Suresh Angadi: Minister with common touch
At 65, Suresh Angadi may have been vulnerable to Covid-19, being a senior citizen, but that never stopped him from doing what he loved best — meeting his constituents. At a time when the world was socially distancing and avoiding physical contact, Angadi was meeting up to 500 people at his home in Belgaum, Karnataka daily.
The four-time member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also loved indulging in some dark, pandemic humour with his colleagues.
“We all come with an expiry date, we shouldn’t worry, he said to me,’’ Dhananjay Singh, executive director of public grievances, recalled. “I said, that may be true, but we shouldn’t expedite someone else’s expiry date either. We had a good laugh.’’ Singh was attached to the minister of state for Railways since Angadi’s appointment in 2019.
Angadi was initially asymptomatic and he had no co-morbidities or prevailing medical conditions like heart disease, hypertension or diabetes. On September 11, he was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
“The last conversation I had with him was through video call when he was in AIIMS and I was crying,’’ said daughter Shraddha (28), the younger of Suresh and Mangal Angadi’s two children.
“He said ‘Why are you crying? I’m going to be home soon’,’’ Shraddha said. An inability to meet him coupled with the fact that he had been moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for developing a cough had made her break down, she said. But Angadi believed that he would recover even after he was admitted to the ICU. “He kept saying that he has a lot of work to do, and he wants to come home.’’
However, four days after his hospitalisation, his oxygen saturation dropped to 70% (the normal range is about 95%) and he was put on a ventilator. His condition remained stable over the following week, and Shraddha said that the doctors were about to take him off the ventilator. But then his vitals crashed. From what looked like a manageable infection, the situation became dire within a matter of 10 days.
His family, friends and colleagues said that he took his position as the ninth rail minister from Karnataka seriously, and started 30 new trains in Karnataka. But a few dreams remained unfulfilled, Singh said.
“He wanted to make Mumbai to Bengaluru a popular train route. The journey takes 21 hours right now by train, and people prefer to fly. Since the start of the pandemic, he wished he could travel to new project sites in Odisha and the Northeast,’’ he said.
Others remember him for his ordinary acts of kindness and for the friend he was to them. Office assistant Ravinder Singh said no other minister asked whether a peon had eaten or not, while his driver, Krishna, called him “bahut acha admi’ (a very good man).
“I used to tease him as the right person in the wrong party,’’ said former Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka and close friend Prabhakar Kore.
“He was so persuasive that he made me also leave Congress and join his party [the BJP]. We all thought he would come out of it fine and now everybody is worried as it’s become that much more relatable.’’
Shraddha said among the things that her mother will miss, playing chess with Angadi will top the list. Mangal (57) and the family are still receiving several visitors, constituents and others who come to pay their respects. “We just ensure that our mother is tested regularly. We can’t stop people but we lost dad so we are being very careful about her,’’ Shraddha said.