Popularly known as “Babuji” among his followers in Uttar Pradesh, 85-year-old Lalji Tandon, who was born in Lucknow, travelled a long road in politics –– from a corporator in Lucknow in the early 1970s to the Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh, Tandon served as minister for significant departments, such as urban development and power, under different regimes in the 1990s.
He was not just an active functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, but was also known as the “key associate” of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. When Vajpayee first decided to contest Parliamentary elections from Lucknow in 1991, he chose Tandon as his election manager.
मध्यप्रदेश के गवर्नर व यूपी में बीजेपी की सरकार में कई बार वरिष्ठ मंत्री रहे श्री लालजी टण्डन, जो काफी सामाजिक, मिलनसार व संस्कारी व्यक्ति थे, उनका इलाज के दौरान आज लखनऊ में निधन होने की खबर अति-दुःखद व उनके परिवार के प्रति मेरी गहरी संवेदना।
If BJP continued to retain the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat and a majority of Lucknow Assembly seats for decades, a significant share of credit goes to Tandon, who had support from different sections of society.
Tandon was liked even by his opponents –– BSP chief Mayawati tied him a rakhi every year on Rakshabandhan. He was also popular among Shia clerics of the old city. Thanks to his popularity in the city of nawabs and his closeness to Vajpayee, he was the BJP’s first choice for the prestigious Lucknow Parliamentary seat after it was vacated by the latter in 2009 due to ill-health.
Tandon won in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, defeating then Congress state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi by a margin of over 40,000 votes. However, in the next election in 2014, the seat was given to Rajnath Singh, and later in August 2018, Tandon was made Governor of Bihar. Then in July 2019, he was made Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
Those close to him say that notwithstanding the heights his career reached, Tandon never forgot his “Lucknavi Tehjeeb” and was considered a “true son of the soil”, with an attachment to not just the Lucknavi culture but also traditional Lucknavi food. A foodie himself, he never missed a chance to throw his famous “Lucknavi Chaat Parties” at his residence, especially after holi.
So woven was he into the culture and heritage of Lucknow that a few years ago, Tandon even wrote a book called ‘Ankaha Lucknow’ (Unspoken Lucknow).
On Tuesday, while Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath reached Tandon’s residence in Lucknow to offer condolences, the government announced a holiday on the coming Monday and also a three-day state mourning.
Tandon’s three-time MLA seat, Lucknow East, is today represented by his son Ashutosh Tandon, who is the urban development minister in the Yogi Cabinet. It was Ashutosh Tandon who first tweeted in the morning, “Babuji nahi rahe (Babuji is no more)”, as Lalji breathed his last at a private hospital in Lucknow.
Tandon served as a UP minister during various regimes –– he was minister of state for urban development in the BJP Government of 1999 to 2000, and later held the same post when Rajnath Singh became the Chief Minister of the state in 2000. He then again served as minister from 2002 to 2003 when the BJP-BSP government was formed and Mayawati was made Chief Minister. He was given significant departments along with urban development, which included housing, finance as well as tourism.
A controversy he was involved in was the “saree stampede” of 2004 –– more than 20 women had died in a stampede when he was distributing sarees to them in Lucknow to mark his birthday. Then PM Vajpayee had rushed to Lucknow after the incident, but Tandon was later given a clean chit.
On Tuesday, expressing condolence, Mayawati referred to him as a “social and cultured” person, and wrote, “Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon, who also served as senior minister several times during BJP Governments in Uttar Pradesh was a “samajik, milansar wah sanskari vyakti” ( a social and cultured person).”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that Tandon “played a significant role in strengthening the BJP in Uttar Pradesh”. The PM also noted: “Lalji Tandon was well-versed with constitutional matters. He enjoyed a long and close association with beloved Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”
President of India Ram Nath Kovind wrote, “We have lost a legendary leader, who combined cultural sophistication of Lucknow and acumen of a national stalwart.”
Yogi Adityanath referred to Tandon as “Lucknow ke pran (life of Lucknow)” and said that in Tandon, the country had lost a popular leader, capable administrator and active social worker.
Tandon’s last rites are being performed in Chowk area of old city.
Tandon was elected as Member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly for in 1996, 2002, and again in 2007.
From 1978 to 1984
From 1990 to 1996
He became minister for the first time in 1991 during the Kalyan Singh government in Uttar Pradesh, and was made given charge of the power department.
He continued to be minister later during Mayawati, Ram Prakash as well as Rajnath Singh-led governments in Uttar Pradesh.
He was also made Leader of Opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 2007 and continued to play an active role.
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