the BJP everywhere was devoid of principles except in Gujarat and Chief Minister Narendra Modi was her elder brother. The urgency with which she had responded to the guru's appeal for unity was not there in the response of the BJP leaders. In an apparent bid to make herself acceptable to the BJP, she appealed to her party candidates to withdraw from the contest but was shouted down by them.
ModiThere are considerable similarities between the two mass based second generation leaders of BJP, although one failed miserably and one suceeded spectacularly. Narendra Modi and Uma Bharati both are very good orators, and largely have a mass base among the local populace. Both are considerd personally incorruptible. However, Narenrdra Modi has be en very vigilant to be seen as incorruptible relating to his day to day activity, while Uma Bharatis brother Swami Lodhi was seen in the power lanes when she was Chief Minister. While Modi has cultivated his strengths acidulously by nurturing his constituency, vote bank and his state, knowing that he requires a solid base to jump into bigger arena, Uma Bharati had taken her mass base for granted and has been left in a nowhere zone. Modi has been able to put in place the power brokers seeking to protect their domain, the temperamental Uma miserably failed. It was easy to provoke Sanyasin Uma Bharati, not a typical politician of India, always touchy about mother India and Hindutva. The last has however not been heard yet.

Dec 24, 2007

Nawab Hamidullah Khan (II) - End Of Bhopal State

(Continued from here)

Meanwhile, the independence movement was reaching it's peak. At Bhopal, State People’s Conference came into being in 1938. Khan Shakir Ali Khan was its founder-president and Charubhuj Maviya its secretary. Certain anti-British posters were published by Praja Mandal urging the Nawab of Bhopal to join the “Quit India” movement, resulting in the arrest of Shakir Ali Khan, Govind Prasad, Brindavan and others. In 1944, Nawab Hamidullah Khan was elected for a three-year term as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes for the second time, having been elected Chancellor between 1932-35, In the beginning, the princes seemed to favor the idea of a union or confederation of all princely states to be called Rajasthan. An overwhelming majority of the princes were Hindu, who were eventually convinced that their Muslim chancellor was selling them out to Pakistan. With support from Mountbatten, the new viceroy, Rajasthan was scuttled before it was floated while His Highness the Nawab of Bhopal threatened to resign! From the period of 1935 till 1937, Hamidullah Khan was the president of Board For Control Of Cricket In India (BCCI). By the year 1947, Jinnah had announced his retirement from politics (June 1947), after making Pakistan a reality for the Indian Muslim League. Nawab Hamidullah Khan was the Muslim League's favored candidate as the premier of Pakistan. Meanwhile Hamidullah Khan was under heavy pressure from the Indian government to sign an accession agreement.

The reason for Bhopal being allowed to delay signing an accession agreement were, first, that as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princess, Nawab Hamidullah had assumed a high profile standing on the internal political scene in India. Hamidullah Khan was a close friend of both Mohammad Ali Jinnah as well as Jawaharlal Nehru. Hamidullah Khan, feeling cornered in India and looking forward to a bright future in Pakistan, planned to abdicate in favor of Abida Sultan, the heir apparent and leave for Karachi. He was prevented from doing so by the family dispute that he could not resolve, although he tried his best. Jinnah was eventually forced to come back from his retirement when Nawab of Bhopal was unavailable and fear was that Mountbatten would push his own governor generalship. The desparation of Nawab Hamidullah in these last days is apparent in the following passage from Abida Sultan's autobiography "Memoirs of a rebel princess"

On 13th August 1947, I was summoned to HH (His Highness)'s farmhouse at Nichey-Ka-Bagh where he exercised. On being ushered to his room, I found him sitting alone, sweating heavily. He then pulled out his revolver and pointing it straight at me, ordered me sit down. 'I am leaving soon for Pakistan', he said, 'I want you to take over the affairs of the State. I shall probably be appointed Governor General. Jinnah has asked me to come over. But I want you to ensure that I receive five lakhs a year from the State. Do you accept?' 'Why don't you pull the trigger,' I replied, "I am unarmed. As for the State, it is for you to decide what you want to do with it. I shall not be a party to its merger in the Indian Union and for people to say that a woman could not prevent the handover of a state that our forbears had own through blood and sacrifice'.

It was only in 1948, under leadership Dr Shakar Dayal Sharma (later President of India) a strong agitation, unprecedented in the history of Bhopal, for the merger of the state with India commenced which continued till the state was taken over by the Government of India. In March 1949, V. P. Menon arrived in Bhopal to finalize the merger agreement. It was evident that the Congress party, forever suspicious of Hamidullah Khan’s links with Mr. Jinnah and his earlier attempt to form a third block of princely states, was repaying him by insisting that, even as a distinguished political figure, he had no role to play in Bhopal or on the political scene of Central India. According to the merger agreement, Hamidullah Khan was to receive a privy purse of Rs. Eleven (11) Lakhs annually. The die was cast; the princely state of Bhopal was banished forever to the annals of history. Bhopal was merged to the Madhya Bharat state of India on 30th April 1949.

Photograph: The Nawab of Bhopal coming to meet Mr. V. P. Menon on merger of Bhopal with India (Courtesy: RajBhavan, M.P.)

Dec 17, 2007

Nawab Hamidullah Khan, Bhopal (I)

After abdication of Sultan Jahan, Hamidullah Khan became the ruler, a perceptible change was apparent in Bhopal. Sultan Jahan remained the revered head of the family and a 'mother' figure for the people of Bhopal, often referred to as "Sarkar Amma". The centre of power had moved to her son who introduced his own brand of governance and lifestyle. He appointed a cabinet of distinguished Indian personalities, drawn from   outside of Bhopal and comprising mainly associates from his Aligarh period. From the Punjab came Sir Liaquat Hayat, Justice Salamuddin (member cricket team of India which hamidullahplayed its first ever representative match against England in 1911), Col Mumtaz, Col. Habib and Ustad Wazir. From Bengal arrived the financial wizard Khundkar Fuzle Haider. From UP Sir Ross Masood, Sohaib Qureshi and Ali Haider Abbassi. Allama Iqbal and Abdur Rehman Siddiqui were also frequent visitors in an advisory capacity.  A number of eminent English men, like Freddy Young IG Police, the famous detective abd General Toogod were employed by Hamiduulah Khan. These appointments were not popular with Bhopalis who saw outsiders gain influence with young ruler to be the detriment of their own prestige and influence.
There was also a change in style. Gone was the austerity of Sultan Jahan and the earlier Begums. Instead Bhopal became a centre of sport, notably polo and shikar. Hockey flourished under erstwhile Obeidullah Khan's family. Hamidullah ordered a fleet of eighteen Nash vehicles, all specially fitted out for shikar as well as Rolls Royce and Bentleys. He also enjoyed the company of a circle of women friends who would join him at Chicklode or at shikar parties. In January 1947, Hamidullah contracted a clandestine nikah with Aftab Jahan, one from this circle of women. Aftab Jahan was a school freind of Abida Sultan, the eldest daughter of Hamidullah Khan and the heir apparent of Bhopal throne recognised by the British. By May 1947 the marriage was publicly announced and the new Begum started insisting on her rights and protocols. This led to unfloding of ugly confrontations between Nawab Hamidullah and his first wife. Hamidullah and his second wife Aftab Jahan started confronting the first wife Shahbzadi Maimoona Sultan and her three daughters Abida sultan (married and separated from Nawab Sarwar Ali Khan of Kurwai, had a son, Shahryar Mohammad Khan, 14 years old by that time),  Sajida Sultan (married to the famous cricketer Iftikar Ali Khan of Pataudi) and Rabia sultan (married to Agha Nadir Mirza after a brief marriage to Rasheed-uz-zafar Khan). In many ways, a repetition of Shahjehan Begum's long stand-off with Sultan Jahan was unfolding again at Bhopal


Dec 12, 2007

Problem postponed

View Larger Map

The procrastination of Bhopali is a historical heritage. The rich cultural heritage of laziness is fondly nurtured and fed with enough stupidity to make it grow to frustrating heights.
Take for example the under-bridge which connects the Arera Colony area to Hoshangabad road. To start with, the under-bridge was built by a local politician just by the side of a nullah. This brain wave originated from the simple fact that railways already had a bridge over this nullah. The bridge was widened a bit, and the nullah was partitioned and shrunk using a stone wall, and the under bridge was ready as a election gift. This was during the winter election season. When the problem of water logging during the rains happened, the elections had been completed. During the rains, this under bridge is filled with water for days. The naka (a manned railway crossing) is perennially closed due to the proximity of the Habibganj railway station. The only viable alternative to cross the railway lines is the Chetak Bridge at Maharana Paratap Nagar. Evidently the traffic jam shifts to this bridge and the square, called the board office square, leading to this bridge. The efficient traffic police of Bhopal stops the traffic from turning right to reach the Chetak Bridge and make them go straight for about half a kilometer, take a U-turn and then come back to the same road. How does it help? Any bodies guess. After many years of successfully waiting, the problem of this “Chalta hai” work done has reached its zenith. The traffic jams are now the order of the day, this time at junction of the before mentioned under bridge and the main Hoshangabad road. After waiting sufficiently, the Bhopal traffic police have come up with a solution that was possible only for a genius. The two wheelers would continue the same way as earlier, while the four wheelers coming towards the Hoshangabad road would turn left go till the Habibganj Naka some 1 km down the road and then take a U-turn. How will this ease the situation? Go figure. The prevailing mentality of the powers that be is to be seen doing something . Take the case of Kolar road colonies if you want. The entire locality which has grown rapidly over the last few years is connected to the city only by one bridge. Close that bridge and you have effectively cut off the entire locality. Take the case of 10 number market. The main market has over flown to the connecting road of the locality, hospitals and nursing homes have come up at the main residential areas.
As has been mentioned earlier, this postponing of problem comes as part of our heritage. However, today the Bhopali was shocked to find that the municipality has actually taken action and stopped vehicles from entering the New Market area, in an attempt to stop congestion. Although the discussions about a vehicle free zone was in the air for quite some time now, today they have actually done it! In a stark contrast to the heritage of Bhopal, some good work has actually been done.
(Picture: Bhopal year 2020)

Dec 7, 2007

British Council Library Bhopal

Initially I did not believe it.

 How is this possible?

This should be a rumor, some misinformation somewhere, some clerical mistake. It would be some thing else. I Googled for the news, see no results. It appears only some newspapers covered it, how could this be? There has to be an official announcement on the web, some news some where. 

May be the news paper is playing some kind of prank, playing April fool in December? The next day the paper would clarify, saying that all this was a big joke?

During the older times the Bhopali refused to believe that there could be a water body bigger then Bhopal lake. Standing in front of the Arabian Sea at Bombay the Bhopali later said “Is ke age bade talab ki kya bisat?” (What is Upper Lake in front of this?). 

Bhopal came in front of the ocean of knowledge in 1965, when he moved to Banganga area of Bhopal. He moved to a permanent residence at Guru Tej Bahadur Complex of New Market in 1975, moving closer to the heart of Bhopal and the hearts of the Bhopali. Generations grew up referring to him for knowledge on subjects to as varied as literature, management and fiction. For the professionals, he offered knowledge on Economics, Engineering, Information Technology, Law, Management, Medicine and Science and Technology. Lately his character had changed from an aloof character to the affinity of a mall, with the ever existing treasure of knowledge in books and periodicals reinforced by internet and Compact disks and DVDs. The acquaintances had changed from the self immersed intellectuals of yesteryear to the self indulgent students of today. The meetings which were auspicious and august occasions of study and research had turned into meeting places of friends for fixing up the next outing to movies. All this said he remained the most knowledgeable, the most beloved and the most recognized for most Bhopalis. There are predictably many protests on this bolt from the blue. The Bhopali is sad, very sad in anticipation of loosing a guiding light of Bhopal.

(The British Council of India has announced the closure of British Council Library (BCL) at Bhopal on 29th February 2008)

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...