Millennium Post

The long and short of chief ministers

The post of the Chief Minister in any state has always been termed as the first and foremost in our democratic set up. The role of the CM has always been crucial. This might be a reason why politicians try to mange things to get the aspired post of the CM by adopting all constitutional, democratic and lobbying-based means. Any CM who has once occupied the super-boss position certainly likes to hold on to it for as long as possible. To retain power the CMs manage tolearn tips to keep their flock together. It used to be much simple to offer ministerial berth to almost all supporting legislators before a cap on number of ministers in the council of ministers came into force. We remember CMs like Rao Birendar Singh of Haryana, Kalyan Singh of UP and others. The posts of the ministers used to be distributed like peanuts.

A few leaders made record by being the longest serving Chief Minister in their respective states. It seemed they had Fevicol-like qualities which helped them in serving uninterrupted periods as the CM. The late Jyoti Basu dominated the political scenario in his state West Bengal for more than six decades. He tried his luck in 13 election battles for the Legislative Assembly. He scored 12 victories though he lost in 1972. He occupied the post of the CM on 21 June, 1977 and held it till 6 November, 2000 to resign on the ground of his advancing age. His tenure was the longest i.e. 23 years and three-and-half-months. Jyoti Da, as he was fondly called in Bengal, was heading a coalition government lead by a disciplined party, CPI-M. Hence, he had no difficulty in pulling on. This helped him in earning an exceptional stature of a national leader of repute. Jyoti Basu at one point of time was much ahead in the race for the post of the PM. The next leader to hold the post of the CM for the lonegest period in any state was M L Sukhadia who remained at the helm of affairs in Rajasthan for a period of 16 years and eight months. He took over on 13 November1954 and continued to enjoy the confidence of his state and the High Command up to 9 September 1971. Sukhadia was a towering personality of his times as he steered his party to victory in four Assembly Elections consecutively.

The longest serving woman CM in India is Sheila Dikshit who has completed an uninterrupted tenure of 14 years in office. She led her party to a thumping victory in election battles in 1998, 2003 and 2008. Political analysts have yet to draw a conclusion about her political skills and acumen. People say she started shaky as was being mentioned as a novice in the complex political turf in Delhi which was being controlled by many veterans. She silently made her path to march ahead step by step. The chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi has also gone a long way to find a place in the list of the longest serving CMs. He took over on 17 May 2001 and is still holding fort. He has completed a journey of more than 12 years; the journey was not so easy to work coolly as he had to face the challenges from a number of disruptive elements in his state.

It is now time to recollect the shortest serving chief ministers. The CMs who disappeared from the scene, evaporated after a few days of taking over. Jagdamika Prasad could hold the post in Uttar Pradesh for just two days from 21 February to 23 February 1998. His taking over was challenged in the highest court by his predecessor, the affected party, Singh. In a trial of strength conducted under the supervision of the highest court Prasad could not prove his majority resulting in re induction of Singh. This was the first of its kind trial of strength wherein both the parties were made to sit at par. Re-induction of Singh witnessed the swearing in of the highest number of ministers. In Bihar, Satish Prasad Singh could enjoy the feel of the post just for 5 days from 28 January to 1 February 1968. He was selected as a stop-gap arrangement. Meghalya is the only state where the change of guard takes place in dinner parties. S C Marak once remained in power from 27 February 1998 to 3 March 1998. After the demise of MGR in Tamil Nadu, her widow Janaki Ramachandran had a brief tenure of 24 days as the CM from 7 January to 30 January 1998. While returning to Bihar once, B P Mandal could hold the post for 31 days from 1 February to 2 March 1968. In Kerala C H Mohd Koya held the post for 45 days from 12 October to 1 December 1979. Devi Lal tried to install his son O P Chautala on the post of CM in Haryana. The one off effort resulted in mayhem in Maham where his son went on to play the dirty games to avoid his imminent defeat in a by election to the assembly. The Union Government headed by V P Singh was disgraced by the incident and Chautala who took over as the Chief Minister after elevation of Devi Lal as Deputy PM, was forced to resign after holding the reigns from 2 December to 22 May 1989.

Satpal is a communication consultant
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