Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (23 October 1923 – 15 May 2010) was the 11th Vice-President of India. He served in that position from August 2002, when he was elected to a five-year term by the electoral college following the death of Krishan Kant, until he resigned on July 21, 2007, after losing the presidential election to Pratibha Patil. Shekhawat was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a leading member of the National Democratic Alliance at the time of election. He served as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan three times, from 1977 to 1980, 1990 to 1992 and 1993 to 1998.
Referred to as "Rajasthan ka ek hi Singh" (The only lion of Rajasthan) or "Babosa" (Head of the family of Rajasthan), Bhairon Singh Shekhawat entered politics in 1952. In 1952 he was MLA from Ramgarh, in 1957 from Siri Madhopur, 1962 & 1967 he was MLA from Kisan Pol. In 1972 elections he lost but in 1973 he was elected to Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. In 1975 during emergency he was arrested and sent to Rohtak jail.
After emergency in 1977 he became MLA from Chabda as Janata Party candidate. In that year the Janata Party won 151 of the 200 seats in the state assembly elections of Rajasthan and Shekhawat took over as the first non Congress Chief Minister of Rajasthan in 1977. His government was dismissed by Indira Gandhi in 1980.
In 1980 and Shekhawat joined the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and became MLA again from Chabda and was leader of opposition. In 1985, he was MLA from Nimbahera. However, in 1989 an alliance between the BJP and the Janata Dal won all 25 of the Rajasthan seats in the Lok Sabha and also 138 seats (BJP:84+Janata Dal:54) in the 1990 elections to the Ninth Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. Shekhawat once again became Chief Minister of Rajasthan and was MLA from Dholpur. His government was dismissed in 1992 and President's rule imposed.
In the next elections in the year 1993, Shekhawat led the BJP to be the single largest party, winning 96 seats, himself becoming MLA from Bali and lost from Ganganagar seat. Three BJP-supported independents also won seats and other independents who supported the BJP took its total to 116 and became Chief Minister of Rajasthan for third time.
In 1998 Shekhawat became MLA from Bali again but the BJP lost power and Shekhawat became Leader of Opposition in assembly. Shekhawat won every election to the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, except in 1972 when he lost from Gandhi Nagar in Jaipur and in Ganganagar by Radheshyam Ganganagar.
Shekhawat was elected as the Vice President of India in 2002, when he defeated the opposition candidate, Sushil Kumar Shinde by a margin of 149 votes out of the 750 votes polled.
In July 2007, Shekhawat fought the Presidential election as an independent candidate backed by National Democratic Alliance as a popular Presidential candidate next to APJ Abdul Kalam; but lost to the United Progressive Alliance-Left backed candidate Pratibha Patil. He became first and the only vice president to lose presidential election. Following his defeat, Shekhawat resigned from the post of Vice-President on 21 July 2007.
Shekhawat started the "Antyoday Yojna" scheme, which was intended to uplift the poorest of the poor. The chairman of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, referred to him as the Rockefeller of India. Shekhawat was also known for his control over bureaucracy and the police. He had involvement in policies designed to improve literacy and industrialisation in Rajasthan, as well as tourism centred on the themes of heritage, wildlife and villages. He was also lauded by both, national and international leaders for his historic conduct of the Rajya Sabha.
Bhairon Singh Shekhawat succumbed to cancer and age-related health problems, dying on 15 May 2010 at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Jaipur. He was cremated the next day, at a plot of land provided by the government of Rajasthan, where his memorial is now built. His funeral was attended by thousands of people from across the country including the who's who of India. His last rites were performed by his grandsons Vikramaditya and Abhimanyu Singh Rajvi. He was survived by his wife Suraj Kanwar, only daughter Ratan Kanwar who is married to BJP leader Narpat Singh Rajvi and granddaughter Mumal.
His wife Suraj Kanwar died on 9 March 2014 at age 86 and was cremated at Shekhawat's memorial as per her last wish. Her funeral was attended by a huge gathering including all political dignitaries of the state. Her last rites were also performed by her grandsons Vikramaditya and Abhimanyu Singh Rajvi.
Membership of Legislature in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
|Term of Membership||Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1952 - 1957||Member, First Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1957 - 1962||Member, Second Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1962 - 1967||Member, Third Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1967 - 1972||Member, Fourth Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1977 - 1980||Member, Sixth Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1980 - 1985||Member, Seventh Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1985 - 1990||Member, Eight Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1990 - 1992||Member, Ninth Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1993 - 1998||Member, Tenth Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
|1998 - 18 August 2002||Member, Eleventh Rajasthan Legislative Assembly|
- 1974–77 Member, Rajya Sabha (Madhya Pradesh)
- 1977–18 August 2002 Member, Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
- 22 June 1977 – 16 February 1980 Chief Minister of Rajasthan
- 1980–90 Leader of the Opposition, Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
- 4 March 1990 – 15 December 1992 Chief Minister of Rajasthan (second term)
- 4 December 1993 – 29 November 1998 Chief Minister of Rajasthan (third term)
- December 1998–August 2002 Leader of the Opposition, Rajasthan Legislative Assembly
- 19 August 2002 – 21 July 2007 Vice-President of India and ex officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha