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Harish Rawat 2.0 in His Politics Emulates ND Tiwari to Tide Over Crisis

When Rawat (right) was picked by Sanjay Gandhi after the fall of Janata government, Tiwari (left) had already had a couple of stints as UP chief minister.

When Rawat (right) was picked by Sanjay Gandhi after the fall of Janata government, Tiwari (left) had already had a couple of stints as UP chief minister.

Harish Rawat has never got along well with the grand old man of Uttarakhand politics - ND Tiwari. He has dreaded Tiwari’s unsurpassable capacity to inflict a thousand wounds on his adversaries without raising his voice.

In his deft handling of the current political crisis Rawat has, however, shown how much he has learnt from the nonagenarian leader.

When Rawat was picked by Sanjay Gandhi after the fall of Janata government to take on BJP’s Dr Murli Manohar Joshi from Almora, Tiwari had already had a couple of stints as UP chief minister.

Rawat won that election quite comfortably. And in the next one, he inflicted a body-blow to Joshi and banished the BJP leader from Kumaun politics for ever.

Over the next ten years, Rawat moved up the ranks as a party MP and Congress Seva Dal functionary. Tiwari all this while remained active in state and national politics till mandal-kamandal polarisation ended Congress’ hegemony in UP and Bihar.

In fact, Tiwari was the last Congress chief minister of UP; and a Brahmin one at that.

When the first elections to Uttarakhand assembly were held after the creation of the hill state in 2000, Rawat as state Congress president was the natural claimant for the CM post.

“During ticket distribution, Rawat’s reluctance to accommodate some candidates proposed by Satpal Maharaj did not go down well with the party high command”; says a leader well entrenched in state politics.

When Congress bagged a surprise victory, all anti-Rawat camps moved in quickly and rallied behind Tiwari to bring the four-time UP CM back from hibernation. Party high command duly complied.

That was lesson number one from Tiwari to Rawat - in politics, wait for your turn. And most importantly, while in Congress, never defy the high command.

Over the next five years, an aggressive Rawat from the Sanjay Gandhi School of politics made innumerable attempts to wrest back power; but to no avail.

Tiwari - as an old-time Congressman - is perhaps the best surviving exponent of defensive onslaught. A master at passive aggression, he can tire his opponents to submission by merely keeping things in a limbo.

The former UP CM’s most potent weapon in the labyrinth of power politics has been a near absolute control over his lachrymal glands. Tiwari can shed tears at will. And quite unlike Meena Kumari, he can do it with an unassuming ease - both in moments of joy and distress.

In the face of direct assault, and on innumerable occasions during his tenure as Uttarakhand CM, Tiwari cried his way before friends and foes, masses and party leadership, to become the only leader to complete full five-year-term in office.

Lesson number two for Rawat - play the victim card to the hilt, for people like becharas. And quite unlike in football, in politics, defence is the best offence.

Take a close look at Rawat in his fight with an aggressive Centre over the last one month. He is ND Tiwari minus the tears.

He has converted the present political crisis in the state into the narrative of a powerful Centre attempting to crush a small state and its simple hill folks.

To underscore the point, Rawat has consciously kept the top party leadership out of the fray, making it a CM vs PM contest.

Even in the face of an emphatic victory - both legal and political - in the Nainital High Court he extended an olive branch to the Centre by letting “bygones be bygones “; and by offering to “work together for the development of the hill state”.

Before the imposition of President’s Rule, he told me that if his government survives the floor test he would name a monument after Shaktiman, the police horse which sustained injuries during a BJP protest and subsequently died.

“It will remind people forever how brutal this party is”; said Rawat as he recalled how tears welled up in its eyes when he went to Dehradoon Police Lines to meet a recuperating Shaktiman.

And finally, irrespective of the outcome of this political impasse, Rawat has in one swift blow, shown the door to all his adversaries within to emerge as the undisputed and un-challenged leader of the Congress party in Uttarakhand.

While he prepares for the next round of battle, he seems to be emulating and perhaps also admiring his biggest adversary in state politics.

Which is probably why, earlier this year, when the state government in an affidavit before the Uttarakhand High Court stated its intent to pare down facilities provided to all former state chief ministers, it made exception for just one: Narayan Dutt Tiwari.

first published:April 27, 2016, 15:56 IST