Former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers are traditionally referred to as "bhootpurva mukhkya mantri". But, there is one person in this illustrious pantheon of the state's rulers who is rather mischievously referred to as "abhootpurva mukhya mantri" (unprecedented chief minister). That odd man is former Congress member of Parliament Jagdambika Pal (64). Several-time MLA and former UP Congress president, Pal is now the BJP candidate from Domariyaganj in eastern UP.
There is an interesting story which culminated in Pal earning the sobriquet of "abhootpurva" for a lifetime. In february 1998, Pal's political antics set off a train of such dramatic events that even UP, which is infamous for political skullduggery, had never seen or heard of such things before. Pal was chief minister for just a day between February 21 and 22 1998 after the Kalyan Singh government was dismissed by then Governor Romesh Bhandari.
In fact, the UP Vidhan Sabha was witness to a scenario which is unprecedented in the annals of the country's legislative history. Kalyan Singh and Pal were seated on either side of the Speaker in the Vidhan Sabha, while the legislators voted for their choice of CM. Kalyan Singh won by an easy majority, and on February 23, 1998, the High Court reinstated the Kalyan government.
Even though the High Court refused to recognise Pal as a former CM, that does not deter the vociferous Thakur leader from describing himself as a "poorva mukhya mantri" in his official stationery. His bungalow in Lucknow proudly displays a name plate describing him as a former chief minister. Old Congress hands dub Pal as a "traitor" and "opportunist" for deserting a party which gave him an identity and sustenance in UP politics for over four decades, just because he smelt that he may be denied the Lok Sabha ticket this time.
"He was one of the prominent faces of the Congress issuing statements on behalf of the party on TV almost every day," says a senior Congress leader. "Today, he is with the BJP just because they offered him an election ticket. This is height of thanklessness." Those who know Pal well, appreciate his organisational abilities. In fact, Pal won the late Sanjay Gandhi's approval with his hard work in the Congress Sewa Dal. Again, it was his labour at the grass roots level that earned him proximity to the late Rajiv Gandhi, too.
"Even today, it is his personal connect with the local people and ground level workers in his constituency that is standing him in good stead," says Aamir Salman, a journalist in Domariyaganj. "He may have switched sides, but his popularity and acceptability have not been affected. As of today, he is winning this election."
Pal is in a four-cornered fight against BSP's Mohammed Muqeem, SP's Mata Prasad Pandey and Congress' Vasundhra Kumari. Modi's recent rally in Domariyaganj has boosted Pal's prospects further. Another factor working in his favour is his personal equation with Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP from Gorakhpur, who has a massive appeal in entire eastern UP. Pal, who as Congress spokesman never missed an opportunity to sing paeans to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, has a new slogan now: "Yogi, Modi, kamal nishaan, maang raha hai Hindustan."