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Meet Vivek Tankha, Gandhis’ Man Friday Who Kept Congress at the Top of Its Game in MP

File photo of Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha.

File photo of Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha.

A go-to man for the Congress this assembly polls, Vivek Tankha was at the forefront even when the party took on the Election Commission, alleging there were as many as 60 lakh fake voters in Madhya Pradesh.

Bhopal: When the battle for the throne was being fought fiercely in Madhya Pradesh, there was one man who had his sword drawn every time the Congress needed someone to save the day. When the party cornered the state government over Vyapam scam, took up the cudgels against the Election Commission over fake voters and worked overnight to keep its thin majority intact on the day of counting, it was senior lawyer Vivek Tankha who worked diligently to ensure his party remained at the top of the game.

Tankha was there even when the Congress fulfilled its mission MP while staking claim to form the government on December 12.

Deputed as member of election campaign committee and vice chairman of the manifesto committee, Tankha is among the few Congressmen who have maintained cordial relations with every faction of the party in Madhya Pradesh, including the Gandhis.

Counted among top lawyers of the country, Tankha was instrumental in ensuring Vyapam scam got its due importance in the courtrooms while representing the whistle-blowers related to the case. It was Tankha who ensured that these whistle-blowers, including Ashish Chaturvedi, Dr Aanad Rai and Prashant Pandey, met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi.

A go-to man for the party this assembly election, the Rajya Sabha member was again at the forefront when Congress took on the Election Commission, alleging there were as many as 60 lakh fake voters in Madhya Pradesh. He also represented MPCC president and now CM designate Kamal Nath and filed petition with the Supreme Court over the bogus voters.

As the chairman of Congress’ legal cell, Tankha was again at the forefront when the party hosted senior lawyers of high courts and the Supreme Court for ‘Vidhik Vimarsh’ in Jabalpur in April. This legal conclave was also the time when the party’s top brass came down heavily on the Centre for ‘persistent attacks’ on democratic institutions.

Meanwhile, the battle of assembly polls had gone down to the wire on December 11 after the BJP and Congress got locked in a seesaw battle, with the latter leading by a margin of five seats only and over two dozen seats facing uncertain results.

During election results too, when the party was locked in a seesaw battle with the BJP and senior leaders Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath had locked themselves in the PCC building for almost seven hours, Tankha was right there, helping them save the day with his overnight vigil to ensure there were no irregularities in counting and that the party maintained its thin lead the next morning.

Leading a team of lawyers the same night, Tankha also helped the Congress candidates embattle tough 30 seats with crucial advice. The collective efforts bore fruits when MPCC head Kamal Nath appeared before the media at 3am and announced that the party has secured majority with the help of allies.

With numbers in their favour, party seniors along with Tankha had handed over a letter to MP governor Anandiben Patel on December 12 about the formation of government and the list of MLA and allies.

Not just this, Tankha also kept the pressure mounted on the BJP, both in MP and nationally, with his stinging posts on Twitter over political developments.

The Jabalpur-based senior lawyer was sent to Rajya Sabha by the Congress in 2016 and proved to be an asset on a number of occasions, including in cases of dismissal of Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand and later in the same instance in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016 when Congress rebels tried to topple incumbent governments and the Centre chose to impose President's rule.

He's the son of MP high court judge RK Tankha, a Kashmiri pandit who migrated and settled in Jabalpur post independence. Tankhas were always close to the Nehru-Gandhi family and those close to them claim they never had to seek appointments to meet the Gandhis. While his father was close to former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh, Vivek Tankha enjoys proximity with former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and also maintains cordial relations with other leaders in the party.

After completing his degree from Delhi University’s Faculty of Law, Tankha enrolled as a lawyer in 1979 and became the youngest Advocate General of MP in 1999.

He has also been a votary of state laws to ensure ‘distributive justice’, including in subjects like medical admission, land allotment and distribution and job quotas. “He was offered judgeship by the bench of MP High Court in April 1998 but he sought forgiveness for personal reasons. He was also the first lawyer from Madhya Pradesh to have been appointed Additional Solicitor General of India. He had played a major role in resolving disputes between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh after the latter was created in November 2000,” his official website states.

According to the website, he also engages in social and humanitarian activities through Rotary Club. “As chairman of the Rotary Clubs of Jabalpur, he helped villages rebuild 66 homes in Ghana Khamaria following the devastating earthquake that rocked the city and other part of MP in 1991.”

During a super cyclone in Orissa in 2000, Tankha through rotary clubs mobilised 18 railway wagons of food and relief materials to the trouble-torn state.

He has served in various capacities in both national and international institutions and there is also a Justice Tankha Memorial Trust that runs various schools for the mentally ill and disabled kids in MP and Chhattisgarh.