Each moment of his life from his late teens when he joined the RSS till he got hospitalised, Suruji was dedicated to man-making and nation-building mission of the Sangh
‘Suru’, as the late K Suryanarayan Rao was affectionately called by the co-workers in Karnataka first and as ‘Suruji’ later by thousands of swayamsevaks, families and friends associated with the RSS in Tamil Nadu, left for his heavenly abode on November 19, 2016. When he breathed his last he was not only giant in size and look — sporting an imposing physique, six feet tall with some 50’ chest — he was equally a giant in intellectual and moral stature, quality, character, commitment and hard work. And yet he was unbelievably gentle and compassionate. Each day, year and month of his life from his late teens when he joined the RSS till he got hospitalised weeks before he passed away, he was dedicated to the man-making and nation-building mission of the RSS. He spent the first half of his life in the mission of RSS in Karnataka and the next half to build the RSS in Tamil Nadu.
‘Suru’ in Karnataka
Born on August 20, 1924 at Mysore, Suruji joined the RSS in Bengaluru during his college days. After passing his honours in Mathematics in 1946, he became a Pracharak at the age of 22. He was spotted by Yadavraoji, who was spotted by the RSS founder Dr Hedgewar. The lethal combination of Yadavrao and Suru spread the RSS shakhas in every nook and corner of Karnataka. Later Shri Guruji entrusted Suru with the responsibility of organising the first Karnataka State Vishwa Hindu Parishad Conference at Udupi. In this landmark conference, planned and executed under Shri Guruji’s guidance, Dharmacharyas of various sects passed the most historic resolution in the history of Hindu society calling for banishing untouchability forever.
“Suruji” in Tamil Nadu
In October 1970, Shri Guruji asked Suru to shift to Madras (as Chennai was known then) and work for building the RSS Shakhas in Tamil Nadu, which had then witnessed the relentless rise of Dravidian separatism and almost had emotional disconnect with the rest of Bharat. And soon, ‘Suru’, became ‘Suruji’ in Tamil Nadu. I joined Sangh in October 1970 and immediately came in contact with Suruji who was the first one to spot me. From my very early days in Sangh, he personally guided me and encouraged me in all my endeavours. Under his leadership the RSS, which was seen as a northern phenomenon, began taking local roots and growing gradually. The short time in which Suruji learnt to speak and communicate in Tamil first and then give speeches
After Smt Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency the RSS was banned — the toughest political challenge that the RSS had to face after the first ban on it in 1948. Suruji, who went underground, began guiding and directing the underground movement against the Emergency. He successfully organised satyagraha against Emergency in Tamil Nadu in which hundreds of RSS workers participated and got arrested. Suruji told me to work underground to raise finances and help the families of the workers who had been arrested, and take care not to be arrested in satyagraha against Emergency. His compassion was visible when he asked me not to get arrested as I had set up practice just then and every rupee that I earned was necessary for the large joint family of ours. That was the period when I came more close to Suruji.
When the Meenakshipuram conversion took place in 1981, Suruji forthwith saw the national danger that it portended and asked me to prepare a complete concept and factual paper on how the conversion took place and the forces behind it. This paper became the major factor in informing not only the RSS leadership but also the BJP leaders. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee personally came to Meenakshipuram. That made Meenakshipuram conversion a national issue about which even the then Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi openly expressed concern. Here I saw how methodical Suruji was in designing strategies. He insisted on proper documentation. Equal documentaion was done by me during the Ayodhya movement.
Work till last breath
The responsibilities Suruji handled in Sangh did not strictly conform to his position in the hierarchy. He became Prant Pracharak of Tamil Nadu in1971 the responsibility which he held till 1984. Suruji became Kshetra Pracharak for Southern states. In 1990 he became Akhil Bharatiya Sewa Pramukh. Before completing 75 in 1999, he wrote to the Sangh leadership that he would like to be relieved from leadership responsibilities and more youthful workers should be brought into positions. This became the pattern in RSS later. After he relinquished his position he continued as the central team member of Sangh. Despite a serious accident two decades back when he almost lost his life and two serious operations were performed on him, in hip and leg, which hampered his movement and made him seek support to travel and walk, he never slackened his efforts. He attended every all India meets, went to every Sangh Siksha Varga in South India till last year. He travelled long distances even for small programmes — despite the fact that his body was increasingly weakening and giving up. Even weeks before he was hospitalised he was attending programmes. He was always available for guidance to those who sought them. He shaped me as a person and as a karyakarta. Encouraged me to think originally. He inspired me to undertake multiple initiatives and counselled and guided me in times of need.
How he guided me
I once asked him how to overcome jealousy towards another karyakarta. He told me that this requires some preparation and training. He said: first you must recognise that he has also come forward to work for the nation like you. This will remove your negativity to him and create healthy respect for him in your mind. Next you must develop the habit of appreciating him for a good thing he does or a good speech he makes. This will reduce and gradually remove your tendency to be jealous. This single piece of advice enabled me overcome negativity to fellow workers. This helped me to promote others and see their rise, far beyond and above me, with a sense of sense of fulfilment. This single piece of advice changed my life completely.
(The writer is an eminent economist and political commentator)