Treasurer Of Money And Secrets: How Motilal Vora Came To Be Indispensable To The Gandhis

by Anand Walunjkar - Dec 27, 2020 06:32 PM +05:30 IST
Treasurer Of Money And Secrets: How Motilal Vora Came To Be Indispensable To The Gandhis Sonia Gandhi with colleagues Motilal Vora and Ahmed Patel (@Motilal Vora/Twitter)
Snapshot
  • Even though Vora began his political journey with the Praja Samajwadi Party, he passed away as one of the senior-most Congressmen.

It was ironic that just a day after birthday greetings poured in for 93-year-old Motilal Vora, he passed away due to post Covid-19 complications. A veteran Congress leader, Vora was considered close to the Gandhi family ranks and served as the treasurer of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for 18 years and had a political career spanning five decades.

Born in Nagaur in Rajasthan to a Brahmin family, he received his education in Raipur and Kolkata. He worked with several newspapers for many years but his political debut was as a municipal corporator in Durg (in present-day Chhattisgarh) with the Praja Samajwadi Party.

His potential though was identified early by the then Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dwarikaprasad Mishra, and Vora was offered an MLA ticket from Durg in 1972. He won handsomely and was made Deputy Chairman of the State Transport Corporation in Madhya Pradesh.

In the 1977 state Assembly elections, which took place post the Emergency, amid an anti-Congress sentiment, Vora managed to win from the Durg constituency by securing a whopping 54 per cent of the votes, when even veterans like Shyamacharan Shukla and sitting CM PC Sethi lost.

He was again elected to the Vidhan Sabha in 1980 and never looked back. He was appointed Minister of State in Arjun Singh’s cabinet and was in-charge of the Education Department.

As he started growing in ranks, his proximity to Gandhi family also grew.

When he was asked to preside over Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee in 1980 by Rajiv Gandhi, he ensured that he express his gratitude for his previous post of Minister of State.

In 1985, Arjun Singh had just been sworn in as the chief minister after an election; however, he was called upon by Rajiv Gandhi to discharge a much more important duty as the Governor in troubled Punjab.

Bypassing all veterans, including Madhavrao Scindia, Shyamacharan Shukla, and PC Sethi, it was Motilal Vora who was asked by Rajiv Gandhi to assume charge as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. He successfully managed to defeat two motions of no-confidence under his tenure, both moved by veteran BJP leader Kailash Joshi.

He later resigned in 1988 to join the Union Cabinet but was sent back to Madhya Pradesh as CM in 1989 as the then CM Arjun Singh’s name was dragged in the Churhat scandal. He remained CM for about a year.

Adept at old school politics, Motilal Vora had good terms with leaders across party lines.

So, in 1993, PM P.V. Narasimha Rao saw it fit to appoint him as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh in the most troubled times, post the Babri Masjid demolition and an ambiguous political mandate.

In 1995, he dismissed the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP Government after the BSP had withdrawn its support. Consequently, when Mayawati was attacked in the notorious Guest House case, it is believed that Motilal Vora offered her security (and courage) in Raj Bhawan, and later administered to her the oath of office for the chief minister’s post.

Motilal Vora contested for the Lok Sabha again in 1998 from Rajnandgaon (now, Chhattisgarh) and won.

He was considered such a veteran that when he was defeated by a relative new-comer Raman Singh in the mid-term election in 1999, the latter’s stature grew in the BJP.

When Ajit Jogi was chosen as the first CM of Chhattisgarh in 2000, it was assumed that ‘Vora politics’ was over in the state, but he was quickly absorbed in Sonia Gandhi’s inner circle and was made the AICC treasurer in 2000 and remained so till 2020. He served in the Rajya Sabha from 2002 for three consecutive terms. His journey from Durg to Delhi was complete.

He was not only a treasurer of the AICC in terms of money, but also in terms of secrets of the party. He dealt with all money matters of the Congress when the UPA was at its peak.

Vora was also accused to be a beneficiary in the National Herald scam, when ED attached assets worth Rs 16 crore belonging to AJL, whose chairman was Motilal Vora.

Motilal Vora was so close to the Gandhi family that even at the age of 92, he was being considered for a fourth Rajya Sabha term, which was widely criticised. When Rahul Gandhi resigned after the 2019 election debacle for Congress, there was slight confusion as to whether Motilal Vora might become the interim Congress President but he profusely rejected the idea and even the information of it. He had on multiple occasions even advocated for and endorsed Rahul Gandhi as the next PM of India.

Motilal Vora had a sense of humour and humility. He was famously courteous to everyone he met and had fantastic working relations with his peers and competitors.

His team with Ahmed Patel and Janardhan Dwivedi ran the AICC Secretariat which was extremely crucial in the UPA years when the Sonia Gandhi led-AICC controlled most affairs in the Manmohan Singh government.

It is rumoured that he met everyone only outside his office, never in, and always with a cup of tea. His influence in state politics in Chhattisgarh did not diminish, as was expected. He headed the Congress panel in 2013 when its entire state leadership was wiped out in a Naxal attack in 2013.

It was his determination that he survived Covid-19, as he did various decades in politics. At its end, his is an inspirational story of a person who rose from a small town to occupy the highest echelons of power. Motilal Vora is survived by his son Arun Vora who is also MLA from Durg and grandson Sandeep Vora who is a Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress.

(The writer has lived in Durg for more than 20 years).

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