Nostalgically Speaking — 10: Azeez Sait, Tallest Minority Leader of Mysore City, State
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Nostalgically Speaking — 10: Azeez Sait, Tallest Minority Leader of Mysore City, State

September 20, 2020

When I came to Mysore for good in 1977, D. Devaraj Urs was the Chief Minister and Azeez Sait from Mysore city, NR Constituency, was a Minister. Azeez Sait was considered the right-hand man of Devaraj Urs as a Cabinet Minister. Devaraj Urs was Indira Gandhi’s most favoured Congressman in Karnataka though he belonged to a minority Urs community. The reason was that he stood with her when INC split in 1969.

In the ensuing 1972 Assembly elections, as President of Indira Congress, Karnataka, he romped home victorious and Indira Gandhi amply rewarded him by crowning him as the Chief Minister, brushing aside claims of others. He was the CM from 1972 to 1977 and again from 1978 to June 1980. All through this period of rule, Azeez Sait was an important Cabinet Minister in Devaraj Urs Ministry.

Star of Mysore was started on 16th February 1978 and Azeez Sait was the Minister from Mysore city, hence all-important. I used to cover all his functions myself in those days and I found him a most volatile and outspoken Minister compared to others. It was easy to build a rapport with him as he was a good, helpful politician. Sometimes he would be tough depending upon the situation or the questions journalists ask. He was very articulate and carried a smile on his face that would disarm you. I liked him very much as a journalist.

I remember the days of cold war going on between Indira Gandhi and Devaraj Urs after Janata Party came to power in the Centre (post-Emergency) while here in Karnataka, under Devaraj Urs, Indira Congress came to power. It was the trusted Azeez Sait who was chosen to be Devaraj Urs’ emissary to talk to Indira Gandhi and other Congress leaders in Delhi. I remember the day Azeez Sait was surrounded by an array of journalists (in those days of no TV) to get to know the NEWS and the smart way Azeez Sait would ward off those questions. However, Devaraj Urs was toppled by his own protege R. Gundu Rao, who was close to Sanjay Gandhi and Azeez Sait naturally found himself adrift, at a loose-end going with his friend Devaraj Urs for a time and later joining Janata Party in 1982 and becoming a Minister.

I guess among a very few Karnataka politicians Azeez Sait was the one who never saw defeat in electoral politics, no matter from which party,   except one, that too by default of a confusing election symbol, if I remember right, when BJP’s Maruthi Rao Pawar defeated him in 1994 from NR Constituency. No wonder he was a Legislator for an uninterrupted tenure of 17 years from 1967 to 1984.

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Curiously, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Dharwad South Constituency in 1984 (that year in October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated) and won. Now let me get a tad personal.

Present BJP MP from Chamarajanagar V. Sreenivasa Prasad had also won the election as an MP in that year. That was the time Star of Mysore was planning to shift to its present location in Bannimantap with its own building and new modern Rotary Printing Machine. Sometime in 1986-87 Sreenivasa Prasad told me that he was going to Delhi to attend the session. I told him that since I had to visit a machine manufacturing factory at Noida, I would like to go with him to Delhi for a week. He was too happy and we landed in Delhi. When I told him that I was moving to a hotel as arranged, he insisted I should stay with him in his Quarters (or Hostel) with enough rooms and a regular kitchen running. I had to yield to his hospitality.

Once there, I was awestruck. He was running a dasoha, a free kitchen to all those who visited him from Karnataka. Indeed a generous host, attending to their problems, including getting the Railway tickets!

One afternoon, we both were getting out of the Parliament House and walking to our car. He was much ahead of me and at a particular point who do I see? M.S. Gurupadaswamy, Rajya Sabha Member. We exchanged pleasantries and I took leave of him. A few steps and across the road, whom do I see? Azeez Sait, MP, Lok Sabha, with his walking stick in one hand, in his usual spirit of ‘hail the fellow well met’ calling me by name ‘Ganapathy, Ganapathy.’ I always addressed him as Sir and asked, “Sir, what are you doing here?”

“Waiting for my vehicle. What brought you here?”, he asked surprised.

I explained to him my errand and about Sreenivasa Prasad. “Where is he? Call him. I will drop you to your place.” In the meanwhile Sreenivasa Prasad joined us and there was a comfortable conversation amongst us. Finally, Azeez Sait sprang a surprise. “Why don’t you join me for dinner at 8 O’ clock. I am lucky to get a bungalow allotted.” He gave the address.

“Well Sir, if Prasad agrees I am ready,” I said looking at Prasad. So it was we were at his house at the appointed time.

Both Prasad and I were surprised to find many people crowding his compound and also inside the house. However, as Sait was expecting us he had made arrangements to receive us. We were ushered in and seated inside the house while Sait was disposing of his supplicants. When he came to us, apologising for the ‘mess’ as he put it, Prasad asked “Who are these people? They are not from Karnataka.”

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“Yes, that worries me. Our people do not know how to get help from their MPs. These people are from Bihar and UP. Their MPs are busy otherwise, so those Muslims come to me!” It was a kind of revelation for me but our subject of conversation changed to our ‘home ground’ and family matters. What a wonderful, engaging conversationalist Azeez Sait was! I realised that more than a good politician, who transcended parochial sentiments, he was a good human being. 

There was a black and white small portable TV on the table put in silent mode. For those days it was a novel gadget for me. I expressed my wonder and asked where I could get it in Delhi. “Why, take this. I don’t need it,” he was quick in answering. Of course, I said ‘thanks’ and forgot about it. Needless to say that the dinner, preceded with appetiser, was divine.

Sait was a heavy smoker, nay a chain-smoker so much so once at a public meeting in front of the City Railway Station entrance with Chief Minister Devaraj Urs on stage, he was busy taking the last  puff of the cigarette before going on the stage. I was covering the function and heard the Chief Minister turning around and calling out Sait loudly to come on the stage in Kannada using a slang.

Once I had gone to the B.M. Hospital, where he was admitted and was surprised to see him smoking comfortably! Of course, on seeing Dr. C.B. Murthy with me he put out the cigarette with his disarming smile. He was a gentleman.

I also remember R. Gundu Rao, after his Chief Ministership, visiting my partner C.P. Chinnappa’s house in Ramakrishnanagar along with Azeez Sait for lunch. Two days later Sait reciprocated with a lunch for Gundu Rao inviting my partner and me in his fabulous house with a balcony over the dining hall. Needless to say the lunch was heavenly meant for Gods but we humans allowed to enjoy! What a host Azeez Sait was. Very generous and attentive on his guests’ needs. A colourful politician of our city whom I always remember. I am happy now his son Tanveer Sait represents his  NR Constituency and carries on his rich legacy.

Note:  Nostalgically Speaking – 9 on ‘S.G. Sanath Kumar, Head Master of Hardwicke High School’ was published on Sept. 13. Watch out for Nostalgically Speaking – 11 on ‘Kempaiah IPS: Officer Who Made A Difference’ next week. —Ed

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12 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Nostalgically Speaking — 10: Azeez Sait, Tallest Minority Leader of Mysore City, State”

  1. A. R. Char says:

    Mr. Azeez Sait was responsible for NIE getting a site for its expansion while Mr. Sait was a minister. The story goes that the day before the site registration, he was replaced as a minister and he was not sure about the intent of the new minister. Therefore, he absconded without transferring his position. Only after the NIE site registration was over, he came out and transferred his portfolio to the new minister. As a mark of respect and thanks, one NIE building is named in his honor.

  2. Strangeworld says:

    The NIE site on which the main building stands now was obtained BEFORE Aziz Sait was a minister and indeed BEFORE he was a politician.
    His son, not sure which one was, was a student of NIE who I taught – a good and quiet student. He introduced Mr Sait to me, when he took private tuition for some weeks with me.
    Mr Sait was an unassuming good man. The only MLA and a Minister who did good to Mysuru.

  3. Hare Krishna! says:

    Aziz Sait did more to Mysuru than Siddu did as the CM and with a constituency in Mysuru. His son was a student of NIE in late 1960s. A quiet student too.
    NIE had its extended site in late 1950s when we were stude nts, the site then was a mound and a good place for Survey practice with our civil engineering friends setting up their theodolites and Ramamrutham was teaching them how to use it. In that site was erected a huge pendal where VP Radhakrishnan gave a good speech,
    The mistake which many felt was not to move to Manasagangothri area when spece was available there, which would have put this institution in a different footing at a time when Srinaivasa Mallya MP , realising that NIE was not interested in becoming a regional engineering college which was offered according to reports in late 1950s, lobbied his mentor Lan Bhadur Shastri get the regional college to Surathkal, his toddy-tapping arid constituency, which became for all practical purposes a UOM engineering college. Now, UOM is looking to establish a university engineering college along the lines of UVCE.
    Aziz Sait was bold and helped those who came to him for help. A very unassuming person indeed.

  4. Jalandara says:

    I agree with the above 2 posters. Mr Sait was a very good MLA and a MP for Mysuru. He raised his sons well, one of who iwas a NIE student in 1960s as the above 2 posters said.
    There was no necessity for any one to interfere and get the extended site for NIE. Manadavadi Road was not a prime road then in 1950s and early 1960s. My friend bought a land beside the road and built a large workshop for repairs of lorries,
    YES, as the above posters said, NIE missed the bus. Its enemies have always been its Governing Council members, greedy for power and not looking at the bigger picture. Their BS have always been that the institution is like a family. Often, one has to leave the family to build himself better prospects.
    JSS engineering college established by the Suttur Seer decades later , looked for better opportunities under his guidance. It is now a science and technology university, with powers to define its own standards and directions. A university can collaborate with any other university within and outside India as an independent entity. its opportunities are massive.
    NIE is like an “also ran horse in a horse race ‘ and is now ranked below many engineering colleges in Karnataka. Once, it was the top institution in Karnataka. Now, it operates under a university which sets standards and directions. what a pity!
    Mr Sait would have helped had he was approached when he was a minister. but no one did. Independent engineering colleges have hard time despite their ancient reputation.

  5. Strangeworld says:

    Correction: Azeez Sait

  6. A. R. Char says:

    Mr. Strangeworld:

    All persons (including an old minister) who were responsible for the main NIE site were honored at the Golden Jubilee function. The site for which Mr. Azeez Sait was responsible is for the extension. If you visit that extension of NIE, you will see the building with his name.

    As I read the responses, most of the students who passed through NIE in good old days were attached to the institution. It was like a big family. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the governing council had the same feeling.

    Comparing NIE to JSS:

    1. JSS at the initial stages was a donation college. No way you could compare it to NIE at the beginning.
    2. JSS Swamiji (whom I know) is a great administrator. He took Mr Dhananjayan from NIE and made him the Principal. He hired very good staff, even some from NIE, and gave them good support. In the meantime, NIE was loosing its good staff.
    3. JSS Swamiji also had a long range plan and he had a good team to execute it. I really don’t know what NIE governing board was doing at that time.
    4. NIE had a very good and successful alumni group. Till today, they don’t know to use them.

    I know there is a difference of opinion whether NIE should have given the institution to the government to grow bigger. Personally, I feel that it should remain independent and get a good and effective governing council.

  7. A. R. Char says:

    Correction:

    4. NIE had a very good and financially successful alumni group scattered around the world. Till today, they don’t know how to use them.

  8. Strangeworld says:

    @A R Char
    Have you observed, why Azeez Sait was not invited as a chief guest in any of the ceremonies held in the NIE those days. Neither the great Jatachamaraja Wadiyar. If Mr Sait was so important, why was he not invited for a visit and feted during his ministerial years. I knew Azeez Sait well as I was his son’s private tutor. . He may have have helped for some other acquisition of the land like the hostel for example, but certainly not the land of the main building now.
    It appears that you have no idea how NIE started: as a donation institution until in the late 1950s, when the places were open to merit and still at least 20% of the places were held for donation by the governing council members for several years. Even today, some percentage of places are given for donation. They gave a percentage of the donation, and pocketed the rest. Again, you are not well informed at all.
    I belonged to an earlier batch of students and unlike you I worked in the institution teaching after graduation, and after working for several years in the industry. You have a second hand information.
    My relatives knew the earlier Suttur Seer well, who developed the JSS. He was the one who lured the bright faculty members, who were denied promotion at the NIE, as they were not the darlings of the Governing council members. NIE Governing council members practiced the worst discrimination one could not find any where.
    In your past post months ago, you repeated this silly notion of being in a family, which even a die-hard NIE loving student would not say.
    You have the cosy notion of NIE as a family, but many do not, as having enrolled , and spending 2 years, seeing the mechanical and EE departments not equipped at all, with no real speedy attempts made in that direction, we were asked to go to the government engineering college, Bangalore ( UVCE now) to complete our 3 rd year and 4th year workshops and labs in a fortnight, each year, forking out our own money for travel and accommodation. Doing these labs in a fortnight in 3rd and 4th year does not help a student at all, and still on the top of that most exam papers then were set by the professors of the government engineering college ( UVCE now) , the rest by the BMS professors, leaving just 1 or 2 as an eye wash for NIE professors. In your case, I guess it was regional engineering college Surathkal in mid-to late 1960s and there after, which held the sway.
    It also appears having lived in the US, you do not have much knowledge of US universities . I do, and I studied in one of the Ivy League universities. Except the top dozen private universities there, the rest flourish because they are state universities funded by tax Dollars. Do you know, why California, opted for state universities in 1960s, when they have to create more universities, besides Stanford and Caltech?
    Sutuur swamiji did this, and got well rewarded. The NIE governing council members always were scared of letting to go their powers. Otherwise, Info Sys founder Narayana Murthy would have gladly become the chair of the governing council: he,one of our old students desired it and was never invited for decades. He would have developed the institution much better. He arrived at the scene just 4/5 years ago, and his group who managed the institution then, have since left.
    You mentioned NIE Alumni. Why should they fork out their own money to be given to these Governing council members today, who do not deserve a single cent?
    Thins look good, on a fleeting visit , like Ganges on a boat! On closer study like a dip or looking at the what this institution did by way of mismanagement, things do not look cosy. Hope , the next time, you do a critical analysis

  9. Hare Krishna! says:

    Hello Char
    Do you know NIE started as a donation college, and only in late 1959s opened for competitive places on merit, but still retained 20% places for donation?
    1. A fine supporter like Azeez Sait was never a chief Guest in NIE functions.
    2. HH Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was never invited .

    The above should tell you not to be blinkered with this nonsensical family notion. Did you know, how students who entrolled before you suffered from lack of lab facilities in mechanical and electrical engineering departments?
    Obviously, you do not know much about state -owned institutions.
    Best to learn better.

  10. Jalandara says:

    Hello Char
    If Azeez Sait was instrumental in securing the land you mention, why was he not invited for a recognition and thanks-giving ceremony at NIE?
    Why was he merely mentioned?
    As I said above, he helped every institution in Mysore, including the JSS, which he visited . So also HH Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. HH Wadiyar was never invited to NIE. The sheer arrogance of the governing body, showed.
    May I suggest that you remove your tinted glasses, and . consider what the visiting NIE Principal told you with a huge spoonful of salt or what you learned with a quick visit.
    This is a declining institution, has been since mid 1970s , and good students has been going to JSS lured by the excellent facilities there. Good academic staff too, who were not promoted or selected because of the despicable nepotism practised by the governing body.
    Now, how did NIE function for 2 decades, since its beginning? As a donation college. only at the time of first batch of PUC student applicants, it was forced to accept the government grant, and hence the seat allocation by Merit to the extent of 80% seats. The rest 20% was filled through donations and governing body members, pocketed thousands of Rupees, giving only part of the donations to the college exchequer.
    The Iyengar clan of the mech engineering department might have boasted the notion of family. But, it was not the family wanted by those who entered the institution in 1958/59,on merit, but they wanted well equipped mech and elect workshops and labs. They never got it. Instead, they were forced to go to Bangalore government engineering college-UVCE now, to squeeze 1 year worth of the mech and elec labs in 20 days each year during 3rd and 4th years.
    Perhaps, you arrived in later years, and found your Iyengar clan so cosy in mech engineering, like a family!! They were responsible along with the governing body for dragging the institution down. Suttur Swamiji aware of this, did well. a visionary he was. By the way, how do you know him?
    Interesting, the founder’s son, the then Principal during the Golden Jubilee ( he entered mech engineering through back door, rose quickly, as the nepotism kicked in!), remembered NRN of InfoSys and invited him. But then , NRN was always interested in governance to develop it, but was not given a chance, until 5 years ago, too late. Neither Azeez Sait or HH Wadiyar.
    It appears not only you are not aware of the limitations of private institutions in India, but in US too. NIE is not MIT or Harvard. Even these 2 are exceptionally funded through a variety of federal agencies. Now that JSS has become a university, NIE is fast on declining curve.
    NIE alumnus like you want to donate your Dollars? Do it and demonstrate what a bunch of US -based NIE Alumni can do, by way of giving their hard earned Dollars. I will not do it. I know, you are talking sheer nonsense,.
    If the present governing body have the institution’s progress in mind, they should offer it to the UOM, which wants a university engineering college.
    The JSS university will move forward fast with excellent faculty , and that will see this institution sink further.
    Pedling family nonsense, sounds good for a senior citizen, but not for a budding engineer who enters as a NIE student.

  11. Hare Krishna! says:

    Correction: late 1950s

  12. Rao says:

    Hey Char and poster folks
    Let us have better thoughts about Azeez Sait who did so much for Mysuru and should be remembered as a very decent MLA and MP who cared for the City,
    Hey Char, stop being a deluded evangelist for NIE, whose successive governing body members pocketed the donation money for the seats they held ( still they hold as not all 100% of seats are for open merit even today), practiced the worst kind of nepotism and political shenanigans, and with the result, its best days were over 4 decades ago. It is now an aged lion which does not roar! There is only one engineering institution worth considering in Mysuru and it is not this.
    As for you, being a senior citizen in the US, hope you have adequate medic aid to combat the virus menace sweeping there.

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