EVEN if the election results force Narasimha Rao to pack his bags and restart work on his unfinished novel, the fag end of his tenure is bound to leave political scientists breathless. How many careers did he successfully destroy? Will Madhavrao Scindia or L.K. Advani or Balram Jakhar or Jaffer Sharief ever forgive him? He is not so much the teflon primeminister as the Houdini of Indian politics. Many of us, this writer included, had confidently predicted PV's imminent downfall courtesy the hawala scandal. "Boomerang," if I remember correctly, was the favourite word; the PM would swiftly be sucked into the whirlpool he had—admittedly with a little prodding from the Supreme Court—unleashed.
Well, he has come out relatively clean. Much mud (S.K. Jain's testimony to the CBI, Vajpayee's weekly revelations which finally made the BJP leader look pretty silly, Kalpnath Rai's verbal abuses) was thrown at him but most of it did not stick. Remarkably, he stayed unruffled throughout. During the height of the scandal, when ministers were resigning by the day and chargesheets were being tossed around like confetti and Delhi was gripped with mounting hysteria, Our Man in 7, Race Course Road was as cool as an Ajmeri Gate watermelon. I saw him a month or so ago at a Rashtrapati Bhawan lunch: he looked at least five years younger, his cheeks were glowing, and on his freshly oiled bald head I thought I detected a few strands of newly grown hair.