Sunday, December 7, 2003

An autobiography mired in politics
Raj Kumar Singh

C.B. Gupta: Autobiography. My Triumphs and Tragedies
as told to Satyendra R. Shukla. Umakant Mishra, Lucknow. Pages 460. Rs. 495.

C.B. Gupta: Autobiography. My Triumphs and TragediesC.B. Gupta’s autobiography answers two very common but crucial questions: Why writing an autobiography is a difficult job? Why autobiographies by politicians generally do not find many readers?

Chandra Bhanu Gupta. one of the stalwart of last century’s Indian politics. was three times Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. His life was parallel to the ups and downs of Indian politics of those days, particularly the politics of his own state —United Provinces (later known as Uttar Pradesh).

Coming from a middle class family of a small village in Aligarh district, he struggled his whole life, first to get a strong foothold in the mainstream of national politics then to maintain it. At a time when brilliant students aspired for the civil services or judiciary, C.B. Gupta, after taking a degree in Law, chose to defend the heroes of the famous Kakori dacoity case.

Born on July 14, 1902, he got involved in the freedom struggle as early as at the age of 17, when he went to Sitapur for high school examinations and took part in anti-Rowlett Bill demonstrations there. He attended a big public meeting on April 6 with some friends among them Jang Bahadur Rana, who delivered a very fiery speech and later became the Editor of The Tribune and The Times of India. As a new entrant in the Congress, Gupta was under the influence of revolutionaries, but once Gandhi become the center point of national movement, Gupta shifted his loyalties to him.

At the age of 27 he was elected President of Lucknow city Congress. It was the time when Congress was passing from older to younger hands. Pt Nehru was elected Congress President at the Lahore session, where Congress declared that complete independence was its aim. No doubt the book gives a detailed view of the freedom struggle as well as the politics of the Congress, but this view is from the perspective of an active player of the political game.

Gupta is, perhaps, right in his assessment that if Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan’s party had not boycotted the 1946 elections, not only the election results in North West Frontier Province, but the history of the whole sub-continent would have been different. However, while narrating the incidents of power struggle within the Congress in general and in U.P. in particular, he comes across as a power hungry politician. One can only feel sorry that a person of his stature should only see ills in the personalities of leaders like Pt Nehru, Gobind Ballabh Pant, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Guljari Lal Nanda, Mrs Indira Gandhi, K.D. Malviya, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Kamalapati Tripathi, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and N.D. Tiwari. This list of his so-called foes may be much longer, but his list of friends is pretty short. One fact, that even his opponents would agree (though many of them are not alive today), is that he was one of the cleverest and also most controversial politicians.

His resentment against Pt Nehru’s superiority complex is understandable, but to declare every one close to him as his chamcha does not seem justifiable. He had made very harsh comments about Nehru family and its involvement in the functioning of National Herald. He also claims to be the only one who rightly smelled the plot behind the so-called Kamraj plan. Though the book can be useful to the students of politics and those who are interested in knowing the nitty-gritty of the in-fighting in the power hungry, post-independence Congress, in real terms it is a political autobiography at its best, as former Prime Minister Chander Shekher has indicated in the Foreword. In the given circumstances one can easily understand the kind of tough labour a working journalist Satyendra R. Shukla had to go through to pen down this autobiography on the basis of his conversations with the late Chandra Bhanu Gupta some 25 years ago.