A momentous event in my career with Indira Gandhi
Feature Articles

A momentous event in my career with Indira Gandhi

February 17, 2024

By Gouri Satya, Sr. Journalist

In over five decades of service as a journalist, donning a double role as the Editor of ‘Samachar’ and reporter of a few State and National Dailies, I had several experiences, many of which continue to be fresh in my memory. One such experience was significant and is worth recalling.

It was the Emergency period. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had declared an Emergency all over the country. Many National, State-level and even local-level leaders had been taken into custody. At that time, D. Devaraj Urs was at the helm of affairs in the State. He had joined the Congress party in 1952, based on his strong political-ideological convictions.

As Chief Minister, he had given a new direction to the State, adopting progressive policies that brought him respect and admiration from all sections of the society. He initiated many programmes and policies bearing in mind the welfare of the people and the State, particularly those from the weaker sections.

When the Congress split into the Nijalingappa faction and Indira Gandhi faction in 1969, Devaraj Urs strongly supported Indira Gandhi and helped in the task of consolidation of the Indira Congress in the State. He enabled her to win all 27 seats in the 1972 Lok Sabha elections from the State and commanded respect. With his policies and dynamism, he had emerged as an alternative leader for his partymen. Indira Gandhi was aware of his abilities and appreciated his work both within the party and the State.

CM Devaraj Urs’ body being received in Mysuru.

When Indira Gandhi imposed an Emergency in the country on June 25, 1975, he was unhappy. He was reluctant to follow her diktat and arrest many prominent leaders in the State. He was even critical of the imposition of Emergency and abuse of political power by her henchmen. Naturally, Indira Gandhi was not happy with Urs’ stance. Political differences began to crop up between the two leaders.

It was at this time that Indira Gandhi visited Mysuru. She stayed overnight at the Government House. The next day, when she woke up to take the flight back to Delhi, she was looking fresh and relaxed.

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The early morning rain had made the atmosphere pleasant and pleasing. The air was refreshingly cool with the smell of the rain spread all around. Prominent Congress party leaders led by Chief Minister Devaraj Urs and senior officials were waiting to bid farewell to the Prime Minister at the helipad.

Those were the days when security was less tight than we see today. Access even to a Minister or a Legislator is difficult today. However, during my days, the scenario was different. One could have easy access to any leader without security checks and restrictions.

On that day morning, we were about 20 waiting for the Prime Minister, conversing with top Police officers and a few leaders who included the Chief Minister, his Ministerial colleagues and party leaders. There were not many of them and it was a small crowd. A refreshed Prime Minister came out of her car and began to walk towards the helicopter. We observed there was very little bonhomie between Urs and Indira Gandhi. Both were cold to each other, considering their political closeness. There were no whispers or a brief tete-e-tete as generally took place on such occasions.

The Prime Minister was walking past the pressmen. Trying to draw her attention, I asked her, “How was your stay, Madam.”

Indira Gandhi turned back and stood looking at the small group of pressmen. Having heard my question, she came a little closer to me and responding to my ‘Namaste’ with folded hands, she said, “It was pleasant. Mysuru is a beautiful city.”

Her next few words were loaded with significant meaning. It indicated the increasing differences between herself and Devaraj Urs, who was standing close to her.

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“Ask your Chief Minister to invite me often,” she said, walking towards the copter.

Her last sentence revealed enough for a good copy as we say in journalistic language. There were already rumours about the political differences cropping up between the two leaders. Her reply further confirmed the rumours and gave us a good copy to write about.

The rest was history as they say. Political developments that followed brought about significant changes in the politics of the country. Devaraj Urs was expelled from the party. He was defeated in the election held thereafter in 1980 and R. Gundu Rao became the Chief Minister.

Two years later Devaraj Urs, who had emerged on the national scene as a dynamic leader and provided a new image to the State with his policies and programmes, including naming the State as ‘Karnataka,’ passed away, ditched by his close political associates, mental agonies and sickness hastening his end. It was the sad end   of a stalwart.

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