| Kushabhau: Ailing patriarch
Bhopal, June 8: It is the last wish of the patriarch and the parivar is making every effort to fulfil it.
An ambulance with state-of-the-art facilities, doctor and nurse on board, is being readied to take former BJP chief Kushabhau Thakre, who is in the third stage of cancer, around his home state Madhya Pradesh.
The 81-year-old Thakre, who has now shifted from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences to the residential quarters of the BJP’s Ashoka Road office, wants to visit Bhopal, Indore, hometown Neemach, Jabalpur and other places.
One of the founder members of the BJP’s earlier avatar, the Jan Sangh, Thakre is remembered as an accessible leader and someone who has never been apologetic about his RSS links, opposition to multinationals and support to Narendra Modi’s brand of Hindutva.
Waiting for Pitamah (father figure) — as he is also known — is Uma Bharti, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the poll-bound state who, ironically, was always at loggerheads with Thakre in state politics.
Today, Bharti has forgotten the bitterness. She says she needs Thakre’s blessings to defeat chief minister Digvijay Singh and the Congress. She also went to see him at AIIMS and is now supervising arrangements so that Thakre’s last wish can be fulfilled in style.
Some state leaders, however, see a political angle in Bharti’s efforts. They say the ailing Thakre can still give her an extra push, the support from the RSS-Jan Sangh old guard who had sided with Sunderlal Patwa against her. One of Bharti’s biggest handicaps is that she is yet to emerge as the leader of all factions of the state unit.
In Madhya Pradesh, it is said that Thakre does not need the “wholetimers’ file” to know who is doing what. In fact, he is known to have the party structure in the north and the west at his fingertips.
Thakre — like deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat — is among the few BJP leaders who have free access and full liberty to convey whatever they feel to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
At the height of the Gujarat violence, he is said to have made it clear to Vajpayee that chief minister Narendra Modi would have to be defended, even at the cost of the survival of the Central government.
Before that, as president of the BJP between 1998 and 2000, he missed no opportunity in criticising multinational companies and the Vajpayee government’s support to the sale of public sector units.
Thakre’s association with the RSS dates back to 1942. He joined the Sangh in 1942 at Neemach before moving to the Ratlam division consisting of Ratlam, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Jhabua, Rajasthan’s Chittaur, Kota, Bundi, Jhalawad, Banswada and Dahod in Gujarat. He later became a pracharak of the Ujjain division.
His journey through the Jan Sangh saw him become secretary (organisation) for Madhya Pradesh in 1956. In 1967, Thakre moved to national-level politics as all-India secretary, holding charge of Orissa and Gujarat. In 1977, as president of the Madhya Pradesh Janata Party, he was jailed for 19 months during Emergency.
In 1979, Thakre won the Lok Sabha bypoll from Khandwa.