Delhi’s first Chief Minister, Chaudhury Brahm Prakash was remembered on his 99th birth anniversary on Friday, ironically, by the Aam Aadmi Party, which has managed to displace the Congress he had successfully led to several spectacular victories in the 1950s and 1960s. Brahm Prakash, who was elected to the Lok Sabha four times, also served as a Union minister in the Charan Singh government and is considered as the first of the iconic leaders of the city whose domination over politics of his era was complete in every sense of the word. He nurtured many upcoming activists of his time and did not hesitate in taking on the Congress high command to express his views on various political issues.
Other than Brahm Prakash, only two other leaders—H.K.L. Bhagat, hailed by many as the uncrowned king of Delhi and Madan Lal Khurana, the hard working firebrand Bharatiya Janata Party politician—have left an indelible imprint on the capital’s political scenario. Sheila Dikshit may go down in history as the longest serving Chief Minister of Delhi, but she was never the city’s leader in the true sense and did not leave any legacy in terms of developing young aspirants other than her own son, Sandeep Dikshit so as to provide future direction to the party.
If today, the Congress is to objectively evaluate and dissect its plight, Dikshit’s contribution in bringing down the party would be marked in red lines. It will also remain a matter of regret both for Dikshit and the Congress, that her son, despite being a two-term MP from East Delhi, has minimal following, and given this backdrop, it is unlikely that he would ever be elected to the Lok Sabha from the city. Incidentally, he lately was in the news for making derogatory comments about the Army Chief, the consequence being that he was rebuffed by Rahul Gandhi.
Brahm Prakash was an extremely self assertive and magnetic leader, who joined public life in the wake of the Quit India movement in 1942 and in a short time rose to occupy the primary slot in Delhi’s politics. He was greatly influenced by Jawaharlal Nehru and C.K. Nair, a two-time MP from Outer Delhi, whom he described as his “political guru”. It was thus no surprise when Nehru hand-picked him to be the first Chief Minister of Delhi after the Delhi Assembly was constituted in the 1950s. Brahm Prakash, then in his early 30s, cast his spell on the city’s complex political landscape and meticulously selected the core members of his political team, which included Shiv Charan Gupta, Brij Mohan, H.K.L. Bhagat, Sikander Bakht, Subhadra Joshi and Kishor Lal, to name a few.
However, he fell out with the top leadership of the party soon after Gobind Ballabh Pant was inducted in the Union Cabinet and wanted his removal on the ground that the young CM had the audacity to ask for a Greater Delhi region. Nehru, who had been defending him, was also upset when Brahm Prakash supported the sentiments behind the demand for a separate Punjabi Suba, as raised for the first time by Master Tara Singh. The outcome was that he was initially replaced by Gurmukh Nihal Singh and gradually the Assembly was dissolved, paving the way for the creation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 1958.
Brahm Prakash’s sway continued to influence Congress politics and in 1962, when the Congress came to power in the municipal body, his protégés dominated the political discourse. Brij Mohan was appointed the president of the Indian Youth Congress, the DPCC and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the corporation. Brahm Prakash’s overbearing authority was evident when, one day, he slapped Brij Mohan in full public view after being incensed over some happening. The victim took it sportingly and when asked by the media to give details about the incident, retorted that Brahm Prakash was a father figure and therefore it was not an episode to dwell over.
Brahm Prakash towered over others, ensuring that his group continued to play a stellar part in Delhi’s affairs though some of his associates like H.K.L. Bhagat fell out and began plotting against him. He repaid them back and made certain that they were either denied party tickets or were vanquished in the polls. Bhagat, after being continuously humiliated, was able to convince Indira Gandhi that there was a need for her to make her own group in Delhi, since Brahm Prakash would never support her. In the 1967 elections, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh made important gains in the city, winning five Lok Sabha seats with Brahm Prakash being the sole Congress winner.
Bhagat proved to be a chip off the old block and over the years managed to create his own space in Delhi’s politics. His group was at the forefront of the city’s politics. At one stage in the 1980s, soon after the Congress wrested power from the Janata Party, there was hardly a politician in the party, save Jagdish Tytler, who had not been groomed by Bhagat.
Brahm Prakash died a lonely man after being trounced in his last election from East Delhi in 1984 by Bhagat in a triangular fight, which also featured his other disciple, Kishor Lal. All said and done, he was truly a man who inspired promising politicians of his era. Between us.