The first among the Indian princely rulers to sign the instrument of merger in 1949 and BJP MP from Tehri, Maharaja Manvendra Shah passed away on January 5 after a prolonged illness at a hospital in New Delhi. He was 85. He was cremated at Muni Ki Reti in Rishikesh on January 7 with full state honour. His son, Manujendra Shah, performed the last rites.
A BJP member of Lok Sabha, Shah also had the distinction of winning from Tehri Lok Sabha constituency for a record eight times since 1957. He won the seat unopposed in 1962 and subsequently in 1967, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004, having lost only once to Paripurnand Painuli, a social activist in 1971. Shah, the last scion of the Tehri dynasty, was a custodian of the holy Badrinath temple and was popularly known as Buland Badri, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Shah was president, Temple Board of Management, Tehri Garhwal and patron of many hill associations and Trustees of Maharaja Narendra Shah Trust and Maharaja Kirti Shah Trust.
Born on May 26, 1921, Shah studied at Government College, Lahore and ICS Camp, Dehradun. He succeeded his father Maharaja Narendra Shah to the throne in 1946. He remained King of Tehri dynasty for a brief period of two and a half years before he signed the instrument of merger into India on August 1, 1949 in response to a call for merger from the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Shah also served as India'sambassador to Ireland from 1980 to 1983.
Former Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee went to the residence of Shah in New Delhi on January 6 to pay homage. Shah'sbody was taken to his ancestral Narendra Nagar Palace in Tehri district where it was kept for public to pay their last respects.
The Uttaranchal government announced a two-day'sstate mourning.
Shah had begun his political career in the Congress but was soon disillusioned with it and had joined the BJP. He was known for his frankness and he never hesitated to express his views, come what may. His death has created a major vacuum on the Tehri political scene. While the Raja was living, the BJP was always assured winning at least from the Tehri constituency. Shah was a keen sports lover and was a member of many reputed clubs like the Cricket Club, Gymkhana Club, Golf Club, Army Golf Club, National Sports Club, Royal Western India Turf Club, and the Rotary Club, to mention a few.
Uttaranchal Chief Minister N.D. Tewari, BJP president Rajnath Singh, State Congress Chief Harish Rawat, Uttaranchal BJP in-charge Ravishankar Prasad, BJP State Chief Bhagat Singh Koshyari and other BJP and Congress leaders were present at the funeral rites. Many members of royal families from different parts of India came to attend the last rites. Smt. Anupama Kumari (Maharani Dungarpur, Rajasthan), Smt. Nirupama Kumari (Maharani of Udaipur), Rajmata Saroopa Kumari (Jhalawar), Rajmata Giri Rajkumari (Gidour, Bihar), Smt. Shailendra Kumari (Lambagaon, HP), Smt. Neelama Kumari (Kalkankar, UP), etc., were there to pay their respect to the King.
Paying tribute, Shri B.C. Khanduri said Shah'sdeath had created a deep political vacuum in Tehri, which would not be easy to fill. He had earned reverence and genuine respect even from his political adversaries. He described Shah'sdeath as the end of an era. Khanduri recalled that Shah was an extremely religious person and in spite of being a Maharaja, led a simple life.
Former Chief Minister Nityanand Swami said Shah would always remain a guiding light to party men and exemplified spirit of the hills. Former party president Manohar Kant Dhyani recalled Shah'sservices to the nation and the region. He was one of the first to support a separate hill state, for which he had got published a book on the issue. By Ravindra Saini in Dehradun