Sometime in 1991 – just two years before his retirement ("ouster" would perhaps be a more appropriate term) – Russi Mody had invited a few journalists from Kolkata to visit the Jamshedpur plant of Tisco, as it was then known, to figure out which way the wind was blowing in his battle with Ratan Tata.
His crisis managers took the team to a few areas in the plant where workers had put up huge placards saying, "Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Russi Mody tera naam rahega".
The journalists were encouraged to speak to some of these workers, who all said they would support Mody till their last breath.
Predictably, the next day's headlines in a few newspapers read: "Workers throw their weight behind Mody."
It was an obvious naivety on the media's part, but the stage-managed show of workers' support for him was also a reflection of the desperation of a man who wanted to retain his throne somehow.
In retrospect, it reflected Mody's realisation that he had been clearly outmanoeuvred by Tata whom he had once considered too naive to lead the group.
The battle ended much later – in 2007, to be precise – when Mody, who once likened Tata to a "circus performer", admitted that the Tata Group chairman is a class act.
The words of praise came after he hosted Tata at his business suite in Taj Bengal in Kolkata.
Image: The first share certificate of Tata Steel. Inset is Russi Mody.
Text: Shyamal Majumdar, Business Standard
Image Courtesy: Tata Steel