Khurana: CM Number 1
On Monday morning I got a huge shock when I discovered that my friend and former Delhi Chief Minister, Madan Lal Khurana had been hospitalized following a brain haemorrhage after slipping in the bathroom of his Kirti Nagar house.
Doctors at Sir Ganga Ram hospital where he was rushed had to perform an emergency operation on him. He is recovering and according to doctors and family members he has shown considerable improvement. God willing he should be out in a few days more. When I went to see him on Monday evening, he was under sedition and therefore all I could do was to meet his wife, sons and other relatives. The current Delhi CM, Sheila Dikshit and senior BJP leader LK Advani had already been there to see him and more and more leaders cutting across party lines from Subhash Chopra of the Congress to V K Malhotra of the BJP came to inquire about his well being.
On my way to hospital, my thoughts went back many years when Khurana took over as the Delhi CM in the winter of 1993. He had outwitted the Congress by forcing a triangular fight in the city. Effectively it meant that the anti BJP vote was divided between the Congress and the Janata Dal. In achieving the historic victory, Khurana had also outwitted another top Delhi stalwart, H.K.L.Bhagat and thus scored an impressive win.
Being a Delhiite and having witnessed various political leaders over a period of time, I have no hesitation in stating that Khurana was perhaps the best Chief Minister the city had. He was totally dedicated to this metropolis and people also loved him immensely. It was therefore no surprise that he has won 10 out of 11 elections he contested from this city. The only election he lost was in 1984 when he was reluctantly made the party nominee following Indira Gandhi’s brutal assassination and was swept away in the wave that followed. I recall that he was contesting from Delhi Sadar and the counting of votes was taking place at Ludlow Castle. I was covering the election for the Times of India and when I went inside, he met me at the Gate. He told me that he had conceded defeat even though the counting was still in progress. I asked him why was he in a hurry. He said that from his own Metropolitan Council segment of Moti Nagar, he had won by only 1500 votes. So where was the chance of winning from anywhere else. He was proved right and Jagdish Tytler became the ultimate winner riding the huge Indira wave.
Coming back to Delhi and its leaders. I have always thought that the capital had three all time top leaders. Chaudhury Brehm Perkash, the first CM wielded considerable influence in the fifties and sixties and was thus the most powerful leader of that era. HKL Bhagat again of the Congress became the uncrowned King of Delhi and there was hardly a local politician who had not done his political apprenticeship under him. Khurana though from the BJP, however, was the unquestioned leader of the city. He was a street fighter who brought into limelight so many scandals. The people adored him because he only had a single agenda: Delhi. He used to say that Delhi is a temple where he is the priest and he would want to make it as the best city in the country. Khurana in his political career became a MP from the capital four times and was elected to the Metropolitan Council also for four terms. In addition, he won the MLAs election twice. Further, he was the Delhi CM, a Union Minister, a Governor (Rajasthan) and also held important positions in the BJP and Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
I used to often meet him while he was politically active and even after that. His greatest regret was that he could not complete his tenure as the Chief Minister. Khurana had resigned from his position in February, 1996 to express solidarity with L K Advani whose name figured in the infamous Havala scandal. The then RSS chief Rajju Bhaiya had told him not to quit but he was adamant. His party promised him that once the names got cleared, he could come back. But it never happened though both Advani and Atal Behari Vajpayee agreed to reinstall him as the CM on October 9, 1998 to replace Sahib Singh Verma. Late Pramod Mahajan prevailed upon the BJP’s top two to bring in Sushma Swaraj whom he perhaps wanted to be relieved from the Telecom Ministry at that time. Rest we all know. Sushma and the BJP lost and Sheila Dikshit after a string of defeats (three in UP and one in Delhi) became the Chief Minister due to patronage of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi whose entry into politics resulted in the Congress’s three big wins in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Khurana was made a Union Minister but quit on the question of attack on Christians. He became party general secretary and till the time he looked after Gujarat under Khushabhau Thakre, he did not permit Narendra Modi to replace Keshubhai Patel. In 2003, the BJP projected him for the Chief Ministership but it is common knowledge that internal dissensions led to the defeat of the party. Surprisingly, he was not allowed to continue as the leader of opposition but made to resign and appointed as the Rajasthan Governor. But Khurana loved his Delhi and came back after giving up the Gubernatorial assignment. He was a disillusioned man by then. Advani for whom he had exceptional regards had an attitude of non acceptance towards him. He started fading into political oblivion even though he was reinducted into the party following his expulsion for a brief period.
Khuranji as I call him is one of the few politicians who is also a great human being. He is a simple man with old values. He has sacrificed his life for his city and his organization. His contribution to the city is unmatched. He may not have had a long tenure as the CM but all schemes initiated by him, which included the Delhi Metro, the flyovers at Dhaula Kuan and Safdarjung hospital-AIIMS crossing, are a tribute to his foresight. I pray to God to give him a speedy recovery and a healthy life. He is for me and many Delhiites, the Chief Minister number one.