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Last Updated Friday June 05 2020 04:51 AM IST

India, Indira and Poojary: How Karunakaran scored a goal in Karnataka

Sachidananda Murthy
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India, Indira and Poojary: How Karunakaran scored a goal in Karnataka Devoid of intense controversies, the Congress insider account, released just ahead of the Karnataka elections, talks about Poojary's proximity to three former Congress prime ministers.

'India, Indira and Poojary' is the intriguing title of the political autobiography of former junior minister B Janardhana Poojary, who was an All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and twice the president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

The Kannada book, released ahead of the state assembly elections, is a narration of Poojary's proximity to three Congress prime ministers, who were also party presidents during the 1980s and 1990s.

In his book Poojary claims to have played a pivotal role in the political revival of Indira Gandhi and narrates how he spurned the post of Karnataka chief minister, not once, but thrice.

The book also runs down his political rivals in state politics, especially a former chief minister, who belonged to the same backward community as Poojary – both of whom vied for backward class leadership.

However, Poojary has spared the current chief minister Siddaramaiah of much criticism reserving it for a second volume.

Another interesting thing is that Poojary, who was the general secretary under Narasimha Rao in the 1990s and controlled the Congress organization for the wily prime minister, has several things to say about veteran Kerala Congress leader K Karunakaran and his influence in the selection of Veerappa Moily as the state chief minister, after the dramatic ouster of Bangarappa from the post.

Poojary revels in narrating how Rao had taken an intense dislike for the rebellion of Bangarappa in 1992 as the chief minister had called the prime minister a 'political scorpion'.

According to Poojary's book, Rao told him that if Bangarappa did not resign within the set deadline of a few hours, he would be arrested and paramilitary forces will be deployed in Karnataka.

Soon, Bangarappa, who had sided with Sonia Gandhi in the internal tussle of the Congress party, resigned.

The references 8in the book haven't gone down well with all as Bangarappa's son, Madhu, an MLA of Janata Dal (Secular), has threatened legal action against Poojary for defaming his late father.

The narrative also touches on how Poojary failed in elevating S M Krishna as the chief minister of Karnataka, even though he claims Krishna, as assembly Speaker, had the support of more MLAs than his adversary.

That was because K Karunakaran wanted the job for his protege M Veerappa Moily, whom Poojary hated the most in the politics of their native Dakshina Kannada district.

India, Indira and Poojary: How Karunakaran scored a goal in Karnataka

Poojary vehemently argued against trusting Moily, saying even Indira Gandhi, who was dead for seven years, had told Poojary that Moily was very unreliable.

Rao, who feared displeasing Karunakaran, said no to Krishna. However, Rao and Karunakaran fell out soon and Karunakaran lost the chief minister's job in Kerala following a strong rebellion within the Congress and the United Democratic Front (UDF).

Poojary had to wait for another seven years before Krishna could be sworn in as chief minister. By then, Sonia Gandhi was the Congress president.

Poojary, who was known for organizing loan melas for the poor by nationalised banks across the country during the early 1980s and for his tirade against bank managers, has been controversial throughout his career of four Lok Sabha and two Rajya Sabha terms.

He has also attacked corruption and the lavish lifestyle of Congress leaders, and he hardly accepts any hospitality when he is traveling.

At present, he remains sidelined by Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Parameshwar, and has lacked support from the Congress high command in the past few years.

His admirers attribute this to his strong individualism and a tongue which spares none though the backward class leaders in Congress, like Moily and Siddaramaiah, have accused a 'jealous' Poojary of trying to wreck them.

However, Poojary's claim that he was witness to Sonia Gandhi requesting Rajiv Gandhi not to accept the prime ministership after Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31, 1984 has been contested by insiders, who insist that by the time Poojary reached Delhi from Mangalore on that day, Rajiv Gandhi had already consented to become the prime minister.

P C Alexander, then secretary to the prime minister, said that there were no Congressmen present when Rajiv and Sonia had an emotional discussion over the issue.

While the focus is mainly on Congress affairs, Poojary does deviate like when he says Deve Gowda lost his prime ministership because he had failed to honour a promise to visit a temple in south Canara.

Coming shortly before the Karnataka elections, it is yet to be seen whether Poojary's book will spice up the ballot debates in the southern state.

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