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Shekhawat: From policeman to Prez candidate
June 25, 2007 12:33 IST
It has been a long journey from a policeman to Vice President to presidential candidate for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who has friends across the political spectrum which he believes will carry see through in the race to the Rashtrapati Bhavan [Images].
The 84-year-old Rajput from Rajasthan is a veteran of many a poll battle and the coming tussle for the Raisina Hills on July 19 will be a real test.
Born in a humble farmer's family at Khachriawas in Rajasthan's Sikar district, Shekhawat has come a long way in life as a veteran political leader, an able administrator and a senior statesman.
Having lost his father at an early age, Shekhawat battled all odds and shouldered the responsibilities of his family. He completed high school but could not complete college.
Shekhawat was thrice the chief minister of Rajasthan during which he had launched pioneering anti-poverty programmes like Antyodaya and food-for-work schemes way back in 1977.
His is a story that illustrates the adage that 'hard work and talent brings success even in adversity'.
Shekhawat's political career spanning over half a century began when he joined Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1952 and remained an MLA in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly till 1972 and again from 1977 till he assumed the office of the Vice President in August 2002.
Between 1974 and 1977, Shekhawat was a Rajya Sabha member. He served as Rajasthan's chief minister thrice -- from 1977 to 1980, from 1990 to 1992 and from 1993 to 1998.
Of these, the tenure was cut short twice by the dissolution of the state Assembly by the Union government, once when the late prime minister Indira Gandhi [Images] came back to power in 1980 and later when the Babri Masjid demolition took place in 1992.
He gave utmost priority to the welfare and the upliftment of minorities, and one of the few chief ministers who never hesitated to publicly espouse the imperative of adopting family welfare schemes.
Shekhawat became the first BJP leader to occupy the office of the vice president in August, 2002 after he handsomely won the election defeating Sushil Kumar Shinde of the Congress who was the combined opposition nominee.
He secured nearly 40 votes more than the National Democratic Alliance strength, indicating cross-voting from the opposition.
"I have been in politics to make friends and never created any enemy. These friends have helped me win," he had said after his win.
Shekhawat's political abilities as an impartial presiding officer came to the fore as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, an ex-officio post he holds, a fact that is recognised even by his political detractors.
It was a tough job for Shekhawat as Rajya Sabha chairman in the initial years as the NDA, the then ruling coalition headed by the BJP, did not enjoy a majority when he began his tenure.
His initial challenge was to see that the partisan fault-lines did not disturb the proceedings of the Upper House.
Apart from helping the government and the opposition floor managers in negotiating their way out of numerous deadlocks, Shekhawat has generally ensured that the Question Hour passed without any disturbance.