Among my close friends during early years of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mithra till about 1994 was H.S. Shankaralingegowda. I came to know him when he barged into my office, an angry youngman in a white bushcoat tucked into his well pressed beige-coloured pants well held in place with a black belt and wearing black shoes. Well dressed. Lean, tall and swarthy. His speech was quick-silver in Kannada and smattering of English. He was angry and restless.
He had a complaint against one Tahsildar responsible for issuing rationed cement to people who had lined up in his office at Divisional Commissioner’s Office on Hunsur road with documents for their quota of cement. He accused the Tahsildar of corruption and discrimination and had quarrelled with him. It was then he came to Star of Mysore to publish a report against that officer.
It was an interesting news for a burgeoning newspaper and I took it. Most of the allegations he made were exaggerated, but I took the matter relating to the difficulties faced by the people and the confrontation he had with the Tahsildar as a result. I asked him if he had a photograph of his which he readily produced. The news was published and lo and behold, a political leader was born! And I acquired a new, dependable friend!!
At that time, he had quit his job as Manager of Janata Bazar and was running a Poultry Farm on Bogadi road, about 10 kms from his house near our Printing Press in what was then Thonachikoppal. He used to take me to his Farm twice or thrice in a week, have boiled eggs, sometimes chicken fresh from his own farm washing it down with few pegs of Rum. While leaving, he would load my motorcycle or car with trays of eggs and vegetables he was growing in the Farm. This was a routine for us, I guess, from 1979 to 1983, till he was elected Corporator from Janata Dal. During this period, our bonding as friends was such even Fevicol would need improvement over the quality of bonding!
Karnataka politics was dominated by two political parties, Congress and Janata Party (JP). Kempegowda was the President of JP and other top local leaders were Azeez Sait and Gurupadaswamy. The Saraswathipuram ticket for the Corporation election from JP was already decided. He was one whom I knew very well as my Club Member and Shankaralingegowda became an aspirant for this ticket. I spoke to the leaders, but they said the ticket was already given. But Shankaralingegowda was not the one to accept defeat easily. He had already burnt his boat with the City President of JP Kempegowda by describing him in a derogatory manner at an earlier occasion and which was tape-recorded by his rival for the ticket and played before the President. It fell to my lot to spend hours with Kempegowda to pardon my friend and support him by giving him the final ‘B-Form’ as the official candidate.
One day, early morning at 7 O’ clock, Shankaralingegowda came in his scooter to my house and insisted I must go with him to meet the JP leaders in city immediately as the final list would be announced by 4 pm. I was reluctant but yielded to his pressure; both got into my car and drove first to Kempegowda’s house in Saraswathipuram. We convinced him but more importantly he suggested that we meet three JP leaders — Azeez Sait, who was in the Government House, M.S. Gurupadaswamy in Agrahara and T.V. Srinivas Rao in Vidyaranyapuram. We did meet them all and finally were able to succeed in wangling the ticket that changed the destiny of my friend Shankaralingegowda forever. He won the election and never looked back.
At that time I was living on Kamakshi Hospital Road in a rented house. Twice I had faced serious threat of attack by powerful persons and was saved, nay, rescued, by Shankaralingegowda’s timely and very effective, nay miraculous, intervention. I will never forget this help all my life. He was a very courageous man, belligerent with a power of abuse nobody can match.
If I built a house in 1983 in Kuvempunagar, it was because of his moral support, persuasion and encouragement in many ways. He already had his own house and wanted his friend to have his own house. Financially he was not strong, but in his zeal, zest, confidence and courage I had not seen any one among my friends like him.
Just before the next Corporation election, I think, in 1989, there arose a vacancy for the Mayor’s office due to some reason. The period that remained was about six months. His party offered him the opportunity but he refused. I asked him why? His audacious reply was ‘who wants a few days Mayorship? I will try for a full term after the election.’ I knew he was trying for an MLA seat from Chamaraja Constituency and had already put me on the job! I told him that politics is a game of possibilities and hence he should accept this truncated term of Mayorship.
“What good work I can do within those six months? It will go against me in the next election due shortly.”
I teased him, “Gowdare, you are looking at the Corporation election. But I am looking at getting a ticket for you to contest the MLA election.”
He perked up. How?, he asked. Since by then I had some knowledge about how the candidates are selected and had even met Ramakrishna Hegde in his house with ticket-seekers delegation, I told him the reason. “Among other qualifications two important qualifications the High Command expected was your financial strength and the offices held in the Party. There are any number of Corporators. But Mayors are one or two who will be your competitors.” Gowda stopped me and said, “Who would bother about few months Mayorship?”
I told him, ‘Don’t worry; you were a Mayor. They do not care to read the details in your bio-data. They see the word Mayor and that is it. You are on par with your rivals for the ticket.’
Alleluia! Shankaralingegowda became the Mayor and also got the MLA ticket in the changed political situation as a BJP candidate and won in 1994. After this, our friendship began to wane and he began to call me his Guru in functions where I was present or whenever occasions arose. Thereafter, he was on a victory run winning from the same Constituency in 1999, 2004 and 2008. He was upset with B.S. Yeddiyurappa, BJP Chief Minister for not making such a senior party MLA, a Minister and quit the party, contested in 2013 as a JD(S) candidate and lost to Mayor Vasu of Congress. His political life thus got eclipsed and he passed away in April 2014, aged 67. I lost not only an old BEST friend but also a lovable Shishya, as he himself claimed me to be his Guru.
Note: Nostalgically Speaking – 6 on L. Revannasiddaiah, IPS (Rtd.), was published on Aug. 23. Watch out for Nostalgically Speaking – 8 on Prof. G.T. Narayana Rao next week.—Ed
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