Mahajan, who was the Information & Broadcasting Minister in the
Atal Behari Vajpayee government, was my best friend and colleague in
the college. We belonged to different groups, but we went along nicely
and formed an everlasting bond. He was active in the Akhil Bharatiya
Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) as its tehsil secretary in 1970 but I chose
to stay away from this organisation for quite some time. Finally, I
became involved in the ABVP when my friends almost forced me to join
year later, in 1971, I associated myself with the campaign of the Jana
Sangh candidate in the Lok Sabha election in the Beed constituency. The
candidate lost, but I had the first experience of election politics
that proved invaluable to me during my career.
RSS Work : The turning point of my career was, however, the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh's Shiksha Varga (training camp) held in Pune that
year. I was sent from Ambejogai for this camp which imbibed in me the
values for which the RSS stands for: discipline, sacrifice, dedication
to the cause of the nation and so on. As I joined the ILS Law College
in Pune that year, my involvement in the activity of the RSS increased.
I was put up in Motibaag, the city headquarters of the RSS for over a
RSS leaders in Pune nominated me Mukhya Shikshak of Samaratha Shakha
and later, Karyavah of the Chanakya Shakha. The three years after I
came to Pune proved to be impressionable to me as I had the opportunity
to listen to veterans like Golwalkar Guruji and Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Shripati Shastriji and others influenced me in this period. I was
entrusted with greater responsibilities in the activities of the Sangh.
I soon became the Sambhajinagar Mandal Karyavah looking after half a
dozen shakhas of the RSS, then in charge of its Pune City Students'
Cell. Later I was made a member of the executive committee of the city
JP's Movement :
January 1974 is an important milestone in my political career. It was a
turbulent period in the country as Jaya Prakash Narayan had launched a
movement for total revolution involving the youth to fight against Mrs.
Indira Gandhi's misrule. I was the convenor of the City College
Students' Committee that was keen to present him a scroll of honour
during his visit to Pune. A Citizens' Committee comprising Socialists
and other opposition party leaders went back on its word and had
decided to deny us the opportunity to present our scroll to him at the
grand public reception. We were determined to go ahead and forced
ourselves at the railway station to greet him. Hundreds of college
students brushed aside these elders at the station and read out the
citation immediately after Jaya Prakashji alighted from the train.
Ultimately, these elders gave me an exclusive audience with him late
that night when he asked us students to devote ourselves to the cause
of Total Revolution.
Imprisonment During Emergency : I was in the third year of the Law College when Mrs. Gandhi's
Congress (I) government imposed Internal Emergency in the country in
1975. Jaya Prakashji and thousands of leaders and activists of the
movement were put behind the bars. The Jana Sangh leaders, mainly Mr.
Vasantrao Bhagwat and Mr. Pramod Mahajan, asked me to take a plunge
into politics and sent me to Sambhajinagar (Aurangabad) to spread the
movement. I led a Satyagraha on August 9 and was underground for two
months to spread the message of total revolution and to organise the
discontent among the people against the oppressive rule of the Congress
(I). Just as I was in charge of Sambhajinagar (Aurangabad), Pramodji
was overseeing the movement in the entire Marathwada region. We were
arrested and sent to the Central Jail in Nashik.
Fight Against Oppression : The 16 months of imprisonment in the central jail was a turning point
of my life. I was more determined than ever to work ceaselessly to
overthrow the political system that was oppressive and corrupt. I had
the opportunity to interact with about 2000 political prisoners in the
jail, read books and participate in discussions initiated by our
leaders like Mr. Mohan Dharia, Mr. Baba Bhide, Mr. Pramod Mahajan, and
Mr.Bapu Kaldate. I was chosen to be the secretary of the Struggle
Committee set up in the jail under the leadership of Dhariaji.
Immediately after the Emergency was revoked, I became part of the
movement launched by the newly formed Janata Party that challenged the
might of the Congress monolith in Maharashtra, for the first time after
Independence. I was the joint secretary of the party's state unit that
took on the Congress. The Congress (I) was bruised in the Lok Sabha
elections in 1977 that brought in the Janata Party government at the
Centre. The Congress suffered later in the poll for the Maharashtra
State assembly in 1978.
Unsuccessful Contest : The party asked me to contest from Renapur constituency in Beed
district. I lost the election by a margin of only 1100 votes.
opponents could not find a single good issue for the campaign against
me. They, therefore, launched a whisper campaign among the
tradition-bound village people spreading the word that I had an affair
with a girl not belonging to my community. I had the courage to
publicly announce in the election meetings that I indeed was in love
with this girl and would marry her after the poll. This girl was
Pradnya Mahajan, Pramodji's younger sister and I got married, as
First Election Victories : My first electoral success was in 1978 when the party asked me to
contest the Zilla Parishad election in my home Beed district. I
trounced my opponent with a margin that was the highest in the state.
The stint with the Zilla Parishad was brief, but it prepared me for
larger political battles later in my life. Two years later, in 1980, I
contested and won the Renapur State Assembly seat
Yuva Morcha : The Janata Party by this time had split and the Bharatiya Janata
Party founded by the leaders the erstwhile Jana Sangh had come into
existence. I was made President of the Maharashtra unit of the BJP's
youth wing, Bharatiya Yuva Morcha. We took up the cause of the youth in
the state and organised a movement for the demands of the unemployed.
Youngest State President of a Political Party :
As the secretary of the BJP in Maharashtra in 1982, I began organising
the party work in every district of the state. Two years later, I was
promoted to the General Secretary of the state unit. I had the honour
to be the youngest state president of any political party in the
country, when the BJP asked me to lead its Maharashtra unit in 1986. I
was honoured to be handpicked by Shri Uttamrao Patil who was my
predecessor in BJP and earlier Jana Sangh for a 30-year stretch. I
devoted my time and energy to take up the cause of farmers and
drought-affected villagers in the state. I spearheaded mammoth rallies
in Mumbai and Nagpur to press the demand for loan waivers for the
farmers. We raised the voice for Adivasis, Dalits and women as we
fanned out to all the 30 districts in the state in a 30-day vigorous
BJP State President Once Again : I was re-elected president of the state unit of the party in 1988. We
mobilised public opinion to rename the Marathwada University after Dr.
Babasaheb Ambedkar. We took out regional yatras, from Tulajapur to
Ghrishneshwar, Ramtek to Mumbai, and Uran to Banda to focus the
attention of the governments to people's issues in these regions. I
thus visited each and every tehsil of the state during the four years
and could establish rapport with the people.
BJP Leader in State Assembly :
When I was elected to the State Assembly once again in 1990, the party
asked me to lead the 42-member group of the BJP. A year later, on
December 12, 1992, I was elected the Leader of Opposition in the
Assembly. We used all the democratic means, including no confidence
motion, to raise people's issues in the house and took the Congress (I)
government to task.
Fight Against Criminalisation of Politics : One of the highlights of my achievements during these days was the
attention I drew to the criminalisation of politics. I raised the issue
of nexus between politicians and criminalisation not only at the state
level, but even at the national forum. The BJP session in Bangalore
adopted a resolution to oppose criminalisation of politics. Later the
joint session of Parliament in 1997, convened in connection with the
Golden Jubilee of India's Independence, witnessed leaders of all
parties agreeing to deny election tickets to criminals.
Two Pronged Strategy : The BJP in Maharashtra adopted a two-pronged strategy to expose the
corrupt and inefficient government of the Congress (I); use
parliamentary means in both the legislative houses and take to streets
to create awareness among the common people. The 71-day yatra from
Shivneri in Pune district to Shiv Teertha in Mumbai, covering all the
300 tehsils in the state was received by the masses with overwhelming
response everywhere. By this time, I was confident that the Congress
(I) would be dethroned in Maharashtra even when critics ridiculed my
prediction in this respect. I was among the BJP leaders who drew out a
strategy to form an alliance with the Shiv Sena to take on the Congress
(I) in the 1995 elections to the State Assembly. The strategy worked
and the Congress (I) was humbled in the state to usher in the first
real non-Congress (I) government in the state.
Congress humbled :We succeeded in exploding the myth that Mr. Sharad Pawar, his
cooperative sugar lobby and the Congress (I) were invincible in
Maharashtra. The BJP (65) and Shiv Sena (73) won 148 seats in the 288
member-state assembly and unfurled the Saffron flag atop Mantralaya. We
won the confidence of about two dozen Independent MLAs who had left the
Congress (I) on the eve of the election. They offered their
whole-hearted support to the Shivshahi in the state. ( Party position
in State Assembly: Bharatiya Janata Party 65, Shiv Sena 73, Congress-I
80, Communist Party of India 2, Independents 45, Janata Dal 11,
Nagvidarbha Andolan 1, Peasants and Workers' Party 6. Samajwadi Janata
Party 3, Maharashtrawadi Vikas Party 3, Others 1 )