Freedom fighter and Congressman ND Tiwari dies on his 93 birthday

Many folded and unfolded chapters of pre-and post-independence-era went down in history with the demise of nonagenarian illustrious statesman, freedom fighter and intransigent Congressman Narayan Datt Tiwari exactly on his 93 birthday. His contribution to national life began with “Quit India” movement during 1942-44 where he was in prison along with his father Poornanand Tiwari for 19 months. A visionary, well-cultured, multifaceted, submissive and one of the most respected politicians across the party lines, Tiwari was admired because of his immense knowledge and revolutionary ideas that shaped the industrial development and economy of the country, especially Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Popularly called NDT, an intelligent scholar blended with his perennial ever-enticing smile, had a strong presence in India’s parliamentary democracy for more than half-a-century without any charges of corruption in his official capacity. He was a perfect Congressman and unsung hero in his party.

In the profession, I came in his touch in 1980 when after the downfall of Congress party following the Emergency in1977, it rejuvenated to power and he became key player in the national polity having the charge of Planning Commission as its vice chairman besides Minister for Industries and additional charge of Labour also. I met him at Udyog Bhawan where his private secretary Gupta arranged my meeting with him. Suddenly the then prime minister Indira Gandhi called him so he had to rush to PMO. I told him that I have come here all the way from Lucknow to interview you. He smiled and said, “Chaliye maharaj apse raste me baat ho jayegi” (Come with me. We will talk en-route to PMO). Since then I enjoyed his total confidence and perfect professional relationship. It helped me growing with breaking first rate news stories in my career. I saw many up and downs in his political existence but every time he sailed the challenges and overshadowed his opponents with cordial manners and smiling face. It was his unique quality that he never used harsh words or foul language against his political adversaries and never went in press against them.

In August 1984, Tiwari replaced Sripati Mishra and became second time chief minister of the biggest and politically crucial north Indian state, at the time when state Congress party was ridden with different factions and groups. Indira Gandhi in those troubled times trusted the leadership of ND Tiwari as uncontroversial leader acceptable to all factions lobbying against Sripati Mishra.

NDT always enjoyed confidence of Indira Gandhi, when he was elevated to the coveted office of the UP chief minister succeeding HN Bahuguna in 1976. He had remained an Indira loyalist even after her assassination. During the tenure of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he had opposed the unlocking of the disputed Ramjanam Bhoomi temple in Ayodhya. A few leaders of inner circle were aware that it was a deliberate move to upstage the secular leaders like him within the party. In spite of his opposition, his successor, the new UP chief minister, Vir Bahadur Singh, had endorsed this move, a brain child of the Rajiv’s coterie, comprising his Doon school’s non-political advisers.

Thereafter during NDT regime, stone-laying ceremony of the temple was performed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) after entering into agreement with the government of UP to the effect that they will not disturb the disputed structure and lay foundation stone outside the disputed land. Later VHP willfully violated this agreement in 1992 during Kalayan Singh-led BJP rule. 

Dominated by the values for which Tiwari joined the national movement had always been closed to his heart. He dreamt and conceived the idea of free India as a developed nation and always tried his best to serve those objectives. He is creator of Industrial hub of Uttar Pradesh, popularly known as Noida and Greater Noida and revolutionised automobile sector in India.

He persuaded big automobile companies to come to India and also allowed their partnership with Indian industry. Most popular car project Maruti was also operationalized by him. The project was once conceived by late Sanjay Gandhi. Honda, DCM-Sriram, Toyota, Ford, Lohiya machines, Scooters India, Hyundai Motors and many other cars manufactures setup their units in India with the help of NDT.

He also promoted electronic Industry in Uttar Pradesh and hill areas of Uttarakhand which was earlier part of the state. He also promoted public sector undertakings like Hindustan Machine Tools Ltd. (HMT) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd.(BHEL) to setup their units in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He was also involved in bringing IFFCO units at Anola (Barelliy) and Phulpur (Allahabad). His vision for development of sugar industries brought Uttar Pradesh to compete with Maharashtra and topped in sugar production.

None in the Congress party had matching experience, caliber and grassroots following than Tiwari. He served Uttar Pradesh four times as its chief minister and full term chief minister of Uttarakhand. Besides, He was union minister for Planning with Additional Charge of Labour, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Industry, additional charge of the Ministry of Steel and Mines, Union Minister for Industry with additional charge of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, External Affairs and Finance and Commerce.

He had served all the four “Dhams” of Indian politics as member of state assembly, state legislative council, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. He chaired the Public Accounts Committee and was member of Committee on Finance, General Purposes Committee and Parliamentary Pay Committee. He very humbly and gracefully discharged the duties and functions of the treasury and opposition benches of the largest democracy of the world. He represented the country in more than 75 countries as leader/member of Indian diplomatic missions and always outshined with flying colours on international forums as an intellectually rich pleasing personality.

Ideologically, a true socialist, he was picked up for Congress Party by first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and was appointed president of Youth Congress. He was also active in students’ politics and won the election of Allahabad University student’s union. A post-graduate in political science and having a law degree from the Allahabad University, he could have joined the much-coveted civil services, he preferred to become a fighter.

His interaction with the socialists led him to join the politics. His knowledge of political-economy could match any international scholar. It is difficult for the new generation politicians, who could be past masters in rhetoric, to understand his contribution to modern India, especially in an era when India’s political horizon is having a large presence of criminals.

After the decline of Congress rule in Uttar Pradesh, Tiwari tried his best for the resurgence of his party to change public discourse from path of communalisation to development. He organized and addressed “Vikas Yatras” all over the Uttar Pradesh to change its focus. During his campaigning he made it a point to visit the places where any martyr sacrificed his life or there were any statues of martyrs. He reminded the people why he sacrificed for the nation? because, they wanted a strong, developed and self-reliant country, where every citizens have freedom of thoughts, expressions, equality of opportunities, liberty and social harmony.

The political detractors of Tiwari conspired with the Congress high command terming his yatras as a plan to uproot Rajiv Gandhi. This was not taken kindly by Congress leadership and resulted in sidelining him in party affairs. However, all these repressive measures raised his political stature next to Rajiv Gandhi and he became the railing point for those Congressmen who were not inclined to accept him as next prime minister of the country.

I have personal knowledge that many senior leaders who were suffocated with the leadership and dominance of Gandhi-Nehru family including PV Narsimha Rao, Arjun Singh and many others have given go ahead signal and were ready to accept him as a leader of their choice but his luck ditched him when he lost Lok Sabha election from his hard nurtured Nainital constituency. So, Narsimha Rao who was packing his bags to return Hyderabad suddenly emerged on national scene in such a vacuum created after his defeat and untimely elimination of Rajiv Gandhi in an explosion. Later on most of the Congressmen blame Rao for allowing destruction of Ayodhya shrine because of his indifferent attitude to address it seriously.

ND Tiwari never believed in politics of caste, creed or religion. He always stood above such sentiments as a true statesman. He was totally against the policies of Narsimha Rao. Fed up with the humiliating treatment he met from him, he decided to part his ways as he felt that the Congress party had deviated from track of its ideals and principles under Rao’s rule. Arjun Singh in his biography highlighted the Rao’s role during execution of demolition in Ayodhya, shattering secular fabric of cultural and religious diversity of the country. In such a situation Tiwari with veteran leader Arjun Singh, Sheila Dikshit and many other senior leaders left Congress party for a very brief period and formed All India Indira Congress (Tiwari). The party later merged with the Congress party when Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the party from Sita Ram Kesri.

NDT was exiled from active politics and was appointed Governor of Andhra Pradesh during Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure. It was altogether different experience for Tiwari who as Finance Minister appointed Dr Manmohan Singh as Governor of Reserve Bank of India. Despite away from national capital he remained a strong choice for the next President of India for a large section of Congressmen. It could not happen as his image was maligned due to conspiracy of a sex exposure in Raj Bhawan where he was filmed. How without a well-planned conspiracy he was filmed in his bedroom still puzzle many political observers. This controversy virtually finished his political career as all his positive contribution and spotless track of record went in oblivion.

NDT suffered humiliation during his long innings in the state as well as national politics, but never harbored ill-will against anyone. He enjoys respect across the political spectrum, though humiliated within the INC, he declined to quit the party even when saffron party tried its best to woo his support in the last year assembly polls in UP and Uttarakhand. He was a true Congressman till his last breaths in Max Hospital of Saket, New Delhi, where doctors have announced his death due to vital organs failure. His first wife Dr. Sushila Tiwari was a government Doctor by profession. She was most humble and pious lady who never used official vehicle to go to her hospital and always remained on duty despite her husband use to be chief minister of the state. She died after suffering from cancer in 1993, though he took her abroad for best possible treatment. He wanted to immortalize her memories by establishing a world class hospital in her name with highly specialized treatment of cancer. He demanded the government in 2017 to upgrade the Haldwani based Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College to the status of AIIMS as the people of Kumaun region have not been benefited establishing AIIMS at Rishikesh. Smt. Ujjawala Sharma, daughter of former minister in Janata Party government, Prof. Sher Singh, remarried NDT in last days of his life. Earlier she married one Vimal Sharma. Prior to remarriage they had intimate affair years back, resulted the birth of her son Rohit Shekhar. They performed his last rites in his native state Uttarakhand though Tiwari in his active life wanted his last rites just near the place where his first wife was cremated.

It was an irony that Congress party had not taken any care of its trusted old time stalwart soldier in his last days who had tremendously contributed in its governance and organization. Perhaps this isolation provoked his lately reconstituted family to keep distance from Congress leaders and allowed Bhartiya Janata Party to hijack his legacy. The family also kept distance from his real natives and mingled with BJP leaders to handle his dead body and last rites.

The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Dinesh Sharma carried the body of Tiwari in a special craft from Delhi to Lucknow where Governor Ram Naik, Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, Speaker of the state assembly HN Dixit paid their floral tributes to departed dignitary. Congress leaders — Ram Krishna Dwivedi, Satyadev Tripathi, Dr Sanjay Sinh, and others join the occasion to pay homage to their departed leader. His real brother Ramesh Tiwari, his son Manishi and his cousins also joined there. The Congress party virtually missed an opportunity to reach mammoth following of NDT in UP and Uttarakhand because of its short sighted vision.