by Swatee Jog
My generation adored him because we had never seen anyone like him before. His greatness lied in being a statesman who truly looked at nation building beyond the realm of politics. We were final year UG students then, barely understanding what democracy is all about and the numbers that counted to form a government. Belgaum had major power cuts then, back in 1996 when he faced the floor test after just 11 days in the seat as the PM. And after scheduled power cuts, the KEB decided to save more power just as he got up to speak.
So I simply pulled out the bulb connected to my inverter and plugged my TV into the holder, just to see him speak. Although we did not know what exactly was happening, the sense of him having lost, sunk in heavily. Who knew it was a watershed moment in the history of the nation. That decisive moment perhaps forever redefined India’s realpolitik where numbers became more important than the will to serve the nation.
We could see a man steeped in idealism, with the will and the might to bring a proper rule, severely hurt by the game of politics. His words “सत्ता का खेल तो चलेगा. सरकारें आएंगी जाएँगी, पार्टियां बनेंगी बिगड़ेगी। मगर यह देश रहना चाहिए. इस देश का लोकतंत्र अमर रहना चाहिए” became the war cry of democracy. He remained stoic in spite of his defeat, but the hurt showed in his stance and his eyes as he walked away to tender his resignation, leaving a nation stunned. India was coming of age perhaps and these were the pangs of adolescence.
Like many highly blessed people, he had a command over words that were his strength and tools, but never a weapon. Words which he used sharply and achieved their objective to make a mark but never hurt anyone. Words that bound people together. Words that allowed a glimpse into the heart that bled with angst and pain but showed steely resolve nonetheless through his actions. Words helped him connect with the softer side of life. Words that he never shied to flaunt as a poet. He was fearless because he was upright and had nothing to lose.
Look how intellect, wit, thorough understanding of democracy, integrity, open mind and open heart and true respect for everyone, took him to places.
He ruled for a brief time, but his innings off court shone more than during his power years when most of his energy was spent in keeping the flock together. If only he had the mandate, perhaps, the nation would have seen a better day. There are many leaders today who have the potential to become stalwarts, irrespective of political affiliations. But few have the desire to look beyond politics. It’s a game now, to strategise about, to win or lose, not a lifelong mission. His going was ordained, but when you can sense a whole nation controlling a collective sob and a lump in its throat, you know someone has left behind a legacy of memories and ideals.
I know of few people who have left behind wealth for their heirs to enjoy but I know of one man who has left behind a mark. At least on me.