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.
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.”
“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
e-mail: [email protected]