Hours after he turned 93, veteran politician N D Tiwari, died here on Thursday. Tiwari was ailing for a long time, and undergoing treatment at Max Super Speciality Hospital since September last year after a brain stroke. He breathed his last at 2.50 pm. Doctors said the end came after a heart attack. For many years, Tiwari was perceived as potential prime ministerial material just in case the Congress were to look for someone from beyond the dynasty. He had everything working in his favour — mass appeal in the Hindi heartland, Brahmin roots, education, proven administrative competence and wide acceptability. And he almost got his chance, but luck played the spoiler. He lost the Lok Sabha election by only 800 votes in 1991, and P V Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
Though Tiwari did not get the top job, he did occupy important positions during his long career. He was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh multiple times — from January 1976 to April 1977, from August 1984 to September 1985 and from June 1988 to December 1988. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980 and Rajya Sabha in 1985, and, as Union minister, held a variety of portfolios. He was Chief Minister of Uttarakhand from 2002 to 2007 and Governor of Andhra Pradesh from 2007 to 2009.
Unable to reconcile with the fact that they had both missed the prime ministership, Tiwari and Arjun Singh quit the Congress and floated the All India Indira Congress (Tiwari) in 1995. They folded it up and went back to the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi following the defeat of the party under Narasimha Rao in 1996. Tiwari won the Lok Sabha polls in 1996 and 1999.
He was first elected to the UP Assembly on a Praja Samajwadi Party ticket from Nainital in 1952 and 1957. He joined the Congress in 1963 and and elected to the UP Assembly from Kashipur in 1965. He was the first president of the Youth Congress in 1969.
Tiwari got the UP chief ministership through a stroke of luck in 1976, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after initially zeroing in on Rajendra Kumari Bajpai for replacing Veer Bahadur Singh, changed her mind at the eleventh hour. Her advisors cautioned against undue concentration of power in the hands of the Shukla family. Shyama Charan Shukla was already Madhya Pradesh CM.
His younger brother Vidya Charan Shukla was the all-powerful Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting at the Centre. And, Bajpai happened to be a cousin of the Shukla brothers. As Tiwari’s name came up during discussions, Indira picked him up. His impressive track record notwithstanding, Tiwari was criticised for being a “yes-man”. His detractors called him “New Delhi Tiwari” to indicate sycophancy to Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi. He had carried Sanjay’s slippers during the Emergency, giving rise to a new slogan in Lucknow: “Na nar hai, na nari; Narayan Dutt Tiwari”.
When he was 84, a sex scandal led to his exit from the Andhra Pradesh Raj Bhawan. And in 2008, Rohit Shekhar, son of Ujjwala Sharma, who is a daughter of former Union minister Sher Singh, filed a suit claiming that Tiwari was his biological father.
The court ordered a DNA test, which confirmed the claim. Tiwari accepted Shekhar as his son in 2014, and a marriage with Ujjwala followed.