Watching the toll Natwar Singh's book-bomb has taken on the Gandhis, I began to wonder if the closed shop policy is such a good idea. Had a counter-strategy been formulated, or were they just submitting helplessly to an 83-year-old courtier turned critic?
John Dryden said, "Beware the fury of a patient man." Natwar is a patient man. And he is furious.
I am late coming to One Life is not Enough because I couldn't figure out what was going on.
Then came news that Sonia and Priyanka had visited Natwar at his residence requesting him to edit certain portions out of the book. Someone should have told the Gandhis their visit was publicity worth crores to the author: he would go to town broadcasting the fact that the loyalist had spurned the Queen. And that is precisely what he did.
If an emissary needed to be sent someone lower down in the order—Suman Dubey—should have been dispatched. He would have tested Singh's mood on which basis mother and daughter should have made the decision to visit him. Given Natwar's craving for vengeance, they played straight into the old man's hand.
I must declare an interest. I know and like—very few people do—Natwar. Behind the hauteur lurks a person dying to be taken seriously as a man of letters. He often boasts of his correspondence with world-renowned writers like EM Forster. The correspondence exists but it is essentially in the nature of "thank you for the mangoesbooks". I met Natwar a couple of times at the airport. He always carries a fat book on Nehru or Octavio Paz in his hand.
Khushwant Singh used to loathe him, dismissing his intellectual pretensions as bogus. Natwar once confessed to me he was at a loss to understand why the Sardar had such negative feelings about him.
Now to the 'sensational disclosures'. According to me they don't amount to much. Of course, given the appropriate spin they can be converted into screaming headlines.
Let us take the prime disclosure. Sonia lied about her 'inner voice', she actually just funked in 2004.
Her son's ultimatum gave her the excuse for funking. I think you need a heart of stone not to identify with a family which has lost two close members in bloody assassinations. To make a song and dance about a technical fib in an atmosphere of extreme hostility to the `Italian' reportedly poised to sell state secrets to the Pope, with Sushma Swaraj threatening to shave off her head, and with the BJP ready to launch a nation-wide agitation, the fib is not just understandable but excusable.
We then get to the tittle-tattle regarding the decay in Sonia's character and her vaulting ambition for her son. What can I say? These are subjective opinions/observations of an embittered man enjoying taking his pound of flesh.
I don't want to pretend I know the truth or have my own sensational disclosures. However, to educate myself I revisited the Volcker Files which contain material on Natwar's role. At best, a complex picture emerges which challenges Natwar's claim of being `pure' as driven snow.
Enter Natwar's son, Jagat and his mate Andaleeb Seghal. What were both these fellows doing in Iraq when Natwar visited the country in 2001? What is Natwar's connection with Hamdan Exports, the company that allegedly got four billion barrels of oil? Why did Natwar not tell Sonia he was taking Jagat and Andaleeb to Iraq? Finally, most curious, why did Natwar post scam, not meet his boss to make his case? Natwar's answer to the last question is he was waiting for Sonia to call him. I'm sorry, I'll read that again! Natwar wanted Sonia to say, "Can you please spare ten minutes for me". Once when I went to meet the Congress president, I found Natwar perched uncomfortably on a bench waiting. My meeting lasted 30 minutes. When I came out Natwar was still waiting.
Natwar Singh mostly is an honourable man but he protests too much. I am delighted he has written the first rough draft of history. But it requires serious sub-editing. As in all Graham Greene's fiction, the truth is not black and white; it is made up of 50 shades of grey.
I repeat, Natwar is an honourable man, but he has not been canonized yet.
This first appeared in the Times of India
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Congress party is addicted to power. That is its main problem. Some time back Digvijay Singh a "faltu" advisor told the media that Rahul Gandhi's psychological attitude is not suitable for ruling a country. Now Natwar's claim that it was Rahul Gandhi who stopped his mom from becoming a Prime Minister for fear of death to her.
These are fuming because Mr.Man Mohan singh's rule ruined Congress party because of his attitude of silence and his lack of political sense. But the truth was that Sonia wanted Manmohan singh to be very silent. It was Sonia Gandhi who ruined Congress party to a great extent, though I think party will come back.
Natwar like people in the congress party should learn to live without power. Natwar , the old man is not at all important. What is important is that he is representing a host of congress leaders and cadre who are thinking exactly like him.
To a great extent Anthony committee report is very important , though very little part of that report is available to outsiders other than Congress party bigwigs.
One syphocant blaming to another syphocant to behave properly.it is amusing.entertaining to readers.
VM seems to be singularly more frustrated, dejected, sadder & angrier than all the members of the First Family put together, after the General Elactions and after Baru's & Natwar's books release. Is this what is called as being 'more loyal than the master'?
VM - Dean of faculty of Chamchagiri
He has turned chamchagiri in yo an art form. Nobody can lick corrupt familiy's boot so shamelessly.
Sushma Swaraj may indeed shave her head; but will she "shave off her head" as Vinod Mehta suggests?
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