HEMWATI NANDAN BAHUGUNA
Pradeep Kumar Journalist Lucknow
At a time when the country is remembering H N Bahuguna on the occasion of the completion of his Birth Centenary Year on 25 th April I would like to pay tribute to that Great Leader.
H N Bahuguna had the capacity and capability to become a good Prime Minister but he became a victim of circumstances.
I met Bahuguna ji for the first time in 1966 at a dharamshala at Rishikesh when he was being felicitated by the local Congress leaders for being appointed as UPCC General Secretary.
Since Bahuguna ji was a a very close friend of my father, Late Bishan Kapoor, who was the Bureau Chief of Blitz I had the opportunity to interact with him for several years and watch his style of functioning whether as the party leader or Chief minister or as an Union Minister.
Bahuguna ji had a photographic memory which helped him to become a successful leader. Even on meeting a person after a gap of 20 to 30 years he used to talk with the person with his/her first name. This not only surprised the person but also would automatically make his follower or an admirer.
Bahuguna ji had great connect with people as he was constantly talking to persons while shaving in the morning in the lawn or while having breakfast, lunch or dinner with select groups. He had no private time. His entire life was devoted to the people.
Bahuguna ji was very popular with media persons. Probably he was the first chief minister who had direct links with senior editors and reporters of important newspapers and magazines.
Daily in the morning he used to ring up senior journalists and talk to them or invite them for breakfast or lunch to have a feedback.
I remember Bahuguna ji invited Blitz editor R K Kranjia to Lucknow and was present at the civic reception of the legendary editor.
Nikhil Chakravarty, famous editor of Mainstream was also a frequent invitee to his residence. He discussed various issues with him and sought his advice.
Bahuguna used to cultivate friendship with leading writers and poets of the country. I remember whenever Kaifi Azmi, Hasan Kamaal and others came from Mumbai he used to host lunch or dinner for them and discuss issues.
He also encouraged and promoted various cultural groups and help them to organise their events. Bahuguna ji found all the time to attend such events
He was a great organiser which was evident from the grand show during state conference of Indo Soviet Cultural Society at Ravindralaya in 1974. Bahuguna ji was the main person behind the success of the conference. I remember how Bahuguna ji helped CPI leader Ramesh Sinha and his team in organising the mega show.
I was present at ISCUS conference when the Soviet Ambassador announced that H N Bahuguna had all the ability to become a successful Prime Minister. This statement coming from the Soviet Ambassador was not appreciated by the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi who started seeing Bahuguna as a threat to her throne.
Again Bahuguna ji as CM provided all possible support to a high level conference at Nadwa college which was attended by important Muslim clerics from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries. This conference made Bahuguna popular in the Muslim world.
There is no doubt that Bahuguna ji was an undisputed leader of the Muslim community. From senior clerics to ordinary muslims all had great faith in Bahuguna and his leadership.
As Chief Minister H N Bahuguna took major decisions for the upliftment of the SC/ ST and the minority community and one their respect and confidence.
As communication minister Bahuguna ji was instrumental in expanding the network of telephones in the country. He was judged as one of the best performing ministers in Indira Government. I remember how Lucknow he evolved a new system to monitor VIP and emergency telephone services. He designated one officer to ring up random numbers in the morning and find out whether they were working properly.
Much against the wishes of Indira ji he ensured the defeat of K K Birla in Rajya Sabha elections in 1975.
Mrs Indira Gandhi was so shaken by his activities and popularity that she removed Bahuguna from the position of Chief Minister.
I remember after quitting as CM, Bahuguna ji visited UP hills which was then a part of the state. He was moved by the the overwhelming response of the people. After returning to Lucknow Bahuguna ji visited our residence and told us that he had sent 5000 postcards to all those persons who were instrumental in making his meetings successful.
Bahuguna enjoyed the company of journalists, writers and poets. He loved to interact with them. Even at public meetings he would take names of journalists and persons known to him. He mesmerized everybody with his PR exercise.
People still remember H N Bahuguna as a very astute and tough administrator who never compromised with his deadlines. Wether it be as Chief Minister, Union Minister for Telecommunication or Petroleum Minister Bahuguna he always delivered. I remember he used to set unrealistic deadlines for telephone connections and succeeded.
Being a non vegetarian he was a wonderful host who loved to stand in the corner and give plates to his guests, a gesture very rare among today's politicians. Bahuguna ji always stood by his friends and those loyal to him. That is why even now every district in UP and Uttarakhand has Bahugunas loyalists called Bahugunites. Bahuguna ji enjoyed visiting his friends regularly. Even as CM he made in a point to call on his friends specially during festivals. I remember his visit to our place during Holi celebrations. Bahuguna ji surprised everybody with his unannounced visit to our place and enjoyed dance performed by Russians who had come from HAL.
I would like to narrate an interesting incident linked with Bahuguna ji. It so happened that Bahuguna ji visited Lucknow after parting company with Mrs Indira Gandhi and Congress. As usual Bahuguna ji rang up my father who informed that Kaifi Azmi was at our residence and there was an ‘Adabi Nashist in his honour. My father told Bahuguna ji that all his friends like Ramesh Sinha, Agha Zaidi, Kailash Khanna, Ram Chandra Shukla and other poets were also at their home. Bahuguna ji expressed his wish to join.
The moment Bahuguna ji entered our drawing room Kaifi Azmi recited few lines from his iconic song from film Haqeeqat " Main tere dar se ye soch kar utha tha ki rok legi mujko, na roka hi na manaya aahista-aahista main dur chala aaya." Everybody present in the drawing room including Bahuguna ji laughed as it was so appropriate to the situation. Bahuguna was a great politician who knew when and how to challenge his rivals. When he took over as Chief Minister it was difficult time for Congress, especially after PAC, revolt but he managed victory in UP Vidhan Sabha in 1974.
So much so he saw do it that veteran leader like CB Gupta was defeated by an unknown Sardar Dr. Charan Singh. Shocked by his defeat CB Gupta coined the name of NatwarLal to Bahuguna's name. It was only after Babu Jagjivan Ram and Bahuguna left The Congress and formed the CFD in 1977 that Indira ji defeat became certain in Lok Sabha elections. I feel had Bahuguna remained in UP and not shifted his base to Delhi he would have been a bigger force and would have played the role of kingmaker at the centre.