New Delhi: Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s tenure as the governor of Maharashtra was supposed to be the highlight of his largely lacklustre political career. But the crisis that has unfolded in Maharashtra, and the 77-year-old governor’s role in it, has dampened all chances of that happening.
Before entering the Raj Bhavan, Koshyari was a teacher, a journalist and a politician who served as the second chief minister of the then newly formed Uttarakhand between October 2001 and March 2002.
An astute politician and strategist with an RSS background, Koshyari has had his fair share of ups and downs. ThePrint takes a look back at his career.
Koshyari joined the RSS at a young age, and later taught at RSS-run schools too.
“He was fondly called ‘pracharya (headmaster)’. He also worked as a lecturer in Uttar Pradesh from 1964-65,” a BJP leader told ThePrint.
“He was a staunch RSS supporter, and was associated with it at a time when even taking its name was considered a bad thing. He played a crucial role in popularising the RSS in Uttarakhand,” the leader said.
Top of Uttarakhand politics
Koshyari’s political journey began in 1997, when he was nominated as a Member of the Legislative Council of undivided Uttar Pradesh under the journalist quota.
“He is the founder and managing editor of Parvat Piyush, a weekly published from Pithoragarh since 1975. The newspaper has a Right-wing leaning. It was also used to further the ideology of the RSS,” said a second BJP leader who has followed Koshyari’s career closely.
Having served as CM in the lead-up to the 2002 Uttarakhand assembly polls, Koshyari served as leader of the opposition for the next five years, as Congress veteran N.D. Tiwari ruled the state.
“Though he was made the BJP president in the state and the party won the elections under his leadership in 2007, he was overlooked, as first B.C. Khanduri and then Ramesh Pokhriyal became chief ministers,” said a third senior BJP leader.
A senior journalist who did not wish to be identified said: “When Khanduri was removed later (in 2009), a local newspaper ran a headline that aptly described his situation: Khanduri ko le doobe Koshyari aur Koshyari ko le doobi hoshiyari (Khanduri was sunk by Koshyari, and Koshyari was sunk by cleverness).”
Parliament and governorship
Koshyari served in the Rajya Sabha from 2008 until the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, in which he won from Nainital.
The BJP did not give him a ticket in this year’s parliamentary elections, as he had crossed the informal age-limit of 75.
However, even after leaving Parliament, he taunted Rahul Gandhi for “running away” soon after the latter resigned as Congress president.
“As my black cap was an eyesore for you in the past 10 years in the Central Hall, I also have a suggestion for you that despite losing 9 times Harish Rawat ji (Congress general secretary) is always ready to fight and starts preparing for the next elections, so it will be better you make him the party president,” Koshyari wrote in a Facebook post dated 2 June.
He was named governor of Maharashtra on 5 September, which the third BJP leader quoted above said was a “reward” for his contribution to the party.
“He never got his due, but still he continued to work for the party. He is a disciplined soldier and never gave up,” the leader said.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.