This write up on Late Jagannatha Rao Joshi, senior RSS pracharak and a front-ranking leader of the Jana Sangh and the BJP, on his 19th death anniversary on Thursday, the 15th July 2010 by Ramachandra Gowda, Hon’ble Minister for Medical Education, Govt of Karnataka.
‘NO man is a hero to his valet’ is an age-old English saying. It means that no matter how big or great a man is to the world, his valet (a close personal servant) would not consider him a hero, because the valet would have had chances to come across the personal weaknesses or inadequacies of his master.
But this English saying would be wrong, in so far as late Jagannatha Rao Joshi is concerned, because as I went more and more nearer to him during the five-decades of my association and acquaintances, my respects and regards not only increased every time but also became a reverence.
Though I had met him in the 1948 RSS camp at Yeshwanthpur, my rapport with him became stronger when I started working for the Bharatiya Jana Sangh 1952. But the bonding became deeper starting 1962 when I camped in Gokak, Belgaum district, for his by-election. Once I spent almost three hours with him sitting in the car when our vehicle developed problem during the by-elections from Chikamagalur in 1978. It was during those three hours I could see the “Vishwaroopa Darshana” of Jagannatha Rao Joshi. World history, world geography, historical events, places and personlities were on his finger tips.
Karnataka Kesari Jagannatha Rao Joshi (1920-1991) was versatile personality, great in all respects – absolute dedication to the nation, unwavering commitment to the ideology, courage of conviction, a fine orator who made thousands of people spell-bound, abundant presence of mind and a great sense of humour.
Having born in Nargund, the town named after Nargundkar who was the hero of the 1857 first war of Indian Independence, in 1920 (the year in which Lokmanya Tilak died), Jagannatha Rao Joshi went to Pune and joined Fergusson College in where he graduated in arts and law. That Jagannatha Rao Joshi chose Pune (a culturally vibrant city; the karmabhoomi of Lokmanya Tilak; and the city which also gave to the country the first revolutionary in Vasudeva Balwant Phadke) as his launching pad for RSS activities is not a mere coincidence but nature’s design.
Destiny, which wanted him to be a national leader, made him to go from Pune to Delhi as a full-time activist of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later took him through the length and breadth of the country for very many times. The roar of this Karnataka Kesari (Karnataka’s Lion) could be heard from Kutch to Kamrup and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Jagannatha Rao Joshi got the slogan changed – Attuck to Cuttack – to Kutch to Kamrup – to describe the breadth of India.
That his nation-wide tour made him a polyglot – proficient in as many as eight languages such as English, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Bhojpuri and Marwadi – needs no mention. He was as comfortable in Hindi as he was in Kannada or Marathi, both while addressing a mammoth public meeting or workers training camp. A man of mathematical precision and a keen acumen to grasp anything and everything, Jagannatha Rao Joshi was meticulous to the last detail.
June 23, 1955 was a red-letter day in Jagannath Rao Joshi’s life. For, it was on this day – his 35th birthday – he led thousands of RSS and Jana Sangh workers to Goa in order liberate that coastal city from the clutches of the Portugese. Though India had become free from the British in 1947, Goa was still ruled by the Portugese.
It became necessary on the part of the RSS and Jana Sangh to launch Liberate Goa movement as the Congress government headed by Prime Minister Nehru did not thought of any action. It was Jagannatha Rao Joshi who coined the slogan, “Nehruji ab kya kareh, police lekar Goa chaleh, police lekar Goa chaleh.” (Nehruji what shall we do now? Let’s take police and go to Goa) But Nehruji remained silent. It was then Jagannatha Rao Joshi commanded the Army of RSS and Jana Sangh activists and marched into Goa. As a part of the nation-wide movement for liberation of Goa, a protest march was organized in Bangalore. I am proud to say that I too participated in the march and contributed a little for the liberation of Goa.
Jagannatha Rao Joshi was arrested by the Portugese Army and was taken to Fort Aguada prison because Jagannatha Rao Joshi had entered Goa without a permit – as then required. It was almost akin to Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee entering Kashmir without a permit and imprisoned in Srinagar Central Prison.
Joshi was asked by the judge why he had come to Goa without a permit. Jagannatha Rao Joshi roared like a lion and said, “I have come to Goa to ask why you (Portugese) have come to Goa. Goa is a part of my motherland and I have right to go any part of my motherland.” This statement was similar to what Dr Mukherjee told Sheikh Abdullah – that Kashmir was an integral part of Mother Bharat and he had right to go any part of Bharat.
This statement of Joshi made a splash in the media and rightly got the epithet Karnataka Kesari (Karnataka’s Lion). Though he was imprisoned along with hundreds of RSS and BJS activists, Joshi, however, was condemned to solitary confinement. As the British, did the Portugese too saw in Jagannath Rao Joshi, shades of Savarkar?
An expert in the art of inter-personal communication, either with a huge audience or small team of activists, Jagannath Rao Joshi always spoke exactly the same what the party workers had in their mind. Such was his ability to establish telepathic contact. This was possible because Jagannatha Rao Joshi’s hand was always on the nation’s pulse; his mind was always glancing this vast motherland – from Hindukush to Hindu Ocean – from the hoary of the past to glory of the future; he had the knowledge of the past; awareness of the present; the vision of the future.
A quintessential organizational man to whom politics was a tool to bring about a total transformation in the society, Jagannatha Rao Joshi dissuaded me from quitting BJP as I had developed differences with the then President A.K.Subbaiah. He told me, “Gowdaji, we have joined politics not that we could not digest what we eat, but to effect a qualitative change in all walks of national life. It is also not that we do not have anything else to do that we are in politics. We have an aim, we have a goal. Individuals hardly matter; it is the ideology, the mission and the institution that we should be concerned of. Do not talk of quitting. Keep working; keep marching ahead.” At that time, he was Sri Krishna to me.
His sense of humour had a serious message too. A party worker once came to the Railway Station early in the morning to receive Jagannatha Rao Joshi and offered him a garland. He introduced himself and said he runs a vegetarian hotel. Joshi’s instant response was, “As a proprietor of hotel, you ought to have brought upahaara (breakfast) instead of the haara (garland). Everyone of us, including Jagannatha Rao Joshi, had a hearty laugh. But the message was so strong and powerful, the worker made it a point to come with the breakfast as long as Jagannatha Rao Joshi was in town.
Another time, Jagannatha Rao Joshi was indisposed. A doctor advised him to take light food. After three days, he went to the same doctor, as the problem aggravated. After all the check up, doctor asked him what food he was taking. Joshi cooly replied, “You asked me to take light food. But I took the lightest food.” The doctor was surprised. What is the lightest food? Joshi explained in as-a-matter-of-fact-tone; “Doctor, water is light, more lighter than water is oil as it floats on water. But the lightest is that which floats on oil. What floats on oil? Bajji, Pakoda, Bonda, etc,etc. So, I took these lightest food.” Doctor had nothing to say, except to appeal with folded hands to adhere to diet as he was precious to the nation.
Jagannatha Rao Joshi’s eating habits was the talk of the town. Once, the car in which we were travelling had to stop due to railway level crossing. He asked me, “Gowdaji, Why are we wasting time. Look there, that boy is selling guava fruits, there is groundnut, there is cucumber. Get all these and see if you can also get bajji and pakoda.
He was so simple and modest that even an ordinary worker could take liberty with him, exchange jokes and discuss anything and everything under the sun. No issue was big to be avoided or small to be ignored.
The last time I saw Jagannatha Rao Joshi was on July 9th 1991 at Pandit Deenadayal Research Cancer Institute in Pune. My friend Hemantha, who was fortunate to be with this legendary leader, called me and told about the critical condition of Jagannatha Rao Joshi. I left for Pune with a few of my friends and workers.
The Lion was lying in coma; no more roaring and no more moving here and there. The sight was poignant. But I was lucky in a way. It was on the same day RSS stalwart Yadava Rao Joshi visited the hospital at Pune. Yadavaraoji was adamant that he and Jagannatha Rao should speak to each other. Two injections, each costing Rs 6000 in those days, were administered. Jagannatha Rao Joshi regained conscious, albeit for a few minutes, and the first name he uttered was Hemantha, who immediately told that Yadavaraoji and Ramachandra Gowda were here.
Jagannatha Rao Joshi eyes glowed and raised his hands with the gesture of namaskar. Yadavaraoji held his two hands and wept inconsolably. It was a rare sight to see two stalwarts talking only through their countenances. Then Jagannatha Rao Joshi extended his hand towards me which I held for a few minutes. It looked as if time stood still. I touched his feet and took his blessings.
The effect of the injections was waning as Jagannatha Rao Joshi slipped back to coma. Myself and Yadavaraoji along with Hemantha and other party leaders of Pune were gazing at the Lion, which slowly closed its eyes, never to open once again. Parting is always painful, as Yadavaraoji was still sobbing when he was brought out of the special ward. I returned home with a heavy heart as I was sure that the legendary leader was on his way to an eternal journey. But I also considered myself fortunate to have met him for the last time on July 9, 1991. On 15th July early morning at about 5.30 AM, Hemantha called and informed me the inevitable. For the second time in one week, I felt that time stood still. I pay my homage to Jagannatha Rao Joshi on his 19th death anniversary.