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Unflinching loyalty to Kannada

By M. Madan Mohan

HUBLI, JAN. 13. If Kannada is what it is in the State today, both in schools and the in the administration, Ramakrishna Hegde is the cause for it. For it was under his five-year rule that efforts were made to ensure the primacy of Kannada in its homeland. Not only he chose a tough Kannada activist, Patil Puttappa, his friend from the Fifties, but also backed him to the hilt in all his endeavours made to send the message down the line on what the Government desired.

Although the body specially created to act as a watchdog for Kannada continued in its changed nomenclature as the Kannada Development Authority, no one can perhaps match the Hegde-Puttappa combination.

When Mr. Hegde became the Chief Minister in 1983, Kannada had not taken roots despite the plethora of circulars issued on its use in schools and in the administration. The Kannada activists, led by Mr. Puttappa, had just scored a tactical victory in their agitation for the primacy of Kannada in schools when R. Gundu Rao was the Chief Minister. It was then that Mr. Hegde chose to act and constituted what is called the Kannada Watchdog Panel and made Mr. Patil Puttappa its Chairman, The task was to oversee the implementation of Kannada in the administration. "It was not the order which appointed me which gave me the authority, but it was the implicit faith and trust Mr. Hegde had in me and the measures taken by me, which made me powerful and effective," Mr. Puttappa said here today.

Many senior officers complained to Mr. Hegde over the overbearing nature of Mr. Puttappa. Mr. Hegde would tell them that even he was not spared. Many school managements tried to get the permission of the Chief Minister to start English-medium schools. "Have you taken the permission of Mr. Puttappa? You take his permission and then come here and I will do it in a jiffy," was Mr. Hegde's stock reply to them. Mr. Hegde knew that Mr. Puttappa would not easily yield to the request.

Mr. Puttappa, who has more than five decades of association with Mr. Hegde, turned nostalgic about his association with Mr. Hegde right from the day the latter entered politics and became an MLA.

According to Mr. Puttappa, Mr. Hegde had pan-India and pan-Karnataka outlook on matters of importance. Never did he think of any parochial thoughts of regionalism and caste. Although hailing from North Karnataka, Mr Hegde hardly fashioned himself as the man from the region, but spoke in broader context. Being a man from the region, he endeared himself more to the people of Bangalore to the extent of winning Assembly elections from Kanakapura and Basavanagudi in 1983 and 1985. And the region to which he belonged, baulked him of any chances of political glory, when he was defeated twice in the Lok Sabha elections.

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