Lucknow, Sep 18 (IANS) When the octagenarian Ram Naik walked into the sprawling 40-acre Raj Bhawan complex in the heart of this Uttar Pradesh capital last July, most people in the corridors of power took the new governor as another “tired and retired veteran” who had been eased out in the ‘Modi-fied’ BJP and parked in a constitutional job.(Read: Bikram Singh Majithia lashes out at AAP)
The agile and active Naik, a year down, however, has proved the political epitaph writers wrong and is, in fact, scripting one of the most eventful tenures in the gubernatorial history of Uttar Pradesh. And he has firmly stood his ground on issues he considers worthwhile.
In the process, while he has endeared himself to the teeming thousands who have benefitted from his humility and interventions, he has come in the firing line of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government. Having twice rejected recommendations by the ruling party for nomination to the legislative council and then turning down the name of a retired judge for Lokayukta, Naik has earned the wrath of the likes of SP stalwarts Mohd Azam Khan, Ram Gopal Yadav and Shivpal Singh Yadav.
Having earned sobriquets like “unfit to be addressed as mahamahim” (his excellency), “BJP stooge” and many others, Naik, however, is undeterred by the criticism. Talking to IANS on a busy week day, the former union petroleum minister said he would not react to such comments and barbs.
“People attacking me have their political agenda while I am wedded to the constitution of India,” he said while recalling how the book gifted to him by President Pranab Mukherjee a day before he came here for the oath of office is his guiding force. Time and the people will judge his actions, he said, adding that he enjoys “cordial personal relations with (Chief Minister) Akhilesh Yadav”.
Naik, however, said that he believes in speaking his mind out and has been doing so. He further stated that he will continue to be a bridge between the state and the union government – like when he brought union Minister of State for Power Piyush Goel and Akhilesh Yadav to the table in wake of the power crisis in the state.
The fact that he has openly castigated the state government on law and order and the power crisis, is for the betterment of the state and in the right spirit of expecting improvement, he said. Asked if the constitutional post bars him from a lot of things, he chuckled and countered: “On the contrary it has given me the joy of doing much more than what the constitution bestows on me.” Having arranged a musical ‘bhajan sandhya’ by lepers in the Raj Bhawan after reading a newspaper article about their marginalization and humiliation, Naik said he finds immense satisfaction in such small gestures.
Choking while narrating the happiness he noticed on the faces of the lepers, the veteran was asked what forms this formidable conviction to do things and pat came the reply: “I owe it to my father and my formative years at Pune with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).” Both, he pointed out, taught him discipline and humility.
As the chancellor of 25 state varsities, Naik is credited with having brought the academic sessions on track. By taking up issues facing the masses, he is fast emerging as a “people’s governor”. With his rich parliamentary experience behind him – three-time legislator in Maharashtra and five-time Lok Sabha MP – the governor seems to hit just the right chords with the people of the country’s most populous state.
While he is extensively travelling in the state, his doors are open for all and sundry and the visitors are pleasantly surprised by his “grassroot level-like approach. “I cannot fathom that he is so down to earth and so pro-active. I had come to him with a problem that the education institution I run was facing and within no time, he got the officials working,” said a retired army officer.
Naik’s chief security officer, Inderjeet Singh Rawat, vouched for his humility. Only recently had a class four employee retired and when Naik came to know of the farewell do, he not only called the retiree but also bade him a respectable farewell. Talk to him of all these path-breaking changes that he is ushering in and his face lights up as he credits all this to his father, a school teacher, and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which, he said, was responsible for the discipline and the plain, simple lifestyle he leads.
“When I went to do my B.Com at Pune, I came in touch with a lot of RSS ideologues and their sense of commitment and conviction got into my personality development DNA,” he mused, while suggesting that the new generation should simply follow a four-tier mantra – smile, appreciate, do not belittle others and always find a better way of doing things!