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Beware, The Meddling Of Koshyari

By Aditi Phadnis
July 06, 2022 15:14 IST
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In Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari has done pretty much as he liked, observes Aditi Phadnis.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, has been more than just a disinterested observer from the time he came to the Raj Bhavan in September 2019.

He was not expecting to be uprooted from the politics of Uttarakhand, but had turned 75.

This was the perfect alibi for the Bharatiya Janata Party high command to get him out of a state unit where he has left behind a trail of political destruction.

Since he was a pracharak in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Mr Koshyari has been active in BJP politics, especially after he was elected student leader in Kumaon and later was jailed for his role in the struggle against the Emergency.

He came out of Almora and Fatehgarh jail in 1977 but got his first formal political break in 1997, when he became a member of the UP legislative council (Uttarakhand had not been formed then).

He felt he had a claim on the leadership of Uttarakhand when it was formed in 2000.

But to his shock -- and that of his followers -- it was Nityanand Swami, who was born in Haryana but claimed to be an Uttaranchali because he had grown up in the state, who was made chief minister.

Immediately a campaign began against an 'outsider' and though Mr Koshyari accepted ministership (energy, irrigation, and law) in Swami's government, it was with bad grace (he, along with his supporters, boycotted the oath taking initially).

His campaign to get Swami out was relentless even though he was part of the government.

A year later, Delhi had to give in and replace Swami by Mr Koshyari.

But for many reasons, the move was not propitious for the BJP.

A year later, the party lost the elections -- the first in a state where the BJP had every opportunity to puts its stamp on the administration.

Mr Koshyari found himself leader of the Opposition and also chief of the state BJP unit.

In 2007, when elections came around again, the BJP won the elections all right: But Mr Koshyari was pipped at the post as B C Khanduri (of 'Khanduri hai Zaroori' fame) got the top job in the state.

It really galled: And a campaign began to get Mr Khanduri out.

By now the high command had had enough and Mr Koshyari was asked to move to the Rajya Sabha, resigning his assembly seat of Kapkot.

This caused another crisis as the BJP's majority in the state was extremely slender.

But it was Rajnath Singh who had the final say -- as he could never forget that Mr Koshyari could not lead the party to victory in 2002.

Despite moving to Parliament, Mr Koshyari could not give up his interest in Uttarakhand politics.

Mr Khanduri did not have a day's peace. When the BJP lost all five Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 elections to the Congress, Mr Khanduri resigned and Mr Koshyari's acolyte Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' became chief minister.

It is always a mistake to consider followers acolytes forever.

Ultimately, Mr Khanduri and Mr Koshyari joined hands and together sought Mr Nishank's removal.

Months before the 2012 assembly elections, Mr Khanduri returned as chief minister while Mr Koshyari stayed on in Delhi.

However, the war horse hadn't had his fill. He contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election and won the Nainital Lok Sabha seat.

When the assembly elections were held in 2017, the BJP won 57 seats in the 70-member assembly.

Once again, Mr Koshyari was nudged aside and Trivendra Singh Rawat, once his protege, was made chief minister with the blessings of then party president Amit Shah.

At this Mr Koshyari declared publicly that he would not contest the 2019 elections -- and the high command viewed the 'threat' constructively, appointing him governor of Maharashtra when incumbent Ch Vidyasagar Rao's term ended.

In Maharashtra, Mr Koshyari has done pretty much as he liked.

Raj Bhavan did not approve 12 names recommended by Uddhav Thackeray's cabinet for nomination to the Upper House of the state legislature through the governor's quota, sent to Mr Koshyari in 2020.

It took Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to persuade the governor to hold elections to nine vacancies in the Upper House -- one of which was the route for the chief minister to become an elected member of the legislature.

Without that Uddhav Thackeray might have had to resign from his post as chief minister in 2020 itself.

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Aditi Phadnis
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