DVG's Portrait of the Servility of State Congress Ministers to the High Command

DVG's Portrait of the Servility of State Congress Ministers to the High Command

In this episode, DVG sketches an unflattering picture of the servility of the State Congress Ministers to the dictatorial High Command.

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Lessons from D.V. Gundappa’s 1959 Letter to B.D. Jatti and G.B. Pant
DVG's Portrait of the Servility of State Congress Ministers to the High Command

AS DVG’s LETTER MAKES IT PLAIN, he was furious at B.D. Jatti’s servility towards the dictatorial Congress High Command and had chosen to insult Mirza’s memory.

And so, even as he sent this missive to Jatti, DVG simultaneously dispatched a letter to the then Home Minister  on the same day: 12 January, 1959. This is how that letter reads: 

Sir,

I enclose with this copies of two letters (No.341/59 and  No. 343-4/59) addressed to the Chief Minster of Mysore on the question of the relations between the Union Government and the Government of Mysore, with reference to the Mysore Government‘s competence declare a public holiday on an occasion of local significance, like the death of a former Dewan of Mysore. I trust the point of view set out in my letter on behalf of a large body of the public of Mysore will  meet with appreciation. 

Yours faithfully,

(D.V. Gundappa)

THE REAL STORY BEGINS after DVG’s letter reached the Home Ministry. To its credit, the Joint Secretary Fateh Singh replied to DVG’s letter on February 4, 1959 affirming that “suitable action had been taken thereon.” 

But what had transpired between the Home Ministry and Chief Minister Jatti from January 12 to February 4 reveals interesting insights into the India of that era. For about nine days after it received DVG’s letter, the Home Ministry began ransacking all the bureaucratic rule books and precedents and concluded that B.D. Jatti was either ignorant or nonchalant when he had claimed that “the closing of offices and grant of holidays were governed by certain instructions issued by the Government of India and the State Government only followed these rules.”  

Now, after the Government of India had researched the matter thoroughly, it found that the opposite was actually true. Among other things, it had found two precedents that negated B.D. Jatti’s claim about rules and protocols. The first was a Governmental mourning on the death of B.G. Kher in 1957. 

The second was the death of Bhagwan Das. In both cases, the respective State Governments of Bombay and Uttar Pradesh had declared Government offices to be closed down as a mark of respect. They hadn’t sought the Central Government’s permission to do so. If this wasn’t enough, the Home Ministry unearthed an official correspondence sent on October 3, 1955 by S. Srinivasan, Under Secretary to the Government of India to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. The subject line: Action to be taken on the death of high dignitaries. This was the content of the letter: 

Sir, 

With reference to your letter No.523—254(II) dated the 5th February 1955 on the subject mentioned above, I am directed to say that the Government of India agree that as a matter of courtesy, the Central Government offices situated in the State should follow the orders issued by the State Government regarding closing of offices etc. on the occasion of the death of high dignitaries in the State. The State Government may accordingly forward copies of the orders issued by them on such occasions to the local heads of Central Government offices.

Yours faithfully,

(S. Srinivasan)   

After marshalling this sort of evidence, the Union Home Ministry issued an official communique dated January 21, 1959. Here is the relevant excerpt: 

“The position in  this case is fully explained in the note at Flag ‘C‘.  It vill be seen therefrom that the State Governments are absolutely free to take such action as they deem suitable on the death of local dignitaries… We have not issued any instructions to the State Governments advising them what they should do on the death of local dignitaries like Sir Mirza Ismail.”

The same communique also recommended the following: 

“A  letter may be sent to  the Chief Minister of Mysore with reference to the statement made by him in the Press Conference. He may be told that we are not aware of any rules that restrict the discretion of the State Governments in matters of this type… 

“A reply may also be sent to Shri Gundappa telling him that we had received his letter and taken suitable action.”

That reply to “Shri Gundappa” is the aforementioned letter dated February 4, 1959. 

The epilogue to this snarly story are the laborious rebuttals and counter-rebuttals that flew between B.D. Jatti and the Home Ministry. Reading these is headache-inducing. As Chief Minister, Jatti clearly wanted to save face. But the central Home Ministry had solid evidence backing it. The matter was finally put to rest sometime in April 1959. 

To be continued

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