I was with Rajiv Gandhi during the 1991 Lok Sabha election campaign. He was AICC President then. On April 17-18, the two of us, went in a small plane to Chennai to hold talks with AIADMK for an alliance. I was the AICC General Secretary and in-charge of Tamil Nadu then. Talks were held in a very cordial atmosphere. Former Minister Dinesh Singh also joined the meeting. Lunch was arranged at Jayalalitha's residence. The food was very spicy and it was difficult to even swallow a bite. Rajiv's cheeks had turned red and he started sweating profusely as he ate. I ate very little. Despite this Jayalalitha kept ordering her staff to serve more. "Poojary ji has not eaten anything. Serve him," she ordered her staff.
She was unhappy with me because as a minister, I had made details of her tax dues, public. It was published in all newspapers. I had given similar details of Hema Malini also. Both complained to Rajiv against me."Is it true that you have provided wrong information to media?' Rajiv had asked me. "We have official records. Should we not be informing the details? " I asked. "Good. You did not provide incorrect information. Then don't worry'', Rajiv said. Perhaps, this incident was in her mind when she insisted that I ate more. "Poojary ji is a poor eater," Rajiv said, coming to my rescue.
Same evening, there was a mammoth joint rally of Congress and AIADMK. It was held on Marina Beach. After the rally, I and Rajiv flew back to Delhi in the same small flight. Sometimes Rajiv used to fly the plane. When we reached Delhi it was around 4 am. On nearing my residence, Rajiv got off the car and came inside the gate to see me off. " I will go Sir, You need not see me till the house. It is already late and a Central Election Committee meeting is at 7 am." I told him. "Poojary ji, I know that there are a very few people like you in Congress. I know who is who." He said and left.
The Election Committee meeting started sharp at 7am. I was at Rajiv Gandhi's residence as I was in charge of the Committee. The meeting announced my candidature from Mangaluru. As the process of finalising candidates was still going on, I told Rajiv Gandhi, "I need to go to Mangaluru to file nomination".
He said "Ok. All the best.". I proceeded to Mangaluru. Next day, Rajiv visited Mangaluru for campaigning. A rally was organized at Nehru Maidan. While coming from airport, Rajiv stopped at Kankanady where a huge crowd had gathered to see him. From there, he walked till Nehru Maidan (quite a distance). Around a lakh people had come to the rally. "Vote for Poojary. He is a very honest man. If there are five people like Poojary in Congress, the Party will never die," Rajiv told in his speech. From there Rajiv Gandhi went to Andhra Pradesh and then Chennai.
Copyrights © B. Janardhana Poojary
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