Congress veteran Motilal Vora (1927- 2020) passes away at 93

A day after his 93rd birthday, veteran Congress leader and former party treasurer Motilal Vora passed away on Monday. He was ailing for some time.

(Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
(Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Chandrakant Naidu

Veteran Congress leader Motilal Vora, who passed away on Monday, had helped revive the National Herald Group of publications. He remained active and alert till the very end and took a keen interest in political developments and in steering the National Herald. His capacity for hard work, integrity and ability to work with others set him apart.

Despite failing health in his 90s he remained curious, enthusiastic and tenacious. Very few leaders leaders have shown his mental agility to work in different positions in their 90s as he did. Grit and strength of character for a long haul marked his six-decade long political career.

Starting as a worker at a kerosene dealer’s firm in Raipur, Motilal Vora held key political positions like chief minister, governor and union minister by sheer diligence and adaptability. Power and authority never swayed him and he remained accessible and humble. He did not boast of stardom or charisma. But he earned the party leadership’s trust through three generations for invaluable contribution as a team man.

Motilal Vora was born on 20 December 1927 at Nimbi Jodha in Jodhpur State of British India's Rajputana Agency (present-day Nagaur district, Rajasthan) in a Pushkarna Brahmin family. He received his education at Raipur and Kolkata. He married Shanti Devi Vora. They have four daughters and two sons.

Motilal Vora had worked for several newspapers as a stringer before his foray into politics. His first stop was the Socialist Party in 1968 before he was drawn to Congress in 1970 and won his first assembly election in 1972. The first reward came quite early in the form of ministerial status as vice-chairman of the state transport corporation. Vora who was inducted into Arjun's Singh's cabinet in 1983 also served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh in 1993.

Arjun Singh, who headed the state government from 1980 to ’85 through Indira Gandhi’s second innings as Prime Minister, was shifted by Rajiv Gandhi to Punjab as governor just a day after being elected the leader of Congress legislature party (CLP). The mantle fell on Vora who had led the organization to substantial gains in the assembly and Lok Sabha.

Since the formation in 1956 till its bifurcation in 2000 Madhya Pradesh had seen an array of stalwarts dominating the scene. Congress leaders Ravi Shankar Shukla, Kailash Nath Katju, Bhagwantrao Mandloi, Dwarka Prasad Mishra and Shyama Charan Shukla and Prakash Chand Sethi had headed the state governments before the brief arrival of Sanyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) and Janata Party governments in the late 1960s and 1970s. To make a mark with such background one needed luck and perseverance. Vora showed it amply. Neither a great orator, nor a political strategist Vora could still get along with a large number of workers.

The state passed through its worst political instability during the latter half of the 1980s. Five chief ministers took turns to head the government in five years, the last one being BJP’s Sunderlal Patwa. Vora held the reins twice from 1985 to 1988 and 1989 to 1990.Thousands of bureaucrats and police personnel were transferred through the four years after Vora was shifted to the Centre as Union Minister in 1988. Factional conflicts were at its peak during the 1980s.

Each Congress leader dominating the state scene in the 1980s had a distinct strong point. Shyama Charan Shukla had shown remarkable development perspective, Arjun Singh had an outstanding political acumen, Madhavrao Scindia distinguished himself as a macro-manager and imaginative administrator and Vora had diligence and adaptability. If all leaders pooled their strength and worked in tandem Congress could be invincible.

Vora teamed up with Madhavrao Scindia and the duo came to be known as Moti-Madhav Express. When Arjun Singh had to quit as CM over an adverse court verdict on Churhat lottery scandal, Motilal Vora was brought back as chief minister in a late-night drama on Jan 25, 1989.

During his second spell as chief minister, a reporter from Hindi daily Jansatta was aggressive in asking questions. Finally it made Vora snap, “Bhai, satta ka madd to bura hota hai, par Jansatta ka madd shayad usase bhi bura ho sakta hai.” ( Satta or power going to your head is bad enough but it seems ‘Jansatta’ going to your head can be worse).

After his tenure as Governor ended, Vora Contested 1998 Lok Sabha elections from Rajnandgaon, which became part of Chhattisgarh in 2000, but lost to Dr. Raman Singh of BJP. He served four terms as a Rajya Sabha member from Chhattisgarh.

In the 1980s, he served as the President of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee. He became the chairman of Associated Journals Ltd, publishers of National Herald Group of publications, in 2002. He also served as the AICC treasurer and the AICC general secretary (administration).

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