The sudden passing away of Uttarakhand Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh adds further to the woes of the Congress Party. She was most definitely a stabilising factor in a highly factionalised state unit, although of late her influence had diminished considerably for the larger reason that her party faces a crisis at the grassroots. Probably the only other leader with an across the state standing is former CM Harish Rawat, who is also at the fag end of his political career. Even he does not quite command the respect across the political divide that Hridayesh did. The tributes paid to her by politicians from all parties recall her as a mentor, an ‘elder sister’, whose service to the public was appreciated and acknowledged. She displayed an emotional maturity that calmed many a heated situation in the Assembly, be it as Parliamentary Affairs Minister or Leader of the Opposition.
Her interaction with the general public was also nuanced and effective. She may not have been able, for several reasons, to qualify for the top job in the state, but had a solid hold over her constituency and the region she represented. This made her indispensable to the Congress, in government or out of it. There are many who acknowledge her interventions in their favour when caught in bureaucratic obduracy or needing help in emergencies. She was ever graceful in dealing with people. As Information Minister, she came especially from Haldwani to preside over the function that marked Garhwal Post’s transformation from a weekly to a daily newspaper. (In the early days of the state’s formation, she was quite appreciative that GP got the spelling of her name right!)
She was among the few politicians who had successfully transitioned through critical periods in Indian politics that saw a decline in the dominance of the Congress. She retained the dignity of the past, but was adept enough to survive the change. Very importantly, her commitment to her party’s value system remained, as did her loyalty. She had the ‘sanskaras’ not to compromise on her belief system for the sake of currying favour with the High Command. So, given the years she spent in politics, she did not rise to the heights many less qualified colleagues could manage, but this was compensated for by retaining her hold over her traditional political bastion. She had the advantage of having been mentored by the unique ND Tiwari in her early years, which learning served her well till the very last. She died performing her duty as she saw it, like a soldier in the battlefield. Hopefully, her life and works will be remembered and celebrated for a long time to come.