August 08, 2020
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George Of The Jungle

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George Of The Jungle
IT'S all very well to keep belabouring Laloo Prasad Yadav and his brand of buffoonery and corruption-even Rushdie does it in his new book-but it's time more people began questioning the sophisticates of Indian politics, such as George Fernandes. I've never had the privilege of meeting the man, but since the early eighties I've known colleagues to speak well of him. The general opinion has been: the man means well. By those paranoid about the bjp he was seen as a kind of silver lining when the government was sworn in last year. And he began well, handling his powerful defence portfolio with the kind of sensitivity and intelligence that had been missing from the job for some time.

But now for the last few months no one seems to know what he means at all, leave alone well. Suddenly, the armed forces seem to be enmeshed in the worst kind of politicking and lobbying, going the way of civilian street. You don't need to be a starred general to assess what this augurs for the morale of an institution resting on the cornerstones of complete trust, obedience and responsibility, up and down the hierarchy. Troops have to respect their officers if they're to follow them into battle; and officers have to trust their troops not to shoot them in the back. And then there is the danger of politicising an army so wonderfully removed, for so many decades, from the seductions of fascism.

Good man George does not even seem to care. And if he does so, he doesn't let on. He has failed to explain-actually not even bothered to make an effort-the sacking of a chief, the dubious probe against another, and the decision to allow gunrunners to flourish in the north-east. When histories of the time are written Laloo may get it in the neck for worsening a bad situation, but good man George is going to take home the laurel for damaging an exemplary army.

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