I had played a key role in the 1980 elections and Indira Gandhi trusted me completely. Oscar Fernandes was Udupi Block Congress President then. Once I had been to the party office to attend a meeting. Since the hall was full and quite a few seniors were standing, I asked if somebody could arrange bench. In a matter of minutes, I saw Oscar Fernades coming from across the road with a bench on his shoulder. I realised that he was a field worker of the party.
T A Pai had left Congress. A search was on for a suitable candidate to take on Mr T A Pai. I suggested Oscar Fernandes' name to Indira Gandhi. "He is a field worker and we need to give ticket to him," I said.
"Do whatever you feel right," Indiraji replied. For next seven days, I along with Veerappa Moily met all members of the Congress Working Committee, Parliamentary Committee and Central Election Committee seeking ticket for Oscar. Gundu Rao was the only person from Karnataka in the party's seven member Election Committee. He was very powerful and very close to Indira Gandhi. During one of its meetings, the Committee cleared my name for Mangaluru Constituency. When the issue of selection of candidate for Udupi came up, Gundu Rao suggested K J George's name. George was Youth Congress President then and was settled in Bengaluru. "But Poojary gave me another name. His name is Oscar Fernandes," Indira Gandhi told Gundu Rao. Angered by this, Gundu Rao walked out of the meeting. I was waiting outside. "What has happened to you? You want Oscar to contest election from Udupi. He is T A Pai's agent," Gundu Rao told me seething with anger. "K J George is from Bengaluru. Make him contest from there. Oscar is a grassroot worker. A Honest person. He is going to win," I said. "Look Poojary, you are from my Constituency. I am your voter (Kodagu was in Mangaluru Constituency then). I will finish you off politically" Gundu Rao thundered. "You do whatever you want" I said, putting an end to the argument.
After elections were announced, I used to spend more time campaigning in Udupi than in my constituency Mangaluru. Whatever party funds was given to me, I passed it on to Oscar. On the last day of the campaign, in one of the programmes held on Car Street (Ratha Beedi) in Udupi, I announced "Oscar will win if there is truth in Udupi…if there is Lord Krishna." Results were announced. T A Pai lost his deposit against political green-horn Oscar.
Copyrights © B. Janardhana Poojary
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