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Southern States - Karnataka

His simplicity survived rewards of public life

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE JUNE 7. The former Vice-President and acting President, B.D. Jatti, passed away here this afternoon. He was 89. The end came at 12.30 p.m. at the Mahavir Jain Hospital where he had been admitted on Thursday following severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

He is survived by his wife, Sangavva, three sons, and a daughter. Although he had withdrawn himself from public life, he kept himself active, braving a paralytic stroke, which he suffered in 1989.

Basappa Dhanappa Jatti's life was a unique case of a public figure who rose from the chairmanship of a village panchayat to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. He rose literally from the soil of Jamkhandi in Bagalkot District where he started his public life as chairman of a village panchayat, and his was another name for simplicity and humility.

However, he was an astute politician who made it to the chief ministership of Mysore in 1958 and to the offices of Vice-President and President. He was once called an ordinary man with extraordinary thought, and he named his autobiography, I'm My Own Model.

Among the public offices he held were Minister for Education in the erstwhile princely State of Jamkhandi (1946-48), Chief Minister (dewan) of Jamkhandi (1948), Parliamentary Secretary in the B.G. Kher Government in erstwhile Bombay State, Deputy Minister for Health and Labour in the Morarji Desai Government in Bombay (1953-56), Chief Minister of Mysore (1958-62), Member of S.R. Kanthi and Nijalingappa Cabinets (1962-68), Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry (1968), Governor of Orissa (1969-72), Vice- President of India (1972-77), and acting President for six months in 1977.

B.D. Jatti was born into a Lingayat family at Savatigi village on September 10, 1912. His father was a grocer. He braved family difficulties, and obtained a degree in law from a college in Kolhapur. His was a child marriage, and he had pointed out that such marriages were not without their advantages. He entered politics through the Jamkhandi State Praja Parishad (Congress), and became the President of the Jamkhandi Town Municipality in 1945. As dewan, he maintained cordial relations with the Maharaja, Shankar Rao Patwardhan, and brought about the accession of the small principality to the Indian Union.

After the reorganisation of the States in 1956, Mr. Jatti was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1957. When S. Nijalingappa was heading the government, Mr. Jatti was appointed the Chairman of the Legislature Committee on Land Reforms (better known as Jatti Committee), which paved the way for the 1961 Mysore Land Reforms Act (which abolished the tenancy system and absentee landlordism). He was the Chief Minister, and Kadidal Manjappa the Revenue Minister when the Bill was adopted. In 1957, when Nijalingappa stepped down as Chief Minister following a revolt in the Congress Legislature Party, Mr. Jatti was elected leader of the party in the face of a stiff challenge from T. Subramanya.

After the 1962 Assembly elections, he lost the race to chief ministership to S.R. Kanthi. Three months later, Nijalingappa returned as Chief Minister after his election in a bypoll. Although he had occupied the office of chief minister, Mr. Jatti agreed to serve in the Cabinets of Kanthi, and later Nijalingappa, as Minister for Finance, Food, and Civil Supplies.

Mr. Jatti was elected Vice-President of India on October 31, 1972. During the interregnum of the death of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the election of N. Sanjiva Reddy as President, he acted as President.

However, his acting presidency was not without controversy. When in April 1977, the then Union Home Minister, Charan Singh, took the debatable decision to dissolve the Assemblies of nine States, Mr. Jatti declined to sign the order, and broke the tradition of the President accepting the advice of the Cabinet. Though he later signed the order, Mr. Jatti took the stand that the Centre's action should not only be politically and constitutionally correct but also appear to be proper. At that time it was alleged that he held back his assent at the instance of Indira Gandhi and H.R. Gokhale. It was no wonder Mr. Jatti could not be elected as President, and Sanjiva Reddy came to occupy that office.

Mr. Jatti was also active in social work.

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