Mirza Ismail was courageous in providing counsel to the British government. In the course of his speeches at the Representative Assembly or the Legislative Assembly, he would discuss the political events of the day and offer pertinent suggestions. He would take into consideration the opinions of Gandhi, Nehru, and others on the one side and the views of Viceroy Irwin, Lord Willingdon, Lord Wavell, et al. on the other; finally he would provide suggestions showing that there was a way in which both sides could cooperate with each other for the greater good. There was no other Dewan of the princely states who could warn the British government and support Congress openly like Mirza.
Mirza had friends all over the world. Several citizens of Britain were his friends. So also, many Americans, Germans, and other Europeans. Mirza regularly corresponded with them by writing letters; he would invite them to be his guest and developed great friendships.
In a State that follows the system of monarchy, ministers don’t have problems with kings but often with their kinsmen. The system of monarchy keeps the ruler occupied at all times. If the king wishes to get things done, he must struggle with the ministers and prominent citizens of the State. But what about the king’s brother, king’s uncles, etc. – what work do they have, what responsibilities are they given? The State has to still keep all these members of the royalty in opulence. They are part of the royal family. Life goes on happily for them. But what work would they do?
The same question arose in Britain too. But they found the solution to that challenge. England has a huge army. There are many honorary positions in various divisions. So also the social undertakings – schools, charities, old age homes, hospitals, orphanages, women’s organizations; they too have such honorary positions. These honorific posts are reserved for royalty. The responsibilities aren’t heavy: dress nicely, follow the etiquette, speak some inane platitudes dripping with political correctness, be the cynosure of the gatherings – these are the requirements for holding such positions. The members of royalty happily accept such positions. They think of it as an easy and joyful way to spend their time.
Mysore, however, does not have such facilities.
Discord in the Royal Family
Sir M Visvesvaraya realised this and to accommodate the crown prince (Narasimharaja Wodeyar) and give him some responsibility of the kingdom, he created a new post called ‘Extraordinary Member of Council.’ Many eyebrows were raised. After one or two years the skepticism that people harboured turned out to be valid and it was evident that the experiment was doomed to fail.
This question remained even during Mirza’s tenure. While on the outside both the Dewan and the Crown Prince were respectful to each other, there was discord in private. It is not prudent to discuss the reasons for this. There is no solid proof to unravel the complete truth. We can simply state that all was not well between Mirza and the Crown Prince.
One of the reasons for this is the existence of people in the royal family who were against Mirza. The fact that the Mahārāja showed a lot of affection to Mirza itself may have been the reason for this. At any rate, it was a matter of irritation.
And the effect of this discord was felt by both the administration and public affairs.
The Parishad Grant
In 1934–35, the Crown Prince was the President of the Karnataka Sahitya Parishad and I was the Vice-President. The Parishad used to get a grant of ₹2,000 from the government. Before that it used to be only ₹1,000. For that sum to be enhanced to ₹2,000 several requests and negotiations had to be done. However, even that amount was not sufficient. When the topic was brought up in the annual meeting of the Parishad, it was decided that a request for further enhancement should be prepared and sent to the Mahārāja. The request now was for the allocation of ₹3,000 per year.
I sent this request to the Private Secretary of the Mahārāja. It seems like it took the usual route and was sent to the government. But the Parishad didn’t receive any reply from the government. The time period of the previous grant was over. No grant money was released; not even the earlier sum. The situation of the Parishad became difficult. I felt I should meet the President, i.e. the crown prince, and ask for his suggestion. So I wrote a request letter to his Private Secretary and fixed an appointment. It was for nine in the morning.
Meeting the Crown Prince
On the appointed day, I went there in the morning. I took the stairs on the southern side of the palace of the Crown Prince and reached the room on the first floor where the meeting was to be held. The meeting went well. The crown prince interacted with me with great love and affection. He suggested that I should meet Mirza personally and talk to him; that would solve the problem.
I immediately said, “There is some disagreement between Mirza and me. Due to political reasons, he is angry with me.”
The prince gave a laugh and said, “Let it be so. But this is a matter of public interest. For its fruition, you have to budge a little and show humility. I’ll talk to Mirza. In any case, you will come to the tea party hosted by Mirza tomorrow evening, right?”
“I have received no invite. Mostly I won’t come.”
“Oh is it so?” said the prince and immediately called Mirza on the phone. After talking to him, he turned to me and said, “The invite has been sent out to you and will reach you. You should come. I shall also be there. We can talk to him together.”
Environment of Suspicion
I took leave and was about to exit. Since I had taken the stairs on the southern side, I went to climb down using the same stairs. One of the royal attendants came up to me and said, “Sir, not from this side, please take the stairs on the northern side.”
“But I’ve left my footwear on this side!”
He replied, “I’ve already shifted them to the other side.”
“What’s all this fuss about?” I asked Tammayya, the Secretary to the crown prince.
“Another visitor was scheduled to arrive after you this morning (possibly B K Garudacharya). He might have recognized your presence seeing your footwear, so it has been shifted.”
Such was the environment then.
If any of Mirza’s friends met the crown prince or any of the crown prince’s friends met Mirza it would lead to rumours and suspicion.
As per the orders of the crown prince, I went to Mirza’s house the next evening to attend the tea party. The prince had arrived before me. He assured me that he had already talked to Mirza and everything was sorted out. The grant was likewise sanctioned again.