By P.T. Bopanna
Over 25 years ago, I was invited for lunch at Bengaluru’s iconic Koshy’s by Dr S.A. Subbaiah, IPS, who was then heading the Karnataka State police intelligence wing.
It was unusual to be invited by a top intelligence official. But the invitation was preceded by several developments in which the prime minister’s office (PMO) was interested.
H.D. Deve Gowda had become the prime minister in 1996. He was still preoccupied with the politics in his home state of Karnataka. So much so that it was being joked that Gowda was the ‘chief minister of India and prime minister of Karnataka.’
Around that time, I was hand-picked by the editor of The Pioneer (Delhi) Chandan Mitra to be the Special Correspondent in Bengaluru. I quit Times of India and joined The Pioneer. My brief was to concentrate on the new prime minister who was not well known in Lutyens Delhi.
I produced a series of exclusive articles on Gowda, most of which did not show Gowda in favourable light.
Around that time, I visited the house of Prof. K. Venakatagiri Gowda, a former BJP Member of Parliament. Prof Gowda had turned a bitter critic of Deve Gowda, apparently over Vokkaliga Sangha politics.
Prof. Venakatagiri Gowda told me that he had completed a book on the prime minister and shared with me excerpts from the book titled ‘The King of Corruption and the Unmaking of India’.
The Pioneer carried my ‘scoop’ and it triggered a political storm in Karnataka. No sooner Prof Gowda announced that he was coming out with yet another book on the prime minister. The PMO wanted to ensure that the book did not see the light of the day.
Around that time, I used to speak over the phone with Dr Subbaiah, who held the rank of additional director general of police (intelligence). One fine day, he invited me for lunch at Koshy’s.
Being a teetotaller, he did not take any drinks, but I ordered a beer. We both had a pleasant time discussing developments in Karnataka. It was a memorable occasion because Dr Subbaiah was one of the most well-informed persons I had met in my journalistic career. He had worked for over 17 years with the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external espionage (spying) agency.
I wish to go down the memory lane and recall my first meeting with Dr Subbaiah, nearly half a century ago.
After completing my MA in political science from Karnataka University, I had approached him to get my marks card attested. He was then the SP of Mysuru. During our interaction, he seemed too busy and did not engage in any ‘small talk’ that follows a meeting between two Kodavas (Coorgs).
Dr Subbaiah was a workaholic and this seems to have led to his sudden death at the age of 52. He collapsed near his house in Indiranagar during his morning walk.
Had he been alive, he would have retired either as Karnataka’s Director General of Police or the head of RAW or Intelligence Bureau.