Obit: One time Vajpayee rival Balraj Madhok passes away

Balraj Madhok Wikipedia
Balraj Madhok, among the early founders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, earlier avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed away here on Monday. He was 96.

In the 1960s and early 70s, Madhok was a leading Jana Sangh leader but fell into political oblivion after being worsted by Atal Behari Vajpayee in intra-party intrigue.

Madhok would later tell interviewers that Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Nanaji Deshmukh and K R Malkani got together to ensure he was suspended from the party in 1973. The episode is remembered until this day in Sangh Parivar circles. With the political careers of Vajpayee and Advani in the ascendant, the contribution of Madhok to the cause wasn’t publicly acknowledged but several privately continued to admire him.

Madhok was national president of the Jana Sangh in 1966-67, leading the party to 35 seats, its highest tally until then, in the 1967 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2013, Madhok had blessed Narendra Modi for being elected the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and said Advani should have accepted the decision with grace. Madhok considered Advani his protégé who then left him to join the Vajpayee camp.

Madhok had a ringside view of the founding of the Jana Sangh by Syama Prasad Mookerjee. He'd also tell any who would care to listen that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had an incidental role to play in founding of the party. Instead, the Jana Sangh helped the RSS rebuild itself after its ban in the wake of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the late 1960s, Madhok complained to RSS chief M S Golwalkar about Vajpayee. He insinuated that Vajpayee had brought the party’s central office in disrepute. In 1973, Madhok was expelled from the party on the charge of leaking party documents to the media. Madhok claimed he was a victim of a conspiracy hatched by his rivals.

He also believed that Deen Dayal Upadhyay, considered the man who gave the Sangh its political philosophy, was assassinated (in early 1968). Not that he thought much of Upadhyay’s political philosophy of ‘Integral Humanism’. He'd say it was borrowed from M N Roy’s ‘Radical Humanism’.

Science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted: “Madhok left for heavenly abode today. India loses a great intellectual, thinker and social reformer.” Advani also issued a condolence message that detailed his former rival’s political journey.

Madhok was born on February 25, 1920. He founded the Jammu Praja Parishad in November 1947. He was also a founder member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and edited ‘Organiser’, an RSS-inspired publication, in 1948–49, and Hindi weekly Veer Arjun. In 1951, Madhok was convener of the first convention of the Jana Sangh and was appointed its national secretary.

He taught at Delhi University and was head of the history department at PGDAV College. He won in a by-election to the second Lok Sabha from New Delhi constituency in 1961 and to the fourth Lok Sabha from South Delhi in 1967. During the Emergency, Madhok was detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act for 18 months.

Madhok wrote extensively, including a biography of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee. His novel Jeet ya Haar is considered autobiographical.

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