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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 25

Importance of being Urs

Sunday 8 June 2008, by Nikhil Chakravartty

It is a rather ominous commentary on Indira Gandhi’s political manoeuvrings that just at the time when she is going to be arraigned before the Special Courts for some of her Emergency misdeeds she should work up a confrontation with Devaraj Urs, who undoubtedly commands the most stable component of her ramshackle political outfit.

Even at the level of demagogy, the main slogan of her party today is only to condemn the setting up of the Special Courts—an issue on which it had found itself hopelessly isolated in Parliament—ignoring larger issues like protection of the minorities, price rise, concessions to the USA, the issues she had been waxing eloquent about only a few months ago. From a tribune for the indictment of the Janata Government’s lapses for which many beyond her supporters were looking up to her, Indira Gandhi has reduced herself to a thoroughly defensive posture—as could be seen from Sanjay Gandhi’s rowdy demonstration on May Day on the Special Courts issue, the poor turn-out at her much-publicised Ramlila rally on the same issue, her cold feet over the Thanjavur by-election nomination, and finally the shriekings that have been started by her pack as the skeletons are coming out of Yashpal Kapur’s cupboard over Lalit Narayan Mishra’s murder.

The point to note is that there is no question of Indira Gandhi abandoning her worthy son Sanjay. This is being underlined over and over again in the last five years of her public carrer. From political pundits to psycho-analysts many may try to find a clue to this mystery of the mother’s attachment to the son, but to a common observer, it boils down to a case of a political leader with a shady record of her own being not in a position to jettison any member of the mafia over which she presides. Not only Sanjay, but Dhawan, Yashpal Kapur, Dhirendra Brahmachari and all the other tough operators of the gang are protected by the God-mother.

This alone is the cause of her displeasure with Devaraj Urs. By any normal standard, a politician at bay can ill afford to annoy a strong and useful ally. Of all the States in which Indira Gandhi could claim to have a hold one year ago, Karnataka came first because of the firm support extended by him to her. Now, after a year, the point of no-return has almost come.

Here, too, the dispute in essence is over the role of Sanjay Gandhi. Devaraj Urs with his political astuteness always regarded Sanjay as a heavy political liability for Indira Gandhi and has never ceased to advise her against bringing him back into active politics. She has often hedged the issue, but there has never been any let-up in promoting her son. If today Devaraj Urs is on the warpath, there is good reason for it. Because, Indira Gandhi is now blatantly backing the toughs in the Karnataka Congress-I who owe allegiance to Sanjay, and are hell-bent on destabilising the Urs Ministry.

Indications at the time of writing these lines are that the parting of ways between Indira Gandhi and Devaraj Urs is not far off, whatever game of hide-and-seek the Indira Congress Working Committee may intend to play. In the event of a proposed move of some of her cronies to induct Sanjay into the AICC and ultimately into the Working Committee materialising, there is no doubt that Devaraj Urs will dissociate himself from such a Congress.

If and when Devraj Urs leaves her Congress, it will definitely be a clarion call for many others in the Indira Congress to leave her. This, in turn, may lead not only to a regrouping of all Congressmen but a much bigger alignment which may embrace a substantial section of the Janata Party. Whatever might be the disciplinary action threatened to be taken by the Janata big-wigs against Raj Narain, there is hot going to be any slackening of the crusade against the Jana Sangh-RSS by a powerful section of the Janata. If some of the inside reports are to be taken seriously, Morarji Desai’s award on the question of the so-called dual membership may not come as a relief for the Jana Sangh or the RSS leaders. There is little prospect of the Prime Minister dittoing whatever his Jana Sangh colleagues in the party and the government may be demanding.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that there is more than one Hot Line between Devaraj Urs and some of the leading figures in the Janata. And if Indira Gandhi’s Sanjay folly drives Devaraj Urs to take the plunge and organise a political formation of his own, there is little reason why he may not join hands with a section of the Janata to bring about a totally new configuration in today’s politics.

This possibility of the growing importance of Devaraj Urs may spell the doom for many other aspirants to Prime Ministership after Morarji Desai. Jagjivan Ram, for instance, may find that one more opportunist leap-frog in which he is engaged now, may not really pay.

It is sordid politics all over, but certainly not dull.
(Mainstream, June 16, 1979)

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