Rosaiah flung the microphone and walked away, I was the one to blame

Hell hath no fury like a man scorned. The old saying has been tweaked a bit to describe Konijeti Rosaiah who was all fire and brimstone on this particular occasion. 

He was angry. Furious is more like it.

Niceties did not matter anymore. He had run out of patience. In fact, his patience was put to test beyond measure. Unreasonably.

The senior Congress leader was known to shout his vocal cords dry if it meant he had to convey something to an audience that would not understand what could be understood when explained with simple words and in a matter-of-fact way. He would rip apart anyone with his acerbic tongue, and especially in the assembly, with high decibel levels.  In short, there can never be a dull moment when the seasoned politician takes to the mike to speak.

And here was the mike. The whole nation was hooked on to the television. The results of the 1998 parliamentary elections were pouring in. I was associated with a team that was coordinating politicians in Hyderabad to appear on national television. As the results were being announced and analysed on Doordarshan, the team in Delhi desired that we have a senior Congress leader on board and join the panel at the Doordarshan studios at Ramanthapur.

I could immediately think of only one name. Senior Congress leader, Konijeti Rosaiah, a much respected and knowledgeable leader who would mince no words to speak his mind. I called up his house. Mobile phones had only just about come in the market. But it was still only landlines to get across to people.

When the phone rank, someone picked up the phone at his residence and informed that he had gone out. I was asked to try again. Five minutes seemed forever. When I called again, he was just stepping into the house. “Sir, I’d like you to participate in a discussion on the election results,” I told Rosaiah. “You have to come to Doordarshan at Ramathanpur,” I told him. “I’ve just returned from somewhere…” he said. “Sir, this is important and I called you because you are the right person,” I told him. “Since you are requesting so much, I will be there,” he said.

That was a big relief. It was promptly conveyed to the studio in Delhi that Rosaiah was on his way.  The coordinator from Delhi kept enquiring every few minutes if he had arrived at the Doordarshan Studios at Ramanthapur. His arrival was much awaited. Panels of politicians in different cities were being interviewed by the anchors in Delhi.

I received Rosaiah as soon as his car entered the premises. We walked to the podium where he was to sit and I explained to him that the anchors in Delhi had actually been waiting for him. Delhi was informed, and they could see, that Rosaiah was seated and ready to take question. “We’ll come to him in five minutes,” they informed. I went to Rosaiah as whispered that in his ear. Delhi next went to another city. Then, they got connected to another city. And next, the panellists in Delhi went about discussing the results among themselves.

We called up Delhi in desperation. “Rosaiah is a senior politician and very well respected. He has obliged our request to come. You cannot delay him further,” the coordinator was told from Hyderabad. “The panel will speak to him next,” the coordinator assured. On the split screen, you could see the central panel anchors and panels of politicians seated in different cities. In one of the panels, Rosaiah too was seen. He also could see it himself.

Half an hour elapsed.

One hour.

One-and-a-half hours.

Delhi kept repeating the assurance mechanically.

With his lips pursed tight, one could make out that Rosaiah was feeling restless. It was like his time was being taken for granted. I walked up to him again to reassure that we had been informed that in a couple of minutes, it would be his turn to answer questions from the anchors in Delhi.

Another half an hour elapsed.

Delhi was being cruel. As I was walking towards Rosaiah (of course, to assure him that his turn was next to speak), he flew into a rage. He pulled out the wires of the microphone and flung them on the table. The towering personality that he was, Rosaiah rose to his full height, showed disgust and anger and got down the podium. All this was happening on live television. I rushed towards him. Not to stop him but to prevent him from slipping.  Or accidentally tripping on the wires.

I accompanied Rosaiah till his car. The expression on my face was enough for him to understand how I myself was feeling bad at Delhi’s behaviour. Though seething with anger, Rosaiah did not give vent to his feelings of anger or hurt on me. He chose not to hurt me. 

Adieu Rosaiah garu.

(Konijeti Rosaiah passed away on December 4, 2021. A Congress leader, he was an MLA, MLC, MP and went on to become chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. He also served as Governor of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka). He served for a record number of times as finance minister in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. He was 88 when he passed away in his sleep.)  

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