A life dedicated to poor

A life dedicated to poor

Shekhawat had been hospitalised since May 13

A life dedicated to poor

The 86-year-old veteran leader is survived by wife Suraj Kanwar, daughter Ratan Kanwar and politician son-in-law Narpat Singh Rajvi.
The popular Bhartiya Janata Party leader, fondly called “Babo Sa” by his large fan following in the desert state, was hospitalised on May 13 after he complained of uneasiness and respiratory problems. He breathed his last at 11:10 am, Principal of SMS Medical Hospital, Dr Ashok Pangaria said.

As soon as news of his death spread, leaders across the party line and his colleagues and supporters from the BJP rushed to his residence to pay tributes to the veteran leader, who played a long successful innings in politics and remained an inspiring and guiding figure for them.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot held an emergency cabinet meeting to mourn the death of the veteran leader and declared a three-day state mourning in Rajasthan. The funeral will take place at 10 am on Sunday with full state honours. Shekhawat’s embalmed body lies in state at his Civil Lines bungalow to enable people to pay their last respects to the departed leader.

Born on October 23, 1923 in Khachariawas village of Sikar district in Rajasthan, Shekhawat made his debut in politics way back in 1952, when he won his first Assembly election on a Bhartiya Jansangh ticket.

First non-Cong CM

He became the first non-Congress chief minister of Rajasthan on June 22, 1977 after winning from Chhabra constituency on a Janata Dal ticket and earned wide acclaim for his “antyodaya yojna”, a path-breaking welfare scheme for the poorest of the poor. The scheme was greatly appreciated by the then World Bank Chief, Robert McNamara, who even described Shekhawat as the Rockfeller of India.

Displaying rare courage in 1982, Shekhawat condemned the Deorala Sati incident in the state, when there were few voices willing to speak out against it.

Whenever he visited villages, he always urged people to educate girls, inculcate the culture of environment conservation and above all, he asked them to shun age-old customs like death feasts. “If you can shell out some amount you spend on death feasts for your village, there will be no dearth of funds for development,” he often said.

He headed a Janata Party-Janata Dal coalition government in 1990 but could not complete his tenure as President’s rule was imposed in the state after Babri Masjid demolition. He became the chief minister again in 1993 and unlike his first two tenures– 1977-1980, 1990 -1992– aborted mid-term for some reasons, successfully completed five years in office.

He represented the state Assembly for a record nine times but curiously from different constituencies, thus not sticking to his home turf Sikar district, from where he made a beginning. He was perhaps the only member of the state Assembly in Rajasthan to have won all Assembly elections from 1952 to 1998, barring his maiden defeat in 1972. He also remained a Rajya Sabha MP from 1974-77.

He was elected the 11th Vice President of India on August 19, 2002 after defeating Sushil Kumar Shinde of the Congress. He however resigned from the post on July 21, 2007 when he lost the Presidential poll to Smt Pratibha Devi Singh Patil.

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