Lotus that Bloomed in the Mud
The title for this column might confuse a few of you. What is this? In place of the topic that readers were asked to expect as indicated in my last week’s column, something else is there! You might compare it to the forecasts of a BJP victory in the Bellary reelections even before the official results were out. Intellectuals need to condemn the vengeance politics spreading freely in our country promoted by individuals using innocent people like herds of sheep for their selfish needs. It is appropriate to remember the protocols that were in place for elections to district board and other local organizations under the Maharaja of Mysore in pre-independence India. If for any reason, an elected individual chose to resign a particular post, it was immediately filled by a candidate with the next highest number of votes from among the defeated candidates. There was never a reelection. It would be worthwhile to think as to what would be the scenario in present day Karnataka politics if those old protocols were still in place!
Whatever it is! This week’s column is certainly not about the dirty Bellary politics. This column is dedicated to a perfect gentleman who bloomed like a lotus from the mud with none of the mud sticking to him and engaged in state and national level politics. As discussed in my previous column, another book, ‘Kondajji Basappa' released by Vidhana Mandala Granthalaya Samithi as part of ‘pratibhAvamta samsadIya paTu pustaka mAlike’ (Exceptionally Talented Parliament Book Series) is written by the eminent litterateur of our state, Saa. Shi. Marulayya. This book has 5 chapters. The first chapter gives a brief biographical sketch of Kondajji Basappa. The second part covers the discussions held in the Assembly Hall while he was the State minister in the sixties. The discussions that took place in the Parliament Hall while he was the deputy central minister of health are presented in the third part. The fourth part presents the report on the organization of Karnataka Panchayat Raj that he presented to the government in his capacity as the president of that committee. An album displaying rare photographs of the family and public life of Kondajji Basappa forms the fifth part.
There are many people whose names are accompanied with prefixes and suffixes proclaiming the degrees they earned from Universities or the titles presented to them at various points in their lives. But for Kondajji Basappa, the only appendage to his name was his birthplace, Kondajji, which was near and dear to him. In fact, the name of the village Kondajji was identified more with his name rather than as the
location near the city of Davangere. He used to say, “If every officer or a state minister adopt and work for the welfare of just one village during their administration, we can turn India into a Ramarajya (the state of Sri Rama, the Lord-incarnate, in whose rule the state flourished and earned the distinction of being referred to as the ideal land of honesty, truth, and prosperity) within ten years.” The author of
the book above has given a vivid description of how Basappa used his village Kondajji as his work centre for the welfare of the Village and the State. In keeping with Basavanna’s words, ‘mRudu vachanavE sakala japaMgaLayyA, mRudu vachanavE sakala tapamgaLayyA, saduvinayavE sadAshivanolumeyayyA....’ (Soft speech is a prayer, soft speech is a meditation, and humility is the love for God...), Kondajji Basappa was a role model adopting simplicity and humility in his speech and actions. I always carry a small note book in my pocket to note down my thoughts and my tasks and it has helped me to act upon them without lapses. The scenario of Kondajji Basappa welcoming me to my country as I landed at Bangalore Airport after my studies at the Vienna University is still afresh in my mind. A round face, sharp eyes, large body build, adorned with a Gandhi cap on his head, jubba and pancha on his body, he presented an imposing and dignified personality. He never exhibited the arrogance of the power he held or the aura of a ministerial position. Incidences of many rare events that happened in his life are documented in the book mentioned above, and I have chosen a few to present here:
1. Once when he was a cabinet minister in the central government, he had attended a public event at Dharwad and afterwards as he left for Davangere, as per the police department protocol, a line of police vehicles started escorting his car from the front and the back. Kondajji alighted from his car. When the District Commissioner approached him to find out the reason he smiled at him, shook his hands and said, “You don’t need to follow me. I have fear of no one. You can go back to your station.”
As I was reading this incidence, I was reminded of two cartoons I had seen in some newspaper. In the first cartoon, a thief is walking with policemen. A child who sees this cartoon asks his father who that person in the picture is. Father explains, “The one in the middle is a thief, the one behind him and the one in front of him are the policemen.” In the second cartoon, a cabinet minister is going somewhere. There are several policemen both behind and in front of him. The child looking at this is excited and tells his father, “Look, a very big thief here, so many police for him!” Poor child, he cannot make out who is the thief and who is the minister, true, but does that really matter? In the current polluted political atmosphere, maybe we should agree with the child!
2. Kondajji Basappa was a man of poise but he was also very firm in his stance and would not yield to pressure of any kind. Once, a transfer order was issued for an Engineer to be moved to Bidar. He did not want to move to Bidar and tried to get the transfer order cancelled by sending a recommendation letter to Kondajji Basappa from a very good friend of his. Kondajji did not like it one bit. But he did not lose his patience. He wrote back to his friend, “Look, Bidar also is in our Karnataka State only. People just like you and I are there as well. Let the honorable gentleman’s service be available to them also. Please ask him to go there and report immediately as per the orders. Please do not take this personally.”
3. We could say that the other name for the Scouts and Guides Organization is Kondajji Basappa. Even though he resigned from the central cabinet minister’s post, he worked incessantly for the growth of the Scouts Organization until his last breath. As Chief Commissioner for that organization he had adapted a strict regimen in his lifestyle. He was extremely punctual to any meeting or a function. As a State Cabinet Minister, once he had to travel from Belgaum to Davangere to attend a function. His beloved wife Sarvamangalamma was also with him. The car they were in stopped on the way due to some mechanical failure. The driver reported that it would take a few hours to get it fixed. Thinking that he would be late for his commitment to be at the function, he got down from his car with his wife and hitched a ride in a pickup truck that happened to be going to Davangere. They arrived on time for the function. The minister’s arrival in a pickup truck did not lessen the respect of the people for him. Instead it enhanced their regard for him.
4. Domestic disputes often arise in the kitchen. For some daughters-in-law, the kitchens may turn into cemeteries by the incessant insults hurled at them by their In-laws. Kondajji was an exception to such belief. One of their daughters-in-law was a college graduate. Having been brought up with tender loving care by her beloved mother she was not taught the art of cooking to perfection. One day, the dinner she had cooked was not tasty enough for her husband. He got upset and threw an abusive tantrum at her. Kondajji who was dining with him would not tolerate this and took him to task. “Poor girl, she is new to the kitchen, maybe she forgot to add the salt. So what? Is it a big offence? Why do you have to throw such tantrums? Too much salt, doctors say, is not good anyway! For me the soup is fine! Less salty, but tasty. Son, finish your dinner,” admonished Kondajji.
Several such reputed individuals have made their mark in the history of each district. The present day children are seldom aware of such personalities. It is the desire of D.H. Shankaramurthy, the current speaker of the legislative assembly, to get the school children familiarized with the biographical highlights of such eminent leaders from their native districts instead of teaching them the history of the British Royal families. Could our Education Department accomplish this?
Dr Annapur Shivakumar
Chicago, IL, USA