Pointing out the mistakes of powerful people when they are in power is far more honourable than writing about them when the chips are down. That Sonia Gandhi is secretive and manipulative is not a state secret

news Saturday, January 17, 2015 - 05:30
By Chitra Subramaniam When he travelled to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva for the many meetings, former Union Foreign Minister Natwar Singh used to bore journalists to tears. They had deadlines to meet and headlines to write, but Singh who thought he was India’s foreign policy would talk non-stop referring often to his intellect and the absence of it in others. Armed with copies of his many speeches, he would send Indian diplomats to chase journalists and hand over his statement where the lead, the main points and the conclusion would be highlighted. Not content with that, he would phone editors in India to ensure that the reporter had filed the story – any story – where his Geneva speeches were mentioned, complete with pause and applause. If they were not, the merry-go-round of chasing reporters would start afresh. Once he chased a reporter from AP, who, out of politeness took notes for 15 minutes about Natwar Singh talking about Natwar Singh. It comes as no surprise that Singh, now an octogenarian, studio hops with his tome One Life Is Not Enough. I don’t plan to read the book because I can’t think of one major foreign policy initiative or overture he has conceptualized and led and I fear the book will be a lot about him and himself. People who have read the book tell me I can borrow a copy as there’s no earth-shattering revelation.  My point is somewhere else. I find it ugly, for want of another word, to learn that that a man who showed little courage and even less courtesy throughout his political career refers to private meetings with the Gandhi family where obviously he was treated as a confidante. As sins go, that’s a cardinal one for nothing can be worse than repeating drawing room conversations or recounting scenes of personal tragedy and grief that privileged access may provide. Voyeurism comes to mind.  Yes, it is a betrayal of trust of the worst kind for private gain and pecuniary interests especially when someone is down and out. Pointing out the mistakes of powerful people when they are in power is far more honourable than writing about them when the chips are down. That Sonia Gandhi is secretive and manipulative is not a state secret – she is a politician, a tad above the rest she rules. By his own token, Natwar Singh is a relentless self-promoter who lacks courage, a tad above the others he ridicules!  Sonia Gandhi slips too. A book will not affect someone who has seen the bullet-riddled body of her mother-in-law and seen her husband succumb to a bomb attack, she has been reported in the media as saying. In one stroke, she has collapsed the necessary firewall that must exist between leaders and the offices they hold. Indira Gandhi was a Prime Minister when she was assassinated, not a mother-in-law. The difference is big. Rajiv Gandhi was not assassinated because he was a husband – again the same degree of distance and respect for office is missing. Natwar Singh too slides between the personal and the official and the sound of the book appears to be one long whine.  As for Sonia Gandhi, her leadership has reduced the Congress Party to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, its worst ever. Leadership without line responsibility is a bad thing, and that is what she enjoyed for atleast a decade, unchallenged by men and women who voluntarily reduced themselves to pygmies.  The book she has promised to write will be an interesting one, if nothing, then just to read about how a woman from Italy reduced the Congress Party to smithereens to emerge as its tallest leader. That’s one book which millions will read.

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