Mayawati proposed Motilal Vora’s name for the office of President of India
In his death the country has lost a leader who put service above self, who was a stickler for propriety and who carried power lightly
There has been no dearth of stars on the political firmament of Madhya Pradesh since the state was formed on November 1, 1956. Starting with Pt Ravishankar Shukla, the first chief minister, who had just two months in office before his death on December 31, 1956, the state saw an array of illustrious leaders like KailashnathKatju, Pt Dwarka Prasad Mishra, Shyama Charan Shukla, Prakash Chand Sethi, Arjun Singh and MadavraoScindia, each of whom carved out a niche for himself on the national scene.
But, despite holding one or the other party or government post without a break for 48 years since he was first elected to the Assembly in 1972, Motilal Vora never displayed the airs of a star and yet enjoyed immense respect and love in the entire political community. Few political leaders have enjoyed the trust of party leadership to be given significant office even after stepping into their 90s. He retired as member of the Rajya Sabha earlier this year and was the longest serving AICC treasurer [18 years].
A measure of Motilal Vora’s acceptability across the political spectrum was seen when his name was proposed for the office of President of India in 2007. Of all leaders Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati rooted for him. Mayawati, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was supporting the UPA from outside. Her party had just earned a full mandate in the state assembly and she was keen to extend her political outreach beyond the Dalit constituency. She was experimenting with social engineering and had political reasons to back a Brahmin.
But, why did she propose Motilal Vora? She was indebted to Vora Ji, who, according to a journalist’s account, had saved her life when out-ofcontrol Samajwadi Party workers had reportedly launched a murderous assault on Mayawati in 1995 at a Lucknow guest house. Vora, then Uttar Pradesh governor, threw a protective ring around her. The reason for SP cadre’s outrage was BSP’s decision to pull out of a coalition government with Mulayam Singh Yadav. Vora then recommended President’s Rule in UP.
Motilal Vora had already seen 20 springs when India earned her freedom. He was born on 20 December 1927 at Nimbi Jodha in Rajputana in a Pushkarna Brahmin family. He received his education at Raipur and Kolkata. Thus, his personality reflected an amalgamation of traits nurtured by the soil and culture of three states. He had the tenacity of Rajasthan, the humility and simplicity of Chhattisgarh and all-embracing receptivity of Madhya Pradesh.
The humble start was to stand him in good stead and turned into a lifetime asset for Motilal Vora, who worked for several newspapers as a stringer before entering politics. The stepping stone was the Socialist Party in 1968. He was, however, soon 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.
The Emergency led to reworking of many political equations. His strength was seen in not nurturing any burning ambition. He was content to be an ideal political worker, quietly accepting whatever responsibility came his way.On her return to power after Emergency Indira Gandhi took a fresh guard. Motilal Vora’s stock had gone up by now. He was inducted into Arjun’s Singh’s cabinet in 1983 as minister of state for higher education.
In 1984 on the ascent of Rajiv Gandhi to the Prime Minister’s office, he was made the PCC chief and was later chosen to succeed Arjun Singh, who was moved to Punjab as governor. Vora Ji possibly remains the only minister of state in a state to be elevated directly to the office of the chief minister.
It was here that his qualities as a leader came to the fore. While most leaders would have occupied a high horse or a pedestal, Motilal Vora remained a team player and was one with his team, always saying, ‘Let’s go ahead’. Nor did he try to acquire a larger-than-life image or grow too big for his boots. He never tried to become bigger than the party itself as many of his colleagues would.
In 1988 Arjun Singh returned as CM as suddenly as he had left. Motilal Vora was shifted to the Centre as aviation minister while Scindia was the minister for Railways. The two teamed up to form what came to be known as Moti-Madhav Express.
When Arjun Singh had to quit following MP High Court’s adverse verdict on the Churhat lottery scam, the choice of CM again fell back on Motilal Vora.
He was not seen hankering after power. That was his strength. High offices such as chief minister, union minister, governor, PCC chief, AICC treasurer and Madhya Pradesh Congress chief or state minister did not affect his attitude or approach to people. He would personally call up journalists and maintain good public relations. He would also make it a point to see off guests.
A senior journalist pointed to his sense of propriety by quoting an incident when a rather overwhelmed Vijay Bahuguna sat at his feet, moments after becoming chief minister of Uttarakhand. Vora firmly told him “Bahugana ji, ab aap Mukhya Mantri hain. Neeche baithna achcha nahi lagta hai (Bahuguna ji, you are now chief minister. It is not fitting for you to sit on the floor).”
Ramesh Nayyar, another senior journalist who had close personal relations with the family says “Voraji’s strength lay in his being rooted to the ground and his level-headed approach. He might respect protocol as Governor. But the moment he was out of office he would not hesitate to take public transport and move among his constituents.”
Motilal Vora was perhaps the closest approximation of how a political worker and a leader should be. He was always committed to his work and to performing the duties assigned to him from time to time.
He did not leave a big mark as a great orator in or outside Parliament. But his concern for parliamentary decorum was acknowledged by even his political adversaries.His friend and party colleague Janardan Dwivedi would often refer to Motilal Vora as a stickler for parliamentary propriety and say the younger generation could learn a lot from him.
In his death, India has lost a model leader.