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Madhavsinh Solanki — Congressman behind Rajiv’s ‘no creamy layer’ push & key Bofors player

Jan 9, 2021

Four-time Gujarat CM Madhavsinh Solanki, who passed away Saturday, is also credited for building the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim (KHAM) electoral coalition. Fatima Khan 9 January, 2021 5:06 pm IST Text Size: A+ New Delhi: In 1990, Rajiv Gandhi, the then leader of opposition, stood in the Lok Sabha and raised questions over the “in toto” implementation of the Mandal commission report, announced by Prime Minister V.P. Singh. Gandhi did not oppose the report’s recommendations but had one major objection —  he wanted the “creamy layer” exempted from reservation so that the benefits only went to “those groups of people within the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) who deserve such help most”. “We are not in favour of having such measures being cornered by one particular group within the SEBCs. The benefits must seep down to those who need them the most,” he had said . One of the key players behind the speech, which has since been hailed as the ‘Rajiv Gandhi formula for reservation’, was Madhavsinh Solanki, the four-time Gujarat chief minister who passed away Saturday. Solanki was among three Congress leaders — Janardan Dwivedi and Arjun Singh being the others — who came up with the proposal during a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on the issue. Speaking to ThePrint, Dwivedi said this is the first time he is revealing that it was this group behind the proposal. “It was widely credited as the ‘Rajiv Gandhi formula for reservation’ but today for the first time I am revealing that it was actually the three of us who spent two full days together to prepare it,” Dwivedi said. “I have stayed quiet about it so far, but I am mentioning this now because it was during this deliberation, that I got to know Madhavsinh Solanki’s psyche very closely.” “I got to closely observe just the sheer breadth of his knowledge, his commitment to social causes and how he spent hours giving every little thing immense thought,” Dwivedi said. A Congress veteran, Solanki was a four-time Gujarat chief minister, is credited with forming the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim (KHAM) electoral formula and had a controversial stint as the country’s foreign minister, a tenure that saw the spillover of the Bofors scam. Gujarat CM who pioneered KHAM formula  Born in 1927 to a Kshatriya family at what is now Piludara district in Gujarat, Solanki was a lawyer before he made a foray into politics. He went on to become the CM of Gujarat four times — briefly for the first time in 1976-77 before returning to power in 1980 on the basis of his massive mobilisation of marginalised communities. This mobilisation dubbed the KHAM faced pushback from the upper castes. leading to a mass agitation led by Patels. In 1985, Solanki retained the chief minister’s chair after helping the Congress to 149 seats in the 182-member Gujarat assembly — the highest any political party has won in the state to date. The BJP’s highest win has been 127 seats under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2002. The Prime Minister was among those, including senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi , condoled Solanki’s passing away. “Whenever I would meet him or speak to him, we would discuss books and he would tell me about a new book he recently read,” PM Modi tweeted. Beyond politics, Shri Madhavsinh Solanki Ji enjoyed reading and was passionate about culture. Whenever I would meet him or speak to him, we would discuss books and he would tell me about a new book he recently read. I will always cherish the interactions we had. Bofors scam row as external affairs minister After his final chief-ministerial stint, Solanki was inducted as the external affairs minister of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1991. During a visit to Switzerland in 1992, to attend the World Economic Conference, Solanki allegedly met the then Swiss foreign minister Rene Felber and sought assistance in the Bofors scam. In 2003, the CBI alleged that Solanki had tried to “scuttle” the probe into the multi-crore Bofors payoff scandal. According to the CBI , Solanki told Felber that inquiries conducted into the scam in India had failed to produce any result and that the request for mutual assistance was based on political considerations. “He never spoke openly about his interaction with the Swiss people. Many people tried to probe him but nothing conclusive ever came out. He eventually stepped down from the role as external affairs minister in April 1992,” said Congress leader Hasmukh Patel, who served as a minister in Solanki’s cabinet between 1985-90 Solanki went on to serve as a Rajya Sabha MP subsequently, but in the last few years he had confined himself to his home in Gandhinagar. ‘The CM of the marginalised’ Solanki is also credited with initiating many schemes for the development of the underprivileged communities during his multiple tenures as CM. Raju Parmar, Gujarat Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha MP, describes Solanki as someone who was a “a born visionary”. “He would constantly keep thinking about ways to bring greater progress and development to the marginalised communities. His heart bled for the oppressed. Most of our conversations would revolve around that,” said Parmar, who shared the Rajya Sabha with Solanki for two terms. “The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) also saw a lot of growth and progress under him,” Parmar added. “His implementation of free education for girls, and the Midday meal scheme were two of the most appreciated schemes during his time.” The KHAM alliance was also an attempt at furthering this politics of social justice. The Congress party tried to recreate the magic of the KHAM formula through his son Bharatsinh Solanki but did not see the same level of success. While Bharatsinh Solanki won from the Anand seat both in 2004 and 2009, he lost out to BJP’s Dilip Patel in 2014, and since then hasn’t been able to regain the seat. The KHAM group accounts for about 70 per cent of the voter base in Gujarat while Brahmins and Patel combined make up about 20 per cent. The Congress hasn’t had a mass leader of Madhavsinh Sonalki’s appeal or gravitas since his CM tenure. Solanki was the longest-serving CM of Gujarat, up until PM Modi became the CM from 2002 to 2014. Love for poetry, mushairas  Solanki’s love for books, that PM Modi mentions, was especially true for poetry collections. Congress leader Hasmukh Patel describes the former chief minister as a “politician who was actually a poet at heart”. “I remember once he attended a mushaira in Gandhinagar as CM. All the shayars there asked him to recite something but he said he is there to listen, not to speak,” Patel told ThePrint. But the next day, Solanki took everyone by surprise. “In the morning after the mushaira, he just wouldn’t stop reciting works of his favorite shayars. It was really quite the sight,” Patel said. Solanki was extremely close to Gujarati poet and novelist Sheikh Adam Abuwala. Patel said that one day, Solanki decided to pay Abuwala a visit early in the morning before leaving for some important work. “But he got so engrossed in their jugalbandi, that he lost track of time, and ended up staying there until noon,” Patel fondly remembers. Solanki’s last rites are to be conducted in Gandhinagar.

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