Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's press conferences were not the oft-repeated question-and-answer sessions, says legendary communication guru I Ramamohan Rao. In Bengaluru, recently, for the launch of his book, Conflict Communication: Chronicles of a Communicator, Rao gave some rare insights into style of functioning of Nehru and others PMs who succeeded him later.
According to Rao, Nehru was a different leader and he had a response ready to every question posed by the reporters.
"The correspondents came to hear the PM on matters of national importance, on colonialism, India's relations with neighbours and on issues like economic development and planning. His answers sought to educate the people through the newspapers," says Rao in the books.
The author goes on to narrate how the former PM often took provoking questions head-on.
Nehru and the ‘fantastic nonsense' response
"Some journalists would try to provoke Panditji and one waited to hear his favourite response -- what a fantastic nonsense - to be followed by a detailed answer to the question," says the author.
As a young communication officer, once Rao was even invited by the Nehru for a cup of tea.
"When I look back I wonder which young official will have the privilege of being asked by the PM to come into the house and made to sit down and offered a cup of tea. No wonder Panditji endeared himself to everyone who came in contact with him," says Rao.
In the book, Rao also narrates on the last journey of Nehru from Teen Murti to the banks of the Yamuna on May 27, 1964.
"I was put on the duty to conduct the photographers covering Nehru's final journey. The photographers were taken in an improvised three-tonne truck. There will be never be another PM as endearing as Nehru. He spoke, wrote and interacted in a transparent manner," says the book.
Impressive narration of 1971 War with Pakistan
The book has a chapter giving glimpses of India's psychological warfare as support weapon against Pakistan in 1971 war.
"Much was achieved through psychological warfare, which was used as a support weapon, in the conduct of the war. This was done both in the battlefield as well as through the air-waves and newspapers," says Rao.
Rao explains how he managed publicity under difficult situation, when the Indian Army dropped troops from the Para Brigade at Tangail, behind Pakistani lines.
"The pictures of the para drop were published on the front pages of all papers all over the world. We had kept the number of troops para-dropped a secret. The march of the paratroopers from Tangail towards Dacca unnerved the Pakistani Army," narrates the book.
Interestingly, Rao used stock pictures fort this publicity mission as none could capture the photos of the actual para drops.
The man who served under four PMs
Rao joined the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in 1956 and was later inducted into the Indian Information Service (IIS) during its formation years and head it for seven years from 1985 to 1992.
During his period, he was the Principal Spokesman for the Government of India that saw four Prime Ministers including Rajiv Gandhi, V P Singh, Chandrashekar and Narasimha Rao.
Hailing from Inna village of Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka, Rao is widely revered to as the Bhishmacharya by his predecessors in IIS. May of his initiatives are even followed today by the Directorate of Public Relations under the Ministry of Defence.
Rao has the rare distinction of serving the government right from Jawaharlal Nehru's era as a communicator holding different capacities.
Currently, despite an advancing age, Rao is active on social media and also looks after the affairs of India's top video news agency, Asia News International (ANI).
Conflict Communications: Chronicles of a Communicator, written by I Ramamohan Rao is priced at Rs 595. The book is published by Pentagon Press, which focuses mainly on military and national security subjects.