Story of 1991, About the fascinating picture of Rajesh Khanna aka Kaka with the former PM and leader of the opposition Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia whom he revered too much as his chief political mentor and even termed him as his God on the day of Rajivji’s sad demise. Rajiv Gandhi was Kaka’s ardent fan.This is the true narration about the actual happening.
I was with the then super star turned politician Rajesh Khanna for the entire day on the day of polling of the New Delhi parliamentary election from where he was contesting against the BJP’s heavy weight Lal Krishna Advani. The picture below is of polling station near Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. I alongwith RK alias Kaka went inside the polling booth at Vigyan Bhawan in the morning with RK Dhawan ( Indiraji’s former special Assistant and union minister ) already standing there in advance, amid tight security, waiting for former prime minister and the then leader of the opposition Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia to come to cast their vote, being the voter of New Delhi constituency.
It was approximately 9.00 in the morning. When we ( Kaka and me) went inside the polling booth room to check and supervise the polling arrangements, hundreds of cameras clicked on us. The press photographers, umpteen in numbers, I think nearing hundred or so, had already taken their positons to extract best picture of the then former PM Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia and Rajesh Khanna. The tight security wasn’t allowing them to roam freely as usual. After all Rajivji was on the high security guard and protection due to the possible threat of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LITTE) etc. However, we came out soon after inspecting the arrangements and waited for Rajvji and Sonia to arrive. In just ten minutes, thereafter, a smiling Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia came in a fleet of bullet proof cars.
With no time the trio went inside. I was kept at bay due to security reasons. But a bad omen had already occured on that day. When Rajiv arrived at the main entrance of the polling centre, the Congress women volunteers who tried applying tilak on the foreheads and taking the arti of Rajiv and Sonia, suddenly got imbalanced due to nervousness and the Aarti Thali with flowers, incense and vermilon etc fell down with a bang sending a silent wave of whispering and rumour mongering of some bad omen in the offing. Anyways, it was not taken seriously at that moment except a small news item appearing in the Indian express the other day in tit bits coloum, expressing it to be something unusual termed as unlucky. Some derived it with meanings like Kaka loosing the election or something else but in nutshell nothing much serious about Rajivji was ever thought of .
But being conservative if we really believe in this, just a day or two after , the entire course of Indian political history was changed. Rajivji was shockingly assasinated in Sriperumbudur, Tamilnadu and the anguishing news reached Kakaji’s ears in a marriage function of my younger brother at Rama Krishna Puram, New Delhi where he was blessing my bro Anil Negi and his wud be wife surrounded by hundreds of his fans and invitees . I remember how shocked Kakaji was on that day as if he has lost his God Father. He just murmered while tears in his eyes that he has lost his mentor and God. Rajiv Gandhi loved and adored him the most and it was only on the former’s personel request or advise that Rajesh contested and won from New Delhi and became MP, finally, the heartiest desire he had cherished since long, finally the dream coming true by his mentor’s blessings.
You will be surprised to learn that this picture ( as above) Rajesh Khanna helping Sonia Gandhi caste her vote with pleasing and smiling Rajiv Gandhi the then prime minister looking over, appeared in the front pages of almost all the newspapers of the country with Delhi’s largest selling newspaper Hindustan times giving it place on the front page with banner news. This was Kaka’s best photograph and he adored this picture very much, being extremely dear to his heart. Since those days there weren’t mobile phones, digital cameras and even coloured pictures, the said pivital photograph was in black and white and the picture couldn’t be procured as is easily available these days with mobile phones.
Kaka wanted its negative by all means and used to personally request me repeatedly to arrange it. I tried my level best to find the negative but of no avail. He would sometimes even challange me asking what connections do I have in media that I can’t even arrange a single negative through my sources? It wasn’t possible because the photo journalists kept it in their record and can’t officially part with the only negative as it was unique and outstanding as an archive for them.
If I am not wrong Mr. Suresh Sinha of Hindustan times had two negatives of this pic. Kaka used to even call me from Mumbai to get it, even if it is charged heavily for. I was actually fed up with Kakaji’s repeated pressure for this negative and used to wonder what special is there in this picture as being a superstar MP he already had infinite pictures of him with VVIPs. But Kaka would not relent and continued to pressurise me. Actually, he didn’t had direct contacts with media as I was the conduit and more over for a negative he would never like to belittle himself going to photo journalists n requesting them.
However, after much efforts I finally got it from Mr. S N Sinha, the then Photo editor of HT after several years when Kaka had become an ex MP having permanentally shifted to Mumbai. It however took many years to procure the negative of this outstanding picture very close at Kaka’s heart. Kaka was really grateful to have the negative. He could have made a negative out of the picture but he actually wanted the original one for the sharpness and precision which could be enlarged to any size and therefore dosen’t lose its focus and sharpness as well.
Later Kaka got it enlarged and nicely framed to decoratedly put it at the main inner entrance of Ashirvaad, his adorable bunglow at Carter Road. ( Unfortunately now in rubbles with construction of builder flats already started on them). Such was Rajesh Khanna’s attachment with Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister of India and Kaka’s fan as well.
SUNIL NEGI, President, Uttarakhand Journalists’ Forum and Former Media Advisor to Rajesh Khanna