Thursday 29 February 2024

Calling spade a spade


 Calling spade a spade

Hari Desai

While giving tribute to Late Prime Minister Shri Morarji Desai on his birthday i.e. 29th February as a product of Navnirman Movement while studying at St.Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad under the guidance of our beloved Head of Economics Department Prof. Bababhai S.Patel, who spent all 19 months in Jail during the Black Emergency (1975-’77) and having my close interactions with Late PM Shri Desai at Mumbai during years in journalism(1977-’95), I recollect the incidents of the past. Only on 28th February 2016, I could get some answers for my unresolved questions from our beloved leader of Navnirman Shri Manishi Jani.

Morarjibhai, who aspired to be the PM after failing twice earlier, was very keen even to join hands with the then much maligned leader of Gujarat late Shri Chimanbhai Patel to defeat Congress in Gujarat ! Shri Desai was instrumental in demolition of Chimanbhai’s govt after his ‘very late’ fast in support of the students’ agitation. As Shri Jani has written and answered while giving tribute to Umashankar Joshi, Morarji’s eagerness to have support of Chimanbhai’s KIMLOP. Darling of students and celebrated poet Shri Umashankar had written about Morarji’s aspiration to be PM. Before the 1975 Assembly election, only Umashankar and Manishi had guts to object having any arrangement with Chimanbhai but political craving of others prevailed. While forming Babubhai Jashbhai Patel’s Janata Morcha Ministry, the support of KIMLOP was sought but to oust that ministry in Gujarat, the defection of two Jansangh MLAs was responsible !

Even during Morarji’s last days, the late PM continued to speak ill even in public of LokNayak Jai Prakash Narayan(JP), the person who along with Acharya Kripalani, made him the ‘conditional’ PM. On one such occasion at Mumbai, I, as a media person, had to object to Morarji saying “Who was JP?”, and my comment at the Yuva Janata meeting at its office opp. Yogkshema Building, Nariman Point was: “ He was the person who made you the PM. You were to resign after two and half years and support Chaudhari Charan Singh as PM.” He requested us in the presence of the media persons to keep his arrogant comments ‘off the record’ but all of us objected to. The event was widely covered by most of Mumbai newspapers next day.

Late CM Chimanbhai Patel was admitted in Janata Dal with a green signal from Morarji and he used to come to Mumbai at Govt Guest House opp. Mantralaya, Mumbai after the late PM shifted after vacating Oceana flat, which was also in govt possession. His son Shri Kanti Desai owned flat at South Mumbai, but Morarji had preferred to move to Government of Maharashtra Guest House as we were told his son had sold out the flat at Malbar Hill. Late CM Patel, having coalition govt with BJP, was very close to late PM Morarji who accepted the General Zia’s Pakistan award ‘Nishan-e- Pakistan’. Though he was opposed to giving Padma awards and considered them against the Constitution of India while suspending giving such awards during his PMship, he accepted Bharat Ratna in 1991 !

When Morarji died in April 1995, Maharashtra CM Shri Manohar Joshi had come to Ahmedabad for his last rites and declared that the Government of Maharashtra would have Morarji Memorial at Mumbai. The Shiv Sena Boss Balasaheb Thackeray, who was imprisoned for 3 days by Moraraji during Samyukta Maharshtra agitation, while abusing Morarji in most filthy language in his mouth piece i.e. Saamana Marathi Daily, declared he would not allow any such memorial on the land of Maharashtra. When most of the Gujarati leaders and writers as well as the press kept mum, I , as an Editor of Samakaleen Daily of Indian Express Group at Mumbai, preferred to challenged Thackeray with the headline: “Mumbai Bal Thackeray ni Bapiki Jagir nathi”. Furious Shiv Sena Chief, provoked by some nasty Gujarati elements of Mumbai, preferred to write a full length editorial in Saamana Daily titled:“ Haramkhor Hari !” and threatened me of murdering( Hari Hari Karoon Taknar) and asking Indian Express Chairman Vivek Goenka to “sack this Editor or else they will set the Express Tower on fire”.

Of course, Shri Goenka stood by me and gave me full freedom even to continue to criticize the Shiv Sena Boss without fear. I salute Goenka for showing the guts at that time. My thanks are due to Shri Sharad Pawar, the then Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council, who wrote to my friend and the then Deputy CM as well as Home Minister in SS-BJP Government Late Shri Gopinath Munde to provide me necessary security. I refused to take security and wrote back to Shri Pawar thanking him for showing concern for my life. Needless to mention that I had a very good rapport with not only Balasaheb but with most of his family members. Even after this traumatic episode Shri Uddhav Thackeray (Balasaheb’s son who is now heading Shiv Sena) along with Shri Subhas Desai( the then General secretary of SS and presently the Industries Minister in Maharashtra) had come to meet me at Express Tower office, Nariman Point and expected me to forget it as bad omen.

I am feeling proud that Editors Guild of India stood by me, supported me and issued statement after studying my writings during that episode. But alas, except  an Inland letter supporting me from Late Shri Manubhai Pancholi “Darshak” and an article in my support in ‘Gujarat Mitra’, the Surat Daily, by Shri Prakash N. Shah, none cared to support me from Gujarat and Gujarati media. Rather they prefer to keep mum, may be because of the scare of Shiv Sena which was in power in Maharashtra. I always remember Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Ekala Chalore ’ while performing my duty as a journalist following ‘Patrakar Dharma’.

Of course the episode fetched me the Government of Gujarat Award for Best Editorial Writing in 1998 without applying for the same. It was a moment of pride to receive the Award at the hands of former Deputy PM and Union Home Minister Shri LK Advani in the presence of the then CM Shri Keshubhai Patel and Cabinet Minister Smt. Anandiben Patel at SPIPA Auditorium, Ahmedabad.

My only message to the media persons and younger generation is: “ Speak out the truth in most dignified language. Follow the facts, avoid developing wasted interest and do not deviate from factual presentation.” As Mahatma Gandhi says: “Truth is God. Do not be scared of writing or speaking it out.” ( 28th February 2016.  From HD’s archives)



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