|Rohit kisses Tiwari’s hands in Delhi; (right) Rohit. (PTI)
March 3: Five minutes before midnight yesterday, former chief minister Narain Dutt Tiwari, 88, got off his bed with some difficulty, hugged a 34-year-old Rohit Shekhar and declared him his son.
A private news channel was at hand to film the scene that, with Rohit’s mother Ujjwala Sharma watching, drew the curtain on a bitter, six-year-old paternity suit — the first involving an Indian politician.
“I have accepted that Rohit Shekhar is my son. The DNA test also proved he is my biological son,” Tiwari said, facing the cameras at the VIP suite of New Delhi’s Uttarakhand Bhavan.
After Tiwari had moved Delhi High Court last week seeking an out-of-court settlement, Rohit, a Delhi-based lawyer, had said: “Why can’t he just come and hug me and declare to the world that I am his son?”
Last night’s events came amid a buzz that Tiwari might contest the general election. He has not revealed his plans but Rohit said he would help his father campaign.
Tiwari is expected to contest as a Samajwadi Party-backed Independent from Uttarakhand (Dehradun) or Uttar Pradesh, the two states he had ruled. The four-time chief minister, who had been Union minister and a governor too, had spent most of his career in the Congress.
The reunion — which Rohit described as “only the first step towards putting the bitterness behind” — was an emotional one, Ujjwala, 69, told The Telegraph.
Tiwari wept, telling Rohit he was tired of fighting. “I am proud of my association with this great family,” the politician told the TV cameras.
Ujjwala, daughter of former Congress Union minister Sher Singh, was separated from her husband when she grew close to Tiwari in the late ’60s. Both were in the Youth Congress.
After Rohit moved the paternity suit in October 2008, Tiwari, then Andhra Pradesh governor, had told Delhi High Court that Ujjwala was his “paramour” and an “unchaste woman” but denied he had a son by her. The comments led Ujjwala to claim she felt “like a dustbin”.
In 2012, Tiwari was forced to provide DNA samples under Supreme Court directions and the test results were declared in July that year. Ujjwala today described the sequence of yesterday’s events to this newspaper.
“I came to meet Tiwariji and enquire about his health on Sunday. He expressed a desire to meet Rohit and was even prepared to visit his home in Defence Colony,” she said.
“But I felt that in keeping with Tiwariji’s health and our customs, Rohit should call on him,” Ujjwala said.
Rohit said the reunion brought back good and bad memories and left him drained emotionally.
“What my mother and I went through ---- the scars, the pain ---- I don’t want anyone else to suffer. I hope our wounds would heal,” he said.
“But the wounds will not go away (immediately) even if I pretend. All I want now is to spend some time with him. Our case has set a precedent and, hopefully, will help others who have gone through this.”
Asked whether he would like to spend more time with his son, Tiwari said: “Why not?”
Rohit said he would now seek a formal, legal pronouncement from the court about his paternity. Ujjwala said the court could issue a decree declaring Rohit as Tiwari’s son based on the politician’s submission.
The 1979-born Rohit says he was 12 or 13 when his mother told him he was Tiwari’s son and that, since turning 18, he had repeatedly sought an acknowledgement from the politician and been rebuffed every time. In his petition, Rohit had not sought any financial benefits.
Soon after he filed the lawsuit, his late grandfather Sher Singh had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee accusing Tiwari of “avoiding responsibility towards his son”.