By Aakash Hassan
On January 31, Assembly was running smooth till a blue banner opened eyes of treasury benches and camera shutters. Independent lawmaker from Udhampur, an erstwhile BJP minister, Pawan Kumar Gupta, was holding it.
“BJP should tell nation weather speaking against article 370 is antinational,” the banner read, “Whether, Shama Prasad Mukherjey and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadyaa were antinational. BJP PDP Govt should tender apology for such derogatory remarks of CM. It is ideological defeat of the BJP and they should accept it.”
Seemingly, it was red rug to the bull. Speaker marshaled out Gupta, marking the beginning of crisis. He was referring to Ms Mufti’s statement that “
“those who speak against Article 370 are antinational.” It eventually led to budget session’s unscheduled early end.
“I am a single man opposition, particularly for BJP of which I am not part but will never stay away to remind them their basic principles,” Gupta, a second generation rightwing politician, and son of Shiv Charan Gupta, said.
Pawan, an engineering graduate from REC, Srinagar, feels that circumstances at home offered him no other option except politics. “I grew up witnessing political activities in my home,” he says, “Workers meeting my father and discussing politics has been my childhood memories.”
Shiv Charan Gupta a stern right-winger was first elected to assembly in 1962 on Praja Parishad mandate. Parishad was founded in November 1947 by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary Balraj Madhok with primary cause to fight Article 370 and later merged with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1963.
In Parishad agitation against Sheikh Abdullah, Charan was send to jail twice. He was elected again on Jana sangh mandate in 1967 and 1977. In 1996 Jana Sangh merged with BJP and he again won the elections.
His rightwing politics apart, Shiv Charan has remained president of Beopar Mandal, Udhampur, and General Secretary Cow Protection Samiti. As his health started declining, he got Pawan to succeed him.
“In 1996 BJP offered me ticket, but I refused to contest,” Pawan, now 58, said. “I was of the notion that there should not be two active members from single party and that too father and son.”
Finally, he completed his engineering and contested first elections in 2002. He lost. He lost in his second attempt in 2008 that was followed by his father’s death. But that had not impacted his growth in party as he remained
BJP’s party’s state vice president and Secretary.
Two defeats laterm BJP denied him a ticket for 2014 elections. After all efforts failed, Pawan said he decided to contest independently. He won.
“I find it BJP different as it has moved away from its core ideological principles,” Pawan said. “I see political and intellectual bankruptcy in BJP.”
Claiming to be “secular”, Pawan insists: “I am inspired and groomed by Sangh but that does not mean I am completely following it. I have personal views and maybe others were disliking this.”
Forced by the bleak future during Rajya Sabha elections, BJP wanted his vote for the win. So they mended fences with him using Central High Command.
“In a meeting with Ram Madhav, he regretted and accepted that they have committed mistake by not giving him mandate,” Pawan said. “It was after so many such meetings that I agreed.” Finally he became MoS Finance and IT.
However, when Mufi Sayeed died and a new government took over, Pawan was left out.
“I don’t know what had been their plans and why they changed,” he says, “Sometimes it just puzzles me.”
It took him some time but eventually he reconciled with the reality. Pawn maintains that he is feeling more powerful and free as an opposition member.
“I was feeling caged there,” he says. “I am out but I have not given up the principles that BJP stood for.”
For him, BJP has lost its golden period in the state. “They have gone astray,” Pawan said, insisting, “their silence on key issues has impacted their ground.”
Pawan sees no opposition in Jammu because Congress has double stands, one in Kashmir and one in Jammu. So he sees himself as “only voice left for Jammu region.”
A good speaker, he argues well and comes with full homework. “I am a reading buff. The only reason is to acquire knowledge so that I get hold on as much matters as I can,” he insists.
Pawan is hopeful that a new front might emerge as the independent legislators are getting more powerful in opposition than the parties. In that case, his affiliations may change, too.
Insisting that talking for people has its own costs. “We have been national level contractors, but since I turned to politics the business is diminishing as I can divert my attention to it,” Pawan said.
Gupta is perhaps only lawmaker who is without official accommodation. So he travels everyday from Udhampur to Jammu.