Lucknow: Madhya Pradesh Governor and former BJP MP Lalji Tandon passed away Tuesday morning after a prolonged illness. He was 85.
Tandon’s son, Ashutosh Tandon, who is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, announced his father’s death on Twitter.
“Babuji nahin rahen (Babuji is no more),” he posted. The leader was known as ‘Babuji’ among his supporters.
बाबूजी नहीं रहे
— Ashutosh Tandon (@GopalJi_Tandon) July 21, 2020
Tandon had been undergoing treatment at Medanta Hospital in Lucknow since 11 June. His condition deteriorated Monday night, reports said. Tandon had been put on ventilator support following complaints regarding difficulty in breathing, fever and other complications.
In view of his worsening health, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel was given additional charge of Madhya Pradesh last month.
JP Movement, RSS and Lalji
Lalji Tandon was born in Lucknow on 12 April 1935. While he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at the age of 12, Tandon began his political journey only in early 1960s.
During his association with the RSS, he met former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with whom he shared a special relationship right up until the latter’s death in 2018.
In a political career spanning several decades, Tandon has served as a councillor, a UP minister, an member of Parliament and as the Governor of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
In the 1970s, he also actively participated in Jayaprakash Narayan nationwide movement against the Indira Gandhi government.
A three-time MLA from Uttar Pradesh, Tandon also served as a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in Uttar Pradesh twice — from 1978 to 1984 and then again from 1990 to 1996.
He had two stints as a state cabinet minister — from 1991 to 1992 and again in 1997 — and he also held the responsibility of Leader of Opposition in UP Assembly from 2003 to 2007.
In 2009, he was elected to Parliament from the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat. In 2019, he was appointed the Madhya Pradesh governor.
A Vajpayee protege
Tandon had been a steadfast supporter of Vajpayee for nearly five decades. He always maintained that Vajpayee played the triple role of being his colleague, brother and father.
In 2009, he took over from his mentor, replacing him as the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate for the Lucknow constituency.
Soon after getting the party ticket, Tandon’s first act was to meet the former PM — he always sought Vajpayee’s blessings before carrying out any important work.
He even campaigned in 2009 elections saying he had come carrying “Vajpayee’s sandals”. Tandon registered a mammoth victory in those elections.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, however, Tandon lost out on the BJP ticket from Lucknow. At the time, the BJP had announced Narendra Modi’s name as its prime ministerial candidate, sparking speculation that he would contest either from Lucknow or Varanasi.
Modi eventually settled on Varanasi but current Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave up his Ghaziabad seat setting his sights on Lucknow.
Eventually, Rajnath contested from Lucknow but not before a controversy as Tandon was said to be upset over this.
The row even forced Tandon to issue a statement. “Rajnath Singh is the president of my party. Why is his name being dragged into this?” he had then asked. “When I have no knowledge of someone staking a claim to contest from here and when the party has not yet taken any decision about it, then why is this issue being unnecessarily raised. It has no meaning at all.”
“For Modiji, I myself had said that I will be more than happy if he decides to contest from this seat and I had no objection to him contesting from here,” he had added. “All my political life has been spent in Lucknow. I was born here and my end will come here only.”
But once his name was overlooked for the Lucknow seat, Tandon drifted away from the politics of Lucknow as well as UP before he was appointed as the Bihar governor in 2018.
Mayawati’s ‘rakhi brother’ and Tandon’s controversies
As a senior BJP leader, Lalji Tandon played a prominent role in establishing the party’s political roots in Uttar Pradesh. He also carried out several experiments in the state’s politics.
He was instrumental in ensuring the BJP-BSP coalition government in the 1990s. He always considered BSP chief Mayawati his sister and the two created a stir when the latter tied a rakhi on his hand.
The UP leader had his fair share of controversies.
During the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, when Vajpayee was contesting the elections, Tandon as his election agent held a saree distribution event that led to a stampede, which killed 21 people.
Tandon was booked under criminal charges on the orders of the Election Commission. PM Vajpayee was also targeted by the opposition over this incident. The EC had issued a notice to the BJP seeking clarification as to why the party’s recognition should not be revoked.
After the massive uproar over the sari scandal, BJP had called it Tandon’s personal event. He later received a clean chit in the case.
During the 2007 Uttar Pradesh assembly election campaign, the Election Commission had registered an FIR against him in a case of distributing some controversial CDs.
Tandon also courted controversy through his book Ankaha Lucknow, in which he claimed that there had been a deliberate attempt to transform the UP capital into “the city of Nawabi Tehzeeb”.
In the book, he also claimed that there were several caves in the city on which Muslim rulers built mosques.