Clash of Titans

After Indiraji's victory, several important political developments took place. Janata Party government started creating trouble for Indira Gandhi. She was sent to jail for a week after cancelling her Lok Sabha membership through a Privilege Motion. Further, the Government appointed Shah Commission to look into the excesses committed during Emergency and the Grover Commission against the Devaraj Urs government in Karnataka.

Meanwhile, Devaraj Urs' popularity at the national-level had gone up after he had ensured Indira Gandhi's victory against all odds. This also made Urs over ambitious. This took him close to the anti-Indira group. Then, he was Chief Minister as well as President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. When the party High Command asked him to vacate the KPCC President post due to the one man-one post policy, he flatly refused. He also wrote a strongly-worded letter to Indira Gandhi.

I was in Delhi at that time. I got a call from Indira Gandhi. So I went to her house. She seemed worried. "Poojary ji, do you know Devaraj Urs, Chandrashekhar and Bahuguna. All of these have ganged up against me and are plotting to oust me from Congress. They have already held a secret meeting in Bengaluru in this regard," she said. I was completely unaware of these developments. "What to do now," I asked "We have to act now, Poojary ji. They are trying to finish me off. We have to do something to stop them." "Ok, we will do something," I said.

After the meeting I headed to Bengaluru. Then only 9 MLAs were with Indira Gandhi in Karnataka and rest all were with the Urs camp. I had developed some kind of fondness and closeness towards Urs. I thought it better to discuss the matter with him before taking any further step. After few days, Urs came to Delhi and he was holding a meeting of MLAs of his camp at Karnataka Bhavan. I went to the meeting. Minister Subbaiah Shetty and other leaders were present. "Don't desert Indira Gandhi. You are in number two position in the country now. Moreover, it is Indira Gandhi who has made you the Chief Minister and the KPCC President. You have won because of her. Even I have won because of her. So, it is not right on your part to desert Indira Gandhi," I told Urs in the meeting. But he was unrelenting. "Poojary, you are from backward community and you should be with me. I will break Indira into pieces and finish her off politically," he said. I was disappointed by his words. "This is not correct. Don't do this. Some people are trying to take advantage of your goodness and misleading you," I told him. Heated argument took place. "Tell me your decision. Will you stand by me or not? " Urs asked me with an intention to end the argument. "No, I will not. I will be with Indira Gandhi. Poor people call her Amma. Today she may have been facing some problems but she is the leader of the poor. There is no question of leaving her side," I told Urs without mincing words and stormed out of the meeting. On my way out, Urs' daughter Nagaratna came running towards me. "Poojary sir, don't leave my father," she told me. "Go and tell you father. What is he attempting to do? He was a man of commitment. What has happened to him? "I have also told him, but he is not listening to anyone." "He will suffer then," I said and left.

The war began a war within the Congress party. M Veerappa Moily, R Gundu Rao, Oscar Fernandes, S Bangarappa and thousands of workers were with us. Since Urs had the support of majority MLAs, the State Government did not fall. In order to prove our strength, we decided to invite Indira Gandhi to Bengaluru and organise a convention. On June 15, 1979, Indira Gandhi arrived at the airport. We brought her to Kumara Krupa Guest House in a procession. We were enthused by the large crowd that gathered enroute to just have a glimpse of Indira Gandhi. Next day, the Convention was held at the Glass House in Lalbaug and to my surprise Indira Gandhi asked me to move the Political Resolution. I went down the history as a youngest politician to move a Political Resolution of a National party. G K Moopanar, who had deserted Congress, rejoined it in Bengaluru. In my speech, I strongly criticized all Indira opponents including Urs. "You have cheated Congress. If there is God and justice in this country, your Government will go soon," I said to a thunderous applause from the crowd. I am told that Indira was happy with the speech after getting the same translated in Hindi.

Same evening, we organized a public rally at Shivajinagar in Bengaluru. I welcomed the gathering. While Indira Gandhi was addressing the crowd, somebody gave her a chit informing that Morarji Desai has resigned and his Government collapsed. She passed on the chit to me. After reading it, I went to the mike and announced the news. Suddenly, 'Indira Gandhi ki Jai', 'Congress party ki Jai' filled the air. There were celebrations, all around.

Congress party was breaking . So was in Bengaluru. Prior to the split, Indira Gandhi had summoned me to Delhi. When I went to her house, Indira was holding a meeting with Maragatam Chandrashekhar, Vasant Sathe and others. "You don't have to attend this meeting. You sit in this room," Indira said immediately on seeing me at her residence. After the meeting, she came to me and said: You know why I asked you to sit outside? Vasant Sathe and others are very close to Devaraj Urs. I didn't want them to know you are here. They should not know what our strategy is," she said in an indirect message that they could not be trusted. Maragatham Chandrashekhar was the Congress Working Committee member from Tamil Nadu and Mr Vasant Sathe from Maharashtra and was a Union Minister then.

After this, Congress officially split. AICC Session held at Delhi re-elected Indira Gandhi as AICC President. Bahuguna left congress. Devraj Urs government survived in Karnataka on the support of MLAs.

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