Eminently readable!

30th Apr, 2014

| by writesolutions

Here’s are tit-bit extracts from the much-talked about biography of Dr Manmohan Singh, The Accidental Prime Minister, penned by Sanjaya Baru. There is just one word to describe it – Unputdownable.

Read on…..Chomp! Chomp!

On Wednesday, 18 June, I was being driven to office around half past nine in the morning when I saw a couple of cars parked in the 7 RCR compound and police escort cars parked on the road outside. This was normal whenever the PM was having a meeting with anyone entitled to a police escort. The escort cars would always be parked outside the RCR compound. However, since I knew the PM’s official schedule that day, I wondered who he was with so early in the morning, and why the meeting was not shown on his daily program sheet.

I called Subbu on my mobile to ask what was happening. He told me that Sonia Gandhi had come calling on the PM and the two had later been joined  by Pranab Mukherjee.

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Late in the afternoon, Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN called me. He had heard from a ‘reliable’ source that Dr Singh had submitted his resignation, he said, and his channel was going to run with the story. Did I have any comments? I requested Rajdeep to hold on, assuring him that I would return with a comment. When I called Subbu, he suggested I call 3 RCR directly and ask to speak to the PM. I did so and Dr Singh came on the line. I told him what Rajdeep had said. Dr Singh kept quiet for a while and suggested I say nothing. I knew the deed had been done. I did not call Rajdeep back and did not take his calls either.

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Pranab Mukherjee had left RCR that morning to meet Karat and Yechury and tell them what had happened. The next morning, on 19 June, The Hindu’s lead headline was ‘Congress-Left  Near Break-Up on Nuclear Deal’. It reported, among other things, that a meeting of the UPA–Left committee scheduled for the 18th evening had been postponed because of the PM’s threat to quit if he was not allowed to go ahead with the nuclear deal. Two days of hectic activity followed.

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I sat there worried. If Sonia had summoned Montek to get him to advise the PM to back off, surely she would deploy others too. Many around Dr Singh were wont to be even more risk averse than him. They would in all likelihood counsel him to remain in office and complete his term rather  than be heroic and risk a downfall. Would Dr Singh then have the courage to stand firm and call their bluff, I wondered.

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 Returning home on 10 July, Dr Singh informed President Pratibha Patil that he would seek a vote of confidence later that month. The media was full of reports and analyses, and statements from the BJP and the Left, both of whom had made common cause in their opposition to the deal. The Congress party was clearly confused and went silent.

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Returning  home late on the first day of the debate, 21 July, I switched  on the TV and tried to relax. One  of the channels was playing a song from a yet-to-be-released film called Singh is Kinng. The song had great rhythm and beat. It was the kind of song that made you shake your shoulders and hips. As I went to bed I amused myself by imagining TV news channels playing this song the next day were Dr Singh to indeed win the vote of confidence.

 _______

 Tuesday, 22 July was a tense day. Congress party leaders and Narayanan met the PM to assure him that the government had the numbers. Dr Singh looked pleased and confident, though a bit nervous. Everything seemed to be going well until after lunch. But trouble was lying in wait. At

4 p.m., some members of the BJP placed wads of rupee notes on the table of the Lok Sabha secretary general and alleged that they had been paid this money in exchange for support to the government.

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When Sonia Gandhi and other leaders left the PM’s room, I walked in. Dr Singh was ashen-faced; he looked pale and ill, almost as if he would collapse or break down crying. I had never seen him like this— silent, motionless, shell-shocked and grief-stricken. This was not the way he had imagined the day would end. This was not the way, either, that he had imagined the issue would play out.

_______

 When the Lok Sabha reconvened, Dr Singh hoped he would get a chance to speak. But that right and courtesy was denied to him by an Opposition that heckled and disrupted the session. He had spent considerable time over  the previous week working on his speech. Montek, Narayanan and I worked on various parts of it with the PM himself adding sentences.

_______

 He had agreed to conclude on an uncharacteristically personal note:

I have often said that I am a politician by accident. I have held many diverse responsibilities. I have been a teacher, I have been an official of the Government of India, I have been a member of this greatest of Parliaments, but I have never forgotten my life as a young boy in a distant village. Every day that I have been prime minister of India I have tried to remember that the first ten years of my life were spent in a village with no drinking water supply, no electricity, no hospital, no  roads and nothing that we today associate with modern living. I had to walk miles to school, I had to study in the dim light of a kerosene oil lamp.This nation gave me the opportunity to ensure that such would not be the life of our children in the foreseeable future. Sir, my conscience  is clear that on every day that I have occupied this high office, I have tried to fulfil the dream of that young boy from that distant village.

But the speech was never delivered, merely tabled and circulated to the media.

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 An uproar greeted the victory. I sent a text message from my mobile phone to several journalists with just three words on it: ‘Singh is King’. Late that night, when I reached home and switched on the TV, every channel was running that jingle from that movie with visuals of a tired prime minister standing in front of TV cameras holding his hand up in a V-sign.

writesolutions

Radhika Sachdev

Content Strategist

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