Thursday, October 29, 2020
Home News Reports Sunderlal Patwa – journey of the man who helped build the BJP in Madhya...

Sunderlal Patwa – journey of the man who helped build the BJP in Madhya Pradesh

Sunderlal Patwa, the two-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister passed away today after a heart attack.

Patwa was amongst the first generation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders who tasted power as the Congress party weakened in the aftermath of the 1975 Emergency. Like many others in this generation, Patwa learnt the ropes of running a government that hard way. This generation often criticized Congress leaders for lack of probity in personal and public life, but often fell short of the high standards set while in opposition, finding it tough to change the institutional political set up so tightly controlled by Congress since 1947.

Yet, Sunderlal Patwa and many of his generation were instrumental in creating an alternative to the Congress. In Patwa’s travails as Chief Minister, BJP found the organizational strength in Madhya Pradesh to build a strong counter to the Congress party. In Patwa’s successes and failures lay the foundations of the spectacular electoral run BJP has had in Madhya Pradesh since 1989 in Lok Sabha elections and later in the Assembly elections. Patwa, like his many Jan Sangh and BJP peers, was one of the architects of the modern day BJP, which is equipped to confidently govern learning from the experiences of men like Patwa.

Born in 1924 in Kukdeshwar, a small town in the North West corner of MP in Mandsaur district, Patwa was part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh through 1940s. He joined the Jan Sangh in 1951 when it was established as a political party, and continued holding various positions in the set up till 1977. He was first elected to the MP assembly in 1957 and won three terms. In 1977, when the Janata Party came to power in the center and in various states deposing Congress, Patwa was included in the Working Committee of this multi-party coalition. He briefly served as the CM for a month in 1980, after Virendra Saklecha, another Mandsaur district leader, resigned from the post due to infighting within various Janata factions.

Patwa’s first term was cut short and President’s rule imposed after Janata coalition fell through in Delhi. Congress then returned to power in June 1980 and Patwa became the leader of the opposition in the assembly. It took ten years for the BJP to come back to power in Bhopal, and Patwa was sworn in as the first BJP CM of the state in March 1990.

This was an extremely turbulent political period for much of North India. The Mandal-Mandir politics was at its peak while the economic growth stuttered. Patwa brought much of the same approach to the office what Janata Party had done in Delhi in 1977. He started off by identifying administrative constituencies which were close to the institutional Congress set up and started dismantling them all at once with a missionary zeal.

In the first year of his rule, Patwa transferred nearly 50,000 government employees across the state. MP was then the largest state in India – Chhatisgarh was yet to be carved out – and widespread geographic movement at such a large scale created a lot of resentment in administrative circles. The previous Congress regimes under Arjun Singh, Motilal Vora, and Shyama Charan Shukla had all been notorious for running a transfer-posting industry. In a politically charged environment, where government employees were used to manage their own postings, this move almost immediately backfired on Patwa, with the administrative machinery coming to a grinding halt in many districts.

Unfazed, Patwa continued with his agenda and took up the mantle of cleaning up the encroachments in large cities in MP. He found a committed deputy in Babulal Gaur, then Law Minister and later to be the MP CM in the post-Patwa era. The duo proceeded to act on illegal encroachments in all large cities, especially focusing on Indore and Bhopal where the BJP had tasted its initial spectacular Lok Sabha success. Gaur was dubbed as Bulldozerlal by the local media and Madhu Dandavate, then Union Minister, apparently remarked on one of his MP visits that Gaur had made MP worse than Turkman Gate – a reference to the demolitions carried out in Delhi during the Emergency period.

Patwa was also accused of moving away from his characteristic soft and simple lifestyle when he organized a grand function for his father’s death anniversary. This function was attended by most state ministers and Patwa even managed to get the then Prime Minister VP Singh. India Today published a memorable picture of Patwa driving Singh personally in an open top vintage car to allege impropriety on part of Patwa. He also battled local BJP leaders who accused him of being too close to RSS ideology and being a remote control of the Sangh. In a surprise move, Patwa shot a long letter to a local newspaper Swadesh, otherwise friendly to the BJP, and made a counter accusation of the newspaper begging for government ads.

Amidst such factional wars and pressure from Congress directly in assembly and indirectly through the state government employees, Patwa continued to be on shaky grounds for much of his 33 month CM term. These controversies took the sheen away from what was his biggest achievement – clearing large MP cities of ghettos which had become nerve centers of communal riots.

From 1987 until 1993, several MP cities witnessed continuous rioting, violence, and communal strife. Many cities used to be under curfew for extended periods of time disrupting day to day life. The situation was especially bad in Indore in 1988 and 1989. As CM, Patwa asked Rakesh Asthana, the then Superintendant of Police (SP), Indore to deal with the rioters with a strong had. One of the key protagonists of rioting in Indore was Bala Beg, a local leader in the ghetto of Bombay Bazar. Asthana with the support of Patwa, worked hard to rid Indore of this ghettoization and bringing calm and peace to the city. Asthana who will take over as the next chief of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), is said to have been appointed to the top intelligence body by PM Narasimha Rao on behest of Patwa himself.

Patwa faced a second dismissal in the wake of rioting after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. President’s Rule was again imposed in the state and it continued for a year. During this period, BJP lost out on some of the goodwill from the 1990 assembly election, and Digvijay Singh stormed in power as the Congress CM.

Patwa, after being out of political reckoning for a while, decided to contest the 1997 by-poll to the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat, vacated by Kamal Nath’s wife so that he could get reelected as a Member of Parliament after his name was cleared in a hawala case. Patwa defeated Kamal Nath in his stronghold, the only time BJP has won this Lok Sabha constituency since 1951. However, Patwa failed to retain this seat in 1998 Lok Sabha election, losing to Nath and then moved to the nearby Hoshangabad seat in 1999 to be elected as a Member of Parliament for a second time.

Patwa was made a Cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. He held various portfolios in this government – Rural Development (12 months), Chemicals and Fertilizers (2 months), and Mines (10 months). However, through this tenure, Patwa could not adjust to the Delhi bureaucracy and was his working style was criticized as heavy handed. Frequent portfolio changes did not help, and amidst rumours that Vajpayee was about to drop him as a non-performing minister in 2001, Patwa chose to resign himself on health grounds before the September 2001 Cabinet reshuffle.

He then returned to MP, where BJP was rebuilding itself as Digvijay Singh continued his second term as the CM. He decided to stay away from day to day politics, even as BJP won the 2003 assembly election. Babulal Gaur, once seen as a Patwa protégé, was appointed the Chief Minister after replacing Uma Bharti subsequently. Patwa however never made the lost ground, and decided to retreat quietly from the political scene.

As a party patriarch, he continued to meet the local cadre and be involved in discussions and debates on public issues. As late as a week before his death, Patwa had met local BJP leaders to accept a memorandum on demands of village heads.

Sunderlal Patwa will probably never find a space in the pantheon of indispensable BJP leaders when the party history is written. But his contribution to the party in building MP as a strong fortress is significant. Patwa took upon himself several blemishes and fronted many lapses as BJP learnt to transition from an opposition party to a ruling one. His personal battles, rooted in a hard, uncompromising Sangh ideology opened the path for a more pragmatic, political face for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

As in his long political life, Patwa remains a quintessential party man in his death.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

Related Articles

Trending now

‘His legs were shivering, head was sweating fearing attack by India’: Pakistani opposition leader reveals why Imran Khan govt had released Abhinandan Varthaman

PML(N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said that Pakistani Foreign Minister had feared that India would attack Pakistan if Abhinandan is not returned

“Dawood Ibrahim administrating legal, financial and mental attack on Republic TV, Arnab Goswami may face physical attack”: Former Bureaucrat RV Subramani

RV Subramani speaks on how Arnab Goswami touched the wrong nerve of Dawood Ibrahim and many politicians by reportage on Bollywood drug nexus

TeleMedicine: Technology bridging the doctor-patient gap to strengthen public healthcare system

Telecardiology helps connect cardiologists and patients in remote areas so that they could get timely report leading to proper diagnosis.

Bihar: The shocking story of Jungle Raj hidden in voter turnouts

The shocking story of Jungle Raj in Bihar no one told you.

Munger Police deactivates its Twitter account amidst claims of SP Lipi Singh being suspended over Durga Puja violence

SP Munger had earlier defended police action on devotees during the Durga Visarjan procession, claiming they provoked the force by pelting stones

NIA raids offices of Greater Kashmir and ‘activist’ associated with NGO that called Amarnath Yatra ‘militarised pilgrimage’

The NIA also carried out raids at the offices of another dubious NGO called 'Athroat', a houseboat named 'HB Hilton' in the Dal Lake and on the residence of 'activist' Khurram Parvez.

Recently Popular

Faridabad: A month after college student Nikita files molestation complaint against Taufeeq, he shoots her dead

As per reports, the accused initially wanted to abduct the victim but killed her when she resisted him.

Nikita Tomar murder: Taufeeq was pressurising her to embrace Islam family alleges

On Monday, 21-year-old Nikita Tomar was shot to death in broad daylight outside the Aggarwal college in Ballabgarh, Faridabad

Chinese state-run channel shows the portrait of Prophet Muhammad, netizens ask if Muslim nations will boycott China

Arslan Hidayat, an Uyghur Rights Activist, took to Twitter shared a video of a Chinese TV series on Twitter in which it was depicted that an Arab ambassador visiting China during the rule of Tang dynasty gifts a portrait of the Prophet Muhammad to the Chinese emperor.

Charlie Hebdo mocks Turkish President Recep Erdogan in its latest cartoons, shows him lifting a skirt of woman wearing ‘hijab’

The front-page caricature of Wednesday's edition of Charlie Hebdo that was released online on Tuesday night depicts Erdogan in a white T-shirt and underpants, drinking a can of beer and lifting up the skirt of a woman wearing a hijab to reveal her naked bottom.

Nikita Tomar murder: Main accused Tauseef belongs to a family of influential Congress politicians from Nuh in Haryana

The prime accused Tauseef's grandfather, uncles and cousin brothers are all infuential Congress politicians from Haryana's Nuh

YouTuber Lakshay Chaudhary levels serious allegations of fraud against Gaurav Wasan of Swad Official whose video on ‘Baba ka Dhaba’ had gone viral

Gaurav Wasan of Swad Official had uploaded a video about the financial difficulties faced by the elderly couple of 'Baba ka Dhaba'.
- Advertisement -

‘His legs were shivering, head was sweating fearing attack by India’: Pakistani opposition leader reveals why Imran Khan govt had released Abhinandan Varthaman

PML(N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said that Pakistani Foreign Minister had feared that India would attack Pakistan if Abhinandan is not returned

While appealing Muslim counties to counter Islamophobia, Imran Khan says ‘criticism or questioning of Holocaust’ is criminalised in many counties

Pakistan PM confuses between Holocaust denial and Holocaust criticism, says the criticism is criminalised many countries

Republic TV issues statement condemning Mumbai Police summons to their investors in relation to the TRP scam

Republic TV said that crime branch has asked all investors of the channel to produce all financial transactions relating to last five years

Param Bir Singh tortured me with belt, Saffron Terror allegation was Congress conspiracy to paint India as a terrorist state: Pragya Singh Thakur

Pragya Singh Thakur said that Param Bir Singh and Hemant Karkare had tortured her the most when she was in the custody of ATS

Delhi government begins crackdown on Diwali, 11 anti-firecracker squads to be formed to prevent use of crackers other than ‘Green Crackers’

Delhi govt announced that an anti-firecracker campaign will be launched on November 3 ahead of the Diwali festival

“Dawood Ibrahim administrating legal, financial and mental attack on Republic TV, Arnab Goswami may face physical attack”: Former Bureaucrat RV Subramani

RV Subramani speaks on how Arnab Goswami touched the wrong nerve of Dawood Ibrahim and many politicians by reportage on Bollywood drug nexus

Watch: Pro-India accounts disrupt Pakistan’s anti-India online meeting on Zoom, play pro-Hindu and Indian nationalistic songs

Indic social media users caused embarrassment to Pakistani authorities and diplomats after they raided their online event on zoom

Lord Ram’s effigy burnt in Amritsar on Dussehra, case registered after BJYM and VHP members held protests

In a video of the incident, some people were seen burning an effigy of Lord Ram on the occasion of Dussehra

TeleMedicine: Technology bridging the doctor-patient gap to strengthen public healthcare system

Telecardiology helps connect cardiologists and patients in remote areas so that they could get timely report leading to proper diagnosis.

Adivasis and family of Gond tribal leader Komaram Bheem objects to his Muslim look in the upcoming ‘RRR’ movie

Komaram Bheem’s grandson Sone Rao said that the movie RRR depicting Bheem as Muslim is nothing but a 'distortion'

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
470,461FollowersFollow
19,500SubscribersSubscribe