A Lion in That Singh
There is much talk once again of a huge lacuna in Manmohan Singh’s make-up. You see, goes the argument, since he is by training a bureaucrat, he does not understand the nuances and nastiness of party politics. Consequently, he frequently finds himself in an avoidable mess. I have been hearing this narrative for the last seven years in various shapes and sizes. It is (excuse the expression) nonsense. Could a non-politician have run UPA-I and UPA-II which has such tricky customers as Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, not to mention M. Karunanidhi? Could a non-politician have so effortlessly ditched the Left, secretly roped in Mulayam Singh Yadav and got the N-deal through? He may be a straightforward guy, but he is no chump. Despite all the crises UPA-I and UPA-II have faced, despite all the loose chatter about Sonia and Manmohan falling out, the prime minister has comfortably stayed the course.
Just consider with what skill and style he has defused the politically explosive P.J. Thomas affair. Whatever his compulsions for the original decision to appoint Thomas, once the deed was done and the predictable consequences followed, Dr Manmohan Singh took an uncomplicated yet effective route which only a consummate politician could have crafted. By accepting “full responsibility” personally and admitting an “error of judgement”, he may not have removed all the doubts about why he and Chidambaram made the foolhardy decision, but he left the BJP little room for manoeuvre. The confusion which followed in the ranks of the parivar bears testimony to that. Incidentally, even Manmohan Singh’s opponents will concede that while the wrong choice of a central vigilance commissioner was a grave lapse, it was not a resigning lapse.
One of Manmohan Singh’s unrecognised strengths is that his friends and rivals constantly underestimate his political instincts. He is not a soft touch; he is a survivor. The BJP, which also has many survivors, should first of all, in its own interests, recognise that reality. Then they can probably unseat him.
Tales of a Dictator
Now that Muammar Gaddafi is the flavour of the month (I believe there are 112 different ways to spell his name), let me recount the story of two flamboyant Indian editors, R.K. Karanjia (Blitz) and Ayub Syed (Current) who, alas, are no longer with us. Both made annual visits to Gaddafi’s tent in Tripoli. Ayub, who could be disarmingly candid, once mentioned to me that he was off to Libya to meet the great leader. “I never forget to take two empty suitcases with me when I meet him and on the way back I always stay for one day at Zurich.” Russi was much more cunning and made no such admission, but he also went on his annual pilgrimage and came back loaded. At that time these were the only two journalists/editors who had direct contact with Gaddafi. Incidentally, it was one of these gentlemen who came back with the offer Gaddafi made to Indira Gandhi: sell me the bomb technology and India will never be short of oil.
One afternoon Ayub was buying me lunch. He looked relaxed and seemed in no hurry to get back to the office. I was. When I asked him to call for the bill, he said, “What is your hurry? For the next two weeks I have no work. My issues are full of The Green Book.” (This was a Gaddafi-authored manual on how to run a country undergoing a perpetual people’s revolution). And then he laughed uproariously.
Put Them to the Test
I yield to no one in my love for Test and one-day cricket. The World Cup, however, needs some serious editing. The build-up to the quarter-final stage is a protracted and often boring affair. Sure, the minnows, as they are called, need encouragement and big match exposure, but do we need six of them? When Bangladesh play Kenya, or the Netherlands play Zimbabwe, there is hardly a spectator on the ground. I suggest the six novice teams play qualifying matches among themselves, with the two top teams made eligible for the World Cup. That makes for 10 teams instead of 14. This method would make the tournament tighter.
And while I am on the subject of the World Cup, it’s wonderful to have such a galaxy of star commentators (where’s our Geoffrey?). However, even here there are one or two minnows. Danny Morrison’s fake enthusiasm and endless jokes can become irritating. The best commentator? Undoubtedly, Nasser Hussain.
Scotching the Rumour
Never justify, never explain is a sound principle to follow. However, I am going to break it. The critical Blue Label Scotch whisky controversy, which upset many readers, does call for justification and explanation. It is not my customary tipple since the price is well out of my range. The excessive intake I confessed to in my last column was precisely because I had never drunk the nectar before and am not likely to drink it again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence.
Mr Mehta, what’s so great about Manmohan Singh’s survival in his field (Delhi Diary, Mar 21)? Even Dawood has managed to do that, does that make him a great man?
C. Marathe, Muscat
How did this politically instinctive PM fail to utilise the home minister as his defence shield in the cvc issue? How come no one’s been able to point a finger at him? Is he bigger than our PM?
T.N. Vaidyanathapura, Bangalore
‘A lion in that Singh’ is a classic example of how a weak product can be marketed.
Saroja B., on e-mail
There’s no lion here, more likely an ostrich and a rabbit.
Lt Col S.P. Karir, on e-mail
The true strength of the mousy Singh is a lioness: Sonia.
P.C. Jain, Allahabad
By praising Manmohan’s ‘virtues’, is Mr Mehta telling the Congress high command that he’s doing his best to save him, but alas!
Pravin Desai, Umarsadi
It’s astonishing how VM manages to convert one of upa-ii’s worst moments into a victory for Manmohan’s “sharp political acumen” and “opposition disarray”. In no other land will you see editors of his stature try and turn the tables on the Opposition when the crime has been committed by the Man.
Vijay Shankar, Bangalore
Mr Mehta admires Manmohan the way readers of the Mahabharata admire Krishna, i.e., for survival politics, not for ethics or righteousness. In committing every possible foul play and then accusing the opponent of unethical attacks, the Congress and the Pandavas show great similarity.
Soumen Chakrabarti, Calcutta
Many overlook the fact that the SC did not dispute the legality of the cvc appointment! It has disputed the “legality of the decision-making for an appointment that deserved consideration of ‘institutional integrity’ over and above ‘individual integrity’”! So the PM cannot be faulted. Manmohan accepts the Shakespearian dictum: “Truth has more deeds than words to grace it!” He is truly the 21st century’s sher-e-Punjab.
No need to make a virtue out of necessity. The PM has to stay for the prince is yet unready.
K. Suresh, Bangalore
The prime minister of a country cannot have so many serious lapses of judgement.
Santur S., Mumbai
It took the nation several years to realise that this Maun Mahan Singh was indeed a hugely overrated economist, but I see that some people are still trying to find new qualities in him, as a highly underrated politician no less.
B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore
As my local rickshaw wala aptly put it, “Ek imandaar luteron ka sardar bana hua hai.”
R.K. Chaturvedi, on e-mail
Let us not confuse Blue Label with blue blood and make it an object of class struggle. The notion that abstaining from Blue Label is a sine qua non for empathising with the deprived is sheer hypocrisy. An occasional serving of this noblest form of aqua vitae does not in any way imply our editor’s identification with the downtrodden is mere lip service (Jyotibabu in heaven would surely nod in approval).
Anil Joshi, Delhi
Blue Label not your usual tipple? That’s the price you have to pay for having stopped being the grunt-hog of the ruling dispensation.
The Irreverent Indian, on e-mail
“Once-in-a-lifetime indulgence”, huh? We all believe you, Mr Mehta! Not that any of us care whether you drink Blue Babble or Mold Monk.
Mr Mehta lauded Manmohan for accepting “full responsibility” but he himself has a wishy-washy explanation for his Blue Label gaffe. The callousness still rankles, Mr Mehta, whatever you say.
Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai
In my Delhi Diary (Mar 21), I made some references to the late R.K. Karanjia, former editor of Blitz and one of India’s most respected journalists, and Col Gaddafi. I withdraw those remarks unreservedly and apologise to Russy’s family for any unintended hurt caused.
Mr. Mehta, survival of Manmohan Singh!!! what is so great? even Dawood Ibrahim has survived till date and he will survive till his natural death does that mean he is a great man? Manmohan Singh as a clean character has died long back. It is just a corrupt man who is surviving now.
Singh will most likely survive the cash for scandal as well. It is time for Mehta to have another of his orgasms about the survival skills of Singh.
True strength of your Singh (Lion) is Sonia. The moment she wish he will be ousted most unceremoniously. Despite all his credentials of man of integrity, vision, intellect the single factor that he takes his commands from Sonia is sufficient to and allow the CWG, Adarsh, 2G, paid Vote of confidence and spoiler of the indepedent foreign policy to hurry for nuclear agreement. Aam admi is reeling under presurre of inflanaion, unemployment and law and order problems. Fail to see his achievement if Mulayam, Karunanidhi, Mamta are supporting his government. Those people act in their own regional interest and not for the interest of the strong center. So no credit can be given to your Singh for maddling with them.
HAHAHAHA Wikileaks revealed the "True" strengths of PM Moun-Mohan Singh and now Vinod Mehta can write more articles praising Puppet Singh.
What will VM say now? It doesnt matter what the PM says. Its important what his spin doctors in the 4th estate say. PM will say, yes we paid cash, and it was an error of judgement, I didnt know that cash was paid, I thought Cong was playing monopoly with other MPs. So I thought it was plastic Cash. VM will say, now that the PM has accepted he has paid plastic cash, the wind is off the opposition sails. So victory to the PM.
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