Today, Brijmohan Agarwal celebrated his 59th birthday. The main road was full of cars all day. Obviously, with the kind of stature he has, there is no doubt that there will be many visitors. I faced some difficulty in driving by his bungalow. While passing by, I asked the person beside me what the best part was. He said: “Brijmohan Agarwal is a leader of the masses.” That’s it! Short and sweet.
Brijmohan Agarwal is one of the tallest figures in Chhattisgarh. A daunting personality, he matches the popularity of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr Raman Singh. Earlier, till 2013, the year I moved to Raipur, he had several ministries in his hand – Culture, Endowment, Legislative Affairs, PWD, School Education, and Tourism. However, in a cabinet reshuffle of 2013, he retained Endowment, but let go of the rest for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Fish Rearing, Water Resources, and Religious Trust.
I had heard volumes of his praises earlier. Initially, I couldn’t really understand why people across Chhattisgarh fondly called him “Mohan Bhaiya”. I had doubts whether it was really the masses or his own circles whitewashing his image. It did not take long, though!
The series of surprises began early. I had moved in to an apartment in a large housing society barely 4 weeks ago. I was still settling down and my new friend from the same building came home with an invitation card. “Birju bhaiya ke yahaan shaadi hai! Aunty aur Sumit ko le ke aana hai, uncle!” he had said to my father. Barely gotten here & getting invitations from multiple ministry holders was a little … weird! Though pleasantly surprised, I enquired a little about “Birju Bhaiya”. The aforementioned friend gave us a detailed account of how humble & modest a person he was; how he helped anyone who approached him; and how he was a leader of the masses of Chhattisgarh. Since we were new in town & knew very few people around, we decided to skip the wedding.
Fast forward one year, my cousin here secured a franchise of a renowned brand in August. By mid-December, he was inaugurating an exclusive store at the city’s most prime location. The man who was going to cut the ribbon was Brijmohan Agarwal himself. He came on time, inaugurated the store and looked around it. He was regularly interacting with the people in the store, including the waiters, janitors, etc. Then he bought a show piece, paid for it, and left. There was no commotion; no aura of a minister in the air, no arrogance, no sirens, no nlal batti, no “security issue”, no fuss, absolutely nothing! Just 2 cars, one for the minister and one for his security. It was a smooth sail.
Fast forward another year, the political Methuselah, Dr Subramanian Swamy was in town for a day. Dr Swamy was addressing a gathering about his topic in hand, the National Herald Scam. I was lucky to be seated in the Front Row. I reclined in my chair and attentively listened to the entire informative speech. As soon as Dr Swamy finished, he rushed out, probably to save himself the stampede of fans. But there was Brijmohan Agarwal – calm & composed – meeting people, chatting, joking, & laughing. As he passed by, I half folded my hands and said “Namastey!” He extended his hand, grabbed the fingers of my folded palms, pressed them softly, smiled, and left. Again, there was not an oounce of ego. I could see the humility in his eyes.
Then, this past January, Brijmohan Agarwal’s brother’s son was getting married. This time, the bride’s brother, a friend, had invited me. At the entrance was another surprise. Standing with his brothers, was Brijmohan Agarwal himself, welcoming every guest individually, with a big smile on his face and his hands folded almost throughout. This was the man who holds multiple ministries in Chhattisgarh; a man who was from the groom’s side (“ladke waale”). Despite this, there was no arrogance at all.
I would not have written down all this. However, my last interaction with him compelled me. My parents and I were at a temple. We parked the car & got down. We washed our hands and walked inside. A couple was already present at the garbha griha. We were one metre behind them & joined the prayer. After the priest finished the hymns, the couple turned. Indeed, it was Brijmohan Agarwal with his wife. I was surprised! While humility is one thing, personal security is another ball game altogether! At the dead of the night, with almost no traffic around. Yet, nobody questioned us when we walked in.
While exiting them temple, I observed three cars, all fitted with red beacons (none lit, though!) The minister’s men were guarding the entrance and round the bend of the road. This time too, there was no “Abhi nahi! Andar Saheb hain!” Not a single hand gestured us to stop. Nobody tried to frisk us. Nobody tried to stop us from entering the temple. This was in stark contrast with temples like Tirupati and Rameshwaram where a minister visiting for a few minutes disturbs the queues for a few hours. And here was Brijmohan Agarwal, who, if I were not to recognise him, probably wouldn’t even have made an attempt to throw his weight around.
Achievers come and achievers go. But a man wins hearts only through humility. People may say lots of things about him, but they all agree that Brijmohan Agarwal, like his idol, Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji, is respected even by his arch rivals.
There is no doubt that Brijmohan Agarwal is an achiever. However, while different people may quantify it differently as per their own convenience, opinions, ideology, political disposition, etc., all people of Chhattisgarh acknowledge one aspect of his – humility!