The IFWJ mourns the death of its stalwart and founder S.V. Jayasheel Rao at 88 in Bengluru on 28 April 2016. Since his wife’s death some years ago, Jayasheel Rao felt lonely, melancholy gripping him. From IFWJ view point it must be said to Jayasheel Rao’s credit that he fought and got IFWJ posts on his own. He had no political support like most other office-bearers. He was not gifted the IFWJ secretary general’s post. The then President Attu Raghvan of the CPI had per force nominated Jayasheel Rao as the Secretary General because Raghvan had secured just decimal five percent vote margin in his victory over me in 1981. Raghvan did a wise act by nominating Jayasheel Rao as secretary-general which kept the organization united.
I had first met Jayasheel Rao in 1971 at Gandhinagar (April 1971) when he led the Karnataka delegation to the 15th plenary session, hosted by the Gujarat Journalists Union, of which I was then the general secretary. I was a reporter with the Times of India, Ahmedabad. It was my rare privilege of lifting Jayasheela’s baggage to ferry him to his suite in the delegates’ camp at Pathik Ashram. His next-door occupant was Subodh Bose, that CPM fighter from Kolkata. May be a joke but it is true. When I put down Jayasheel Rao’s baggage in his room, Subodh Babu’s wife asked for a bucket of water for bath. I fetched a bucketful. She tried to tip me. Then Subodh Babu emerged and introduced me to his wife. I could see her shy face.
Those were the days when the IFWJ had office-bearers who had worked their way up to get elected, not merely nominated to post they never would have even got in their life. Jayasheel Rao could never get enough National Council support to win. He had to wait for a decade. The 1980 presidential election was a turning point in the IFWJ annals. Three nominations received by the C.R.O. included T.R. Ramaswami (Tamil Nadu), S.V. Jayasheel Rao (Karnataka) and mine (Uttar Pradesh). Khadri Shamanna, editor of the daily Samyukta Karnataka (Bengaluru) and a veteran Lohia socialist, wrote to me to withdraw in favour of Jayasheel Rao as anti-CPI and anti-Emergency votes would be split. I promptly withdrew and campaigned for Jayasheel Rao. In our camp then were Chittaranjan Alva and S.K. Pande (their C.P.M. had opposed the 1975-77 Emergency), Upendra Vajpaie (Delhi) Akhil Hussain (Gujarat), K. Mathew Roy (Kerala), B. Nageswara Rao (A.P.), Manohar Andhare and Prakash Dube (Maharashtra), and majority of KUWJ members. Almost 98 percent of U.P. members voted for Jayasheel Rao. I was then IFWJ secretary general but campaigned for Jayasheel Rao, after duly informing T.R. Ramaswami, president, who was seeking re-election. Jayasheel lost by few hundred votes. But that set the trend for change. In the subsequent presidential poll Jayasheel Rao insisted that I must contest. The rival candidate was formidable, Attu Ragavan, a CPI top notch and Blitz bureau chief in Delhi. Jayasheel Rao more than paid back to me as I got the KUWJ votes in bulk. Raghavan polled 1780 votes and I secured 1709 votes. It was all due to Jayasheel Rao.
I got closer to Jayasheel Rao during the Ayodhya plenary session (April 1984) when the Raghavan group disowned him. Jayasheel Rao was our first nominee for vice-presidentship, the second was Prakash Dubey, opposed by Santosh Kumar of the CPI. Both won hands down and then began a glorious innings of Jayasheel Rao as vice-president. He was our nominee on the Bhachawat wage board. Soon I nominated him to the Press Council of India as IFWJ representative. He represented the IFWJ in a European media session. He was his brilliant best opposing the IFWJ affiliation with the Soviet dominated International Organisation of Journalists (IOJ) during the IFWJ convention in Srinagar (Kashmir : 1985). The IFWJ remained non-aligned, thanks to Jayasheela Rao.
Normally cool, Jayasheel Rao was once in rage with me. It was in 1986 presidential poll. Mumbai’s CPI municipal councilor Madhu Shetye was the candidate. There was a virulent campaign that bogus voters of Uttar Pradesh will get me re-elected. Irked by such vicious words, I told a press conference in Nagpur that if my victory margin is less than 900 votes (that was then the total membership of U.P.W.J.U.), I would rather not accept office and let Shettye be declared president, despite defeat. Jayasheel Rao felt that I was stupid and foolhardy. But I won the election by 1924 votes, including a majority in Maharashtra, Shetye’s home State. Jayasheel Rao was the first to congratulate me. His support in southern States had in the previous (1984) election got me a vote percentage of 89 in an electorate of 5,600.
Jayasheela Rao took the U.P. WJU members in Bengaluru to a rare and delicioys cuisine. It was Mavilly restaurant where 56 types of items are served, but each only once. Everyone of them excelled over the other in taste and delicacy. Among those relishing the items were Madan Mohan Bahuguna, Ravindra Singh, Duresh Shukla, Jokhu Tiwari, Manohar Khadikar, Haseeb Siddiqi, Sheetala Singh and others who will still recall the event.
UPWJU president Haseeb Siddiqui will remember meeting Jayasheel Rao first time in 1973 at the Pune plenary session when young Haseeb, fresh in the Navjeevan daily, was the UPWJU delegate. Many people of that era in the IFWJ are no more. And those who are today’s members were then not even born, at least in the IFWJ or the UPWJU. Till then the IFWJ never allowed upstarts to usurp posts which they would never have dreamt otherwise to occupy. New climes, new methods, no matter foul or fair.
I pay my homage to that lighthouse and landmark in the India’s working journalists struggle. We thanks the Congress Chief Minister of Karnataka, Sri Siddharamayya ji, for arranging a state funeral for S.V.Jayasheel Rao in Chamatajapeta crematorium, Bengaluru.
K. Vikarm Rao