This is a deceptively simple autobiographical account of
one of independent India’s most respected political leaders.
Documenting events which made history in twentieth century
India with a clear-eyed assessment, Nijlingappa recreates an era when politics
was imbued with the ideal and passion of the freedom struggle and a galaxy of
visionary political leaders shaped the destiny of India. Nijalingappa’s
life-story also spans the last quarter of the twentieth century when, in
striking contrast, relative pygmies pre-occupied with self-interest took
Born in a poor village family in Karnataka, Nijalingappa
became a successful advocate by dint of hard work and long struggle. He was one
of the early leaders of Mysore Congress. His political activism eventually led
to his imprisonment and disbarment from legal practice.
Then followed a tumultuous political career of ups and
downs for the next several decades as he grew to national stature and a powerful
player in Congress politics. Nijalingappa served variously as president of
Mysore Congress and a member of the historic Constituent Assembly which also
crafted the Indian Constitution. Later, he became the first chief minister of
the re-organised Mysore state in 1956.
Nijalingappa’s term as Congress president (1968-71) was
marked by the historic Congress split when Indira Gandhi sought to become both
the supreme political leader of the country and the undisputed overlord of the
party. Nijalingappa lays bare the inner tug-of-war of this struggle.
Nijalingappa has many other revealing tales to tell as well:
Nijalingappa holds that Indira Gandhi’s victory in 1980
general elections finally led to the abandonment of the politics of principles
and ideals and public life grew completely divorced from public service.
Nijalingappa’s anguish is palpable at the total neglect by all political parties
of the Directive Principles laid down in the Constitution.
During his long innings in public life, Nijalingappa came
in close touch with the political stalwarts of the era. The book makes a signal
contribution in filling in many an interesting detail about their achievements,
character and quirks.
Written during the last years of his life, the book reveals
a man at peace with himself, serenely active till the last, ready for death with
the same equanimity with which he faced imprisonment and privation.