(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The winter of public life is setting upon Dr. Manmohan Singh. By all accounts, it is doing no good to his feeble frame. Or self-esteem, never mind it wasn’t on rack under the canopy of the Gandhis in the first place.
The 87-year-old former Prime Minister, twice over, is battling on many fronts and it isn’t just the aftereffects of multiple cardiac bypass surgeries he has had to endure on self. He seems to have been let down by his own women and men, or mother-son duo if you may, though the news doing public rounds is his anger the ruling dispensation of BJP at the Centre.
The latest bit is Dr. Singh’s refusal to accept the trimmed numbers of his personal staff to five—two each personal assistants and peons and one lower-division clerk—against the 14 he perceives is his right. Dr. Singh has been pretty dogged in pursuing the matter and given the number of letters he has shot across to PMO, one could only say that his one lower-division clerk is worth every single penny.
It’s a cry in wilderness for nothing. A man who was used to 500 persons crowding PMO for a decade, is now left with just five. It’s a cut as drastic as the surgical strike he did on state-command economy in the 90s. The setback is as much functional as psychological. You need translators and stenographers; Photostat operators and dispatch riders, drivers, carpenters and even cook! There are weekly offs, one or two on leave due to marriage in neighbourhood, and who pays for overtime in case the assistant is asked to stay back for second shift?
There are bound to be letters and invitations to a man who once presided over the destiny of 1.30 billion people, even if by remote. Phones must be ringing incessantly. Door bells being pressed all so often. A posse of doctors and nurses pacing up and down the hall. Rent-a-quote journalists from The Indian Express and The Hindu spread on the couches of the living room. It’s a fair bit of nuisance.
A prime minister leaving his office is still worth the rank of a cabinet minister, says the rulebook. But it’s only for five years after he demits his office. It’s Modi’s second term now. Privileges aren’t for life, you see.
Can’t Dr Singh engage his own staff? But then he is no longer a Prime Minister drawing a salary of Rs 1.6 lakhs. He is no longer a Member of Parliament from Rajya Sabha too which is worth a lakh of rupees every month. (How he must be cursing the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi who moved heavens to get an Ahmed Patel elected to Rajya Sabha but didn’t twitch an eyebrow in dumping Dr. Singh’s candidature).
Don’t you believe that only because he presided over a scam-ridden UPA regime, Dr. Singh is cash rich. For many a years, he drove Maruti 800. If Khushwant Singh’s book, “Absolute Khuswant” isn’t as fake as his Sikh history, and he wasn’t under the influence of wine or women or both, Dr. Singh once borrowed Rs 2 lakhs from him to fight the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. Dr. Singh’s progenies are academicians like him. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are saving for the rainy days. Besides, what could you expect from a man who publicly tore your policy papers in front of whirring cameras? Or a Congress who saw him fit for no role during the 2019 General Elections even though the party was fighting for its’ life?
Modi doesn’t look a man who would junk the rulebook. On his person too, Modi has a cash of only Rs 38,750 even though the fixed deposit is Rs 1.27 crores (as per the details in his 2019 Poll affidavit). How could the present PM help an ex-PM? Could Dr. Singh appeal to former vice-president Hamid Ansari and his Muslim brethren given how charitable he was in declaring Muslims to have the first right on India’s resources? Could Capt. Amrinder Singh listen to the wails of a fellow Sikh and override his seething anger against the High Command who have unleashed a barking Navjot Singh Sidhu on his coattails?
Dr Singh has practically come to an end to his public life. Neither his own men and women want him, nor does the ruling dispensation have any affinity for him. Public base for Dr. Singh in any case was flimsy. He flourished on the benign grants of Congress’ aristocracy. The plank has now been pulled from under his feet. And he doesn’t even have a straw to clutch on to. But then when Lutyens Delhi has been kind to even its own deities?
Coincidences do happen. Both Times of India and Hindustan Times took the editorial route to chide HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday. Next day, an Indian Express edit scolded the Karnataka chief minister. All three hags from the Lutyens’ Media were fuming. All three were lecturing HDK to understand the “reality” of coalition. To understand that as a senior party, Congress has a right to be a bull in the china shop. All coincidences, isn’t it.
Hindustan Times felt it’s nothing but drama from Kumaraswamy. Strange, for Arvind Kejriwal has been doing his “drama” for four years and yet escaped HT’s attention. The newspaper cited roads, power supply, garbage as issues dogging Bangalore. All these happen at a grander scale in Delhi. Right under its nose. But the stench never reaches the nostrils of these pen-pushers. Meanwhile, Congress has all its support: “It’s natural it (Congress) wishes itself to be taken into account before a major decision.” Wah, when it’s matter of allies of BJP, it’s the latter which is being “autocratic” and riding roughshod over its juniors. But in the matter of Congress, it’s juniors who must hide their tails between the legs. Pathetic, I say.
Times of India, says almost the same thing, the same day, the same lead on its edit page. Only coincidences, I understand. It wants Kumaraswamy “must accept this reality and soldier on” for in a situation of collapse, the “prime beneficiary would be BJP.” It warns HDK that his public lament would “not be music to voters.” Bravo.
And that must not happen, isn’t it. BJP must not benefit. Innocent, gullible voting cattles must not see this wrong connection which has made a mockery of democracy. Kumaraswamy has been given the chief minister’s chair and he must act like Manmohan Singh (yes, that’s the exact advice Times of India gives to HDK!). Sealed lips, zero conscience.
Indian Express wants Kumaraswamy to understand “asserting his control over the coalition would be difficult.” The “journalism of courage” doesn’t explain how the Chief Minister could run when the dogs are tugging at his dhoti. Or, without his allies behind him, how he could push through legislation in the state assembly. It also gives HDK a lecture in statecraft: “people hate tears.” Ask Pushpa (yes, it draws analogy from movie Amar Prem-that’s the seriousness it accords to the matter).
The newspaper terms it “idle tears” for if Kumaraswamy is serious he must give way to a colleague of his to run the government. I wish Indian Express had the courage to offer the same advice to Congress. Likes Gandhis, JD(S) is also all about Gowdas. They are dynasts no less. Would Rahul Gandhi step aside only because Congress is in a coma?
None of these three newspapers steel their spine and address a simple logic: If Kumaraswamy is distraught, if he is crying in public, could it be because Congress MLAs have made his life hell in Bangalore. And if it’s so why Congress is not reining them in? Is it because Congress simply can’t for the MLAs would then run under the BJP’s banyan tree? Why blame one opportunist when the other has turned it into an art form in last 70 years?
But then Congress is a different matter. It’s a holy cow with hind legs of a horse which can kick you in your teeth. The milky diet that you are fed on would be withdrawn. Hello Lutyens Media, why do the sham of being worried about democracy and a billion-plus people of this country? Why not concede you are lackeys and little else?