Jaffer Sharief, the man behind Railways golden era

Jaffer Sharief, the man behind Railways golden era

Former union minister C K Jaffer

Former union minister and senior Congress leader C K Jaffer Sharief, best known for ushering in a golden era in the railways sector in Karnataka, passed away in Bengaluru on Sunday. He was 85.

Sharief suffered a major cardiac arrest at home and was rushed to a private hospital. He breathed his last at 12.30 pm. He will be laid to rest at Jayamahal burial grounds on Millers Road following namaz at Khadria mosque on Monday afternoon.

Born on November 3, 1933, in Chitradurga, Sharief started his political career driving the car of his political mentor and former chief minister S Nijalingappa in the late 1960s.

He was loyal to the Congress, but at times caused embarrassment to the party by making caustic remarks against the leadership.

Sharief was best known for his tenure as railway minister (1991-95) in the P V Narasimha Rao Cabinet. He brought several railway projects to Bengaluru and is credited with the task of broad gauge conversion across the country.

Sharief’s tenure at the helm of the Railways is known as the golden period for the state. He sanctioned 1,000 km of gauge conversion works out of the 6,000 km sanctioned to the entire country. This included conversion of section like Bengaluru-Guntakal, Bengaluru-Mysuru.

He also secured several new lines including Chitradurga- Rayadurga and Mangaluru-Roha. He was instrumental in getting the Wheel and Axle plant to Bengaluru. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of the South Western Railways and securing the Inland Container Depot and Railway Recruitment Board to the state.

It was during Sharief’s time that services like Shatabdi and Rajdhani were introduced from Karnataka and several rail over bridge and rail under bridges built. A seven-term Lok Sabha member, he represented Bengaluru North constituency without a break between 1977-96. He was denied a ticket in 1996 following his initials figuring in the infamous Jain diaries. However, he came back with a bang, winning the seat in 1998.

In 1969, Sharief took sides and joined the Indira Gandhi faction when the Congress split. It is said it was Sharief who sounded Indira Gandhi that senior Congress leaders were planning to expel her from the party for indiscipline.

This earned a reward for Sharief who was inducted into the cabinet as minister of state for railways by Indira Gandhi in 1980. He also served as the minister of state for coal in the Rajiv Gandhi government.

Popularly called “Jaffer bhai” in political circles, Sharief many a time wanted to enter state politics and even cherished the dream of becoming chief minister. However, that was not to be. The last time he contested elections was in 2009 from Bengaluru North constituency and was defeated by D B Chandre Gowda of the BJP.

In the last few years, Sharief fell out with the Congress leadership as he felt he was being sidelined. On several occasions, he threatened to quit the party, sulking for being denied a ticket to him or his family members. Sharief lost two of his sons in 1996 and 2008. He is survived by two daughters.