The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Old is not gold for party’s young

Shimla, Feb. 22: Some in the Congress say he represents the party’s strengths. There are others who disagree. They believe he personifies the weaknesses of the party today. Perhaps, it is both.

Amar Nath Bazwaria is like the two sides of the same coin — he symbolises both the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s oldest political party, which is struggling to come to terms with contemporary political realities.

Anybody who is somebody in the Himachal Pradesh Congress knows Bazwaria. Men have come and men have gone, but Bazwaria has been a lasting presence at the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee office, in the heart of this hill town. He has been the HPCC office’s “permanent secretary” for nearly five decades.

Bazwaria claims he is in his seventies. He says he was a Calcutta-based employee with the government of Burma (now Myanmar) during British rule in the early 1940s. He left the British service soon after his transfer to Rangoon (now Yangon). He continued to live in Calcutta for nearly eight years doing business — smuggling, he confesses.

Bazwaria used to smuggle pens from Southeast Asia and sell them to his clients in the city. “My clients owe me over Rs 6 lakh even to this day,” he says. He returned to Shimla in the early 1950s to actively work for the Congress.

But some of the younger functionaries at the HPCC office have no hesitation in saying that the party is wasting an important position by continuing with Bazwaria as the permanent secretary. “Is he able to contribute in any significant way for the poll campaign now'” they ask.

Bazwaria disagrees. “I have been a loyal Congressman for nearly six decades,” he says. “I was the first one to convey to Mrs Indira Gandhi about the conspiracy (to remove her as Prime Minister), which Nijalingappa (then AICC president) and Co. had hatched against her in 1969. But I am the only Congressman who got nothing from the party in return.”

Although people like Bazwa ria represent a trait whose erosion has spelt problems for the party, they appeal less to the new generation. It is not surprising that the poll managers are having to think out a campaign strategy to consciously appeal to the young voters.

Bazwaria, who has had an insider’s view of all previous elections in Himachal, is just about confident that his party will return to power in the February 26 polls. “People want a change, if nothing else,” he says.

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