Remembering Rajiv Gandhi. I covered his very last election public meeting in Peddapalli before he was assassinated the next day in Tamil Nadu.

I have great memories of Rajiv Gandhi. I covered the last public meeting that Rajiv Gandhi that he addressed in Telangana before his assassination in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.

On May 20, Rajiv addressed two election public meetings in Telangana. Out of these two, the second one was at Peddapalle. From here, he flew to Vizag in a helicopter. From Vizag he took a flight to Chennai and by road went to Sriperumbudur.

I’d travelled from Hyderabad to Peddapalle and having attended the public meeting rushed back to office to write the report. But when I put pen to paper, I felt, it wasn’t quite really about what Rajiv said at the public meeting that I should be writing about. How the public reacted to his arrival made more sense for me to write about. A boisterous crowd greeted him. Rajiv had charmed them.

I wrote my report starting with the line: “The Grrr of the helicopter in which Rajiv Gandhi arrived was enough for the crowd to go into a tizzy…”

The sub-editor called up on the intercom. “But there’s no such word in the dictionary,” he insisted. “I know,” I said. My editor at that time in Deccan Chronicle P N V Nair looked at the copy and retained the ‘Grrr’. It made perfect sense to include the sound of the helicopter as a word.

Little would one have imagined that the next day, Rajiv Gandhi would be no more – blown to pieces by a human bomb. That night as soon as BBC broke the news over radio, I was out on the roads to report on incidents as violence broke out in Hyderabad.

But what will remain etched in my memory is the conversation I had with Rajiv Gandhi in his house in New Delhi in 1990. “Was the defeat in the 1989 general elections due to your over exposure on Doordarshan?” I asked him. Rajiv did not agree and said there were naturally many factors.

And then elections were announced in 1991. Halfway through the campaign, he was assassinated. The nation remembers Rajiv Gandhi today.

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