Monday, November 29, 1999

His journey: From cop to V-P`s office

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Former Vice-President and senior BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat died after suffering cardiac arrest in a Jaipur hospital on Saturday morning. He was 87.Shekhawat, admitted to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital two days ago with complaints of breathing problems, died at 11.10 am. He is survived by his wife, Suraj Kanwar, daughter Ratan Kanwar and her husband and BJP MLA Narpat Singh Rajvi.Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after calling an emergency Cabinet meeting to mourn his death, declared three days of state mourning during which time the Indian flag will remain at half mast. Shekhawat's funeral will be held on Sunday in Chandpol in Jaipur with full state honours.As news of the three-time Rajasthan Chief Minister's death spread, political leaders from all parties began arriving at Shekhawat's house in Civil Lines to pay their last respects, including state and national leaders.From a sub inspector in the Rajasthan police to the country's second highest office of Vice-President, Shekhawat not only shaped the BJP with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, but the course of politics in Rajasthan. He lost the 2007 presidential race to Congress rival Pratibha Patil.He became the first non-Congress CM in 1977 riding high on the Janata Party wave. However, following a split in the ranks and then a shift to the then new BJP, Shekhawat had to wait 13 years before reigning supreme in the 1990 and 1993 Assembly elections.Shekhawat was also a three-time leader of the opposition in Rajasthan. After losing to Gehlot in the 1998 polls, he was instrumental is bringing then MP Vasundhara Raje into state politics, which culminated in Raje becoming the CM after trouncing the Congress in the 2003 state and then the 2004 parliamentary elections.On Saturday, Raje said, "I was deeply aggrieved with the news of Shekhawatji's death and believed him to be my mentor. It was with his blessings that I moved from national politics to state politics. The state and country has lost a visionary and a leader today."Born on October 23, 1923 in Kachariawas village in Rajasthan's Sikar district and a ten-time MLA from Rajasthan, Shekhawat has been a member of every Rajasthan Assembly from its inception in 1952 till 2002, except for a period between 1972 and 1977 but was then elected to the Rajya Sabha. He was known by many names including Bhairon Baba and Babo Sa.From a modest background, Shekhawat joined the police force to support his family till he joined politics in 1950 and won a seat in Rajasthan's first Assembly elections in 1952. A ferocious voice against sati and several other feudal practises, including the jagir system, which his own Rajput community vehemently opposed but to little avail, Shekhawat was always seen as progressive and unlike many other 'hardliners' in the BJP.In Rajasthan, few including his strongest rivals, can challenge his talent as an administrator. Senior leaders still marvel at his networking skills, which extended right down to the village level across the state.

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