When Jog splendour brought poet in Atal to the fore

When Jog splendour brought poet in Atal to the fore

The then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Sathya Saibaba and Gen Cariappa and others at Sri Sathya Saibaba Ashram in Whitefield, Bengaluru, June 20, 1978. DH ARCHIVES

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had close ties with Karnataka and had visited the state umpteen number of times both on political and private visits, besides spending a majority of the Emergency days at the central jail in Bengaluru.

A state leader most closely associated with Vajpayee was perhaps former Legislative Council chairman D H Shankaramurthy, who has known the veteran leader for more than five decades. Vajpayee stayed at Shankaramuthy’s residence in Shivamogga several times, including once when he was External Affairs Minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet in 1977. Vajpayee relished the ‘rasam’ prepared at Shankaramurthy’s residence.

Shankaramurthy remembers how Vajpayee had composed an impromptu shayari after witnessing the grandeur of Jog Falls when he visited Shivamogga for the then Jan Sangh convention in 1966.

Vajpayee and Shankaramurthy were on an election campaign in Belagavi in 1983  and due to the hectic schedule, the former skipped lunch. When they arrived at the Belagavi guest house at night, dinner service had closed. Vajpayee said he was famished.

Shankaramurthy said he went to the kitchen where the cook said there was just one chapati left. “I rolled the chapati in a newspaper and offered it to Vajpayeeji. He asked me whether I had dinner and when I said no, he cut the chapati into two halves and offered one to me,” Shankaramurthy said. In 1984, Vajpayee had lost the Lok Sabha elections to Madhav Rao Scindia (Congress) from Gwalior. Lakshimarayana, an avid follower of Vajpayee, committed suicide on hearing the news.

“I called Vajpayeeji and conveyed to him the news. Vajpayee rushed to Shivomogga, met Lakshimirayana’s family and offered them financial help. He asked me to meet the educational expenses of Lakshimirayan’s brother and sister,” recalled the BJP leader.

Shankaramurthy recalled that the last time he met Vajpayee was in 2006. “He was not able to speak much. But he recognised me and called me by my name,” he said.

In B’luru jail

During the Emergency, Vajpayee, L K Advani and other senior leaders were lodged at the Bengaluru central jail. At that time, former governor Justice Rama Jois had represented them in the High Court and succeded in getting their detention order quashed.

The High Court order was however subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court.

“Later, Justice Chandrachud expressed regret, saying he had made a mistake in the case,” Jois told DH.

Vajpayee was imprisoned for 18 months. Jois was put behind bars for 16 months  for representing Vajpayee and the others in court.

Jois said he used to translate Vajpayee’s public address in Karnataka (from Hindi to Kannada) and also advised him when he was the prime minister.