A former RSS pracharak known for his simple and frugal lifestyle, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, 77, the Maharashtra Governor, is the man of the moment in Mumbai, approximately 1,800 km away from his hometown in Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district and light years away in sociopolitical and economic import.
An MLC in undivided Uttar Pradesh in 1997 and chief minister for a brief, five-month term after the hill state of Uttarakhand was carved out from the politically crucial north Indian state in 2000, Koshyari, who will administer Maharashtra after imposition of President’s rule on Tuesday, took charge as Governor in September.
Koshyari has a Masters degree in English literature and was active in student politics during his days in Almora College — he was elected general secretary of the college students’ union in 1961-62.
He served as a lecturer at Raja Inter College, in Etah district of UP, for a few years and subsequently had a career as an author and journalist, too.
‘Bhagat-da’, as he is known affectionately among party workers, joined RSS at a young age. He took part in the nationwide agitation against the Emergency and was jailed. He served as RSS pracharak for a long time before entering active politics.
In 1997, he was elected as Member of UP Legislative Council. After formation of Uttarakhand, Koshyari was said to be frontrunner for the post of interim chief minister, but Nityananda Swami was appointed instead and Koshyari worked as a minister. A few months before the first Assembly elections in the new hill state, the BJP replaced Nityananda with Koshyari as CM, but he also remained in office for only five months, as the BJP lost the elections to the Congress.
Koshyari won from Kapkot Assembly constituency in 2002 and 2007 Vidhan Sabha polls.
He served as BJP national vice-president and president of the party’s Uttarakhand unit as well. Between 2002 and 2007, he was the Leader of Opposition in Uttarakhand Assembly.
He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttarakhand in November 2008, and as chairman of the House committee on petitions gave a report on ‘One Rank One Pension’ and ‘Railway Network in Himalayan States’, two key issues in the hill state.
In 2014, he was elected to 16th Lok Sabha from Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar constituency.
Several BJP leaders from the state — Union minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and BJP state president Ajay Bhatt, among others — are among leaders who consider Koshyari as their political guru. When the party indicated that Koshyari could not be repeated as a candidate in this summer’s Lok Sabha elections, given the fact that he was past the party’s unofficial cut-off age of 75, Koshyari gave consent to Bhatt’s candidature from from Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar seat.