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Bhadase The Politician
In the Newsday of February 13, page ten, the headline read Bhadase would have been PM, written by George Alleyne. The writer drew a number of conclusions about the late Bhadase Sagan Maraj who was founder of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and founding President General of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago Inc.
As a young man Bhadase grew up on Sagan Street at Caroni Village and belonged to the same age group of my father and uncle. I married his eldest daughter Shanti which was all arranged by our village pundit Krishna Maharaj, who became famous for refusing the nation’s highest award, the Trinity Cross.
In many respects I was close enough to Bhadase to appreciate his strengths and also his weaknesses. In his column Alleyne wrote, “Had the Colonial office, urged on by the right wing Party of Political Progress Groups (POPPG), not postponed the general election scheduled for 1955, in a bid to block the Bhadase Sagan Maraj (PDP) from winning the election, there is the possibility that Maraj would have been T&T’s first Chief Minister and Premier as well as Prime Minister.
“Ironically, it was the extension of the Legislative Council by one year which would give rise to then Deputy Secretary General of the Caribbean Commission, Dr Eric Williams’ resigning from the Commission and along with other leading T&T thinkers of the day forming and launching the People’s National Movement (PNM), which would go on to win the postponed general election of September 24, 1956.
“It is theoretically possible that the PDP which won the second largest number of votes in the 1956 election would have won the election had it been held in 1955 and Bhadase would have been appointed the then British colony’s first Chief Minister.” Alleyne also referred to Bhadase’s addiction to the drug pethidine, and he quoted Dr Winston Mahabir, former Minister of Health under the PNM: “The average dose for medicinal purposes is 50 to 100 mgs, every six hours.”
Dr Mahabir continued, “At the time, however, Maraj’s average daily consumption of the drug exceeded 7,000 milligrams.” Adding, “He (Maraj) had reached the stage where he needed 300 mgs every hour of the day”. I was witness to Bhadase’s first-time use of pethidine. It was during the Federal Elections of 1958 and he attended a political meeting in south Trinidad earlier one night.
We all returned to the Crest Cinema on Southern Main Road, Curepe, opposite to the Bomb Newspaper. This location, on the steps of the cinema, was where the political faithful gathered at nights. At about 1 am, when a friend of Bhadase, Dr Moonihar (deceased), stopped and inquired from Bhadase why he was not yet at home. He told the doctor that he was having difficulty sleeping. The doctor administered the first shot into the system of a physically powerful man who was a wrestler.
The Bhadase I knew never drank and he never used any drug. This giant of a figure went on to win the Federal Election, defeating Eric Williams’ PNM six seats to four. Dr Williams claimed that his defeat was due to a “hostile and recalcitrant minority,” and Bhadase Sagan Maraj’s health took a rapid decline.
According to information on the Web, “Pethidine is indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, and is delivered as a hydrochloride salt in tablets, as a syrup, or by intramuscular, subcutaneous or intravenous injection. “For much of the 20th century, pethidine was the opioid of choice for many physicians; in 1975, 60 per cent of doctors prescribed it for acute pain and 22 per cent for chronic severe pain.”
Bhadase made efforts to “kick” the pethidine habit while the muscles in both arms deteriorated due to repeated injections of the drug. Together with then Federal Senator Dr Omah Maharjh, he travelled to the United States for medical help. He even visited the United Kingdom on a number of occasions. In the end Bhadase was able to beat the pethidine addiction on his own but by then his political star had fallen, never to rise again.
The big man died on 21 October, 1971, and was cremated by open pyre on the bank of the Caroni River. He left a legacy that will be difficult to emulate.
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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