Truth and its timing

William Blake has written, ‘A truth told with bad intent, beats all the lies that you can invent.’ Now there seems to be a scramble to insolate the truth -- from Sanjay Baru to Justice (retd) Markandeya Katju to K Natwar Singh -- when the UPA government is not in situ.

Technically Baru’s book hit the stall before the UPA government demitted office, but it was on its way out.

Questions have been raised about the timing of these revelations. While Katju’s belated mea culpa is a clear case of opportunism as he has not been able to explain why did he keep silent for about 10 years, Baru and Natwar may get some benefit of doubt.

Katju lost his temper whenever any journalist questioned him about his timing, and finally he came out with a lame duck explanation that he was bound by judicial discipline. This is humbug because a judge of the higher judiciary, unlike a minister, takes the oath of only office, not of secrecy. So, revealing a truth for a judge while being in office does not attract judicial discipline.

Had he divulged it at the right time, the “corrupt’ additional high court judge would not have been made permanent. But then Katju would have risked his own elevation to apex court. He kept mum for three years even after retirement as he got post-retirement job as the chairman, Press Council of India by the UPA government. It is also to be noted that the name of another former judge had almost been finalised for the post, but it was changed at the last moment.

Natwar Singh has punctured the theory of Sonia Gandhi’s sacrifice by revealing in his book ‘One Life Is Not Enough’ that it was not her inner voice but the pressure by Rahul Gandhi who feared her assassination in case she assumed the rein of power. However, she created a halo of renunciation as sacrifice appeals to the soul of India more than success.

It was no sacrifice as she kept the remote of the government with herself.
Natwar Singh has reinforced what Baru wrote earlier that sensitive files were taken to her. This is a violation of the oath of secrecy by the prime minister.

Manmohan Singh has stoutly denied it but Natwar reaffirmed it in his interviews. It is a fact that Sonia never jettisoned power. If it was a renunciation, she would not have staked claim to form the government in 1999 after the fall of the Vajpayee government on the floor of parliament claiming the support of 272 MPs.

It was Mulayam Singh Yadav’s stout refusal to support Sonia that nipped her chance in the bud. When she nominated Manmohan Singh, she got the National Advisory Council created and got the cabinet rank as its chairperson. It was known as the super cabinet. It is no secret that ministers of Manmohan Singh’s government demonstrated their loyalty to Sonia, not to the PM. People renouncing power do not use such shenanigans to wield power.

Extremes and opposites

Mahatma Gandhi or Jayaprakash Narayan, for instance, renounced power in the true sense and did not use remote to control it. India is a unique country which abounds in extremes and opposites. While Gandhi personified renunciation, his political heir Jawaharlal Nehru clung to power. Gandhi successfully led the freedom struggle but kept scrupulously away from power. It was unique in the history of the world that the greatest leader of the movement did not lead the government on its successful completion.

Jayaprakash Narayan was another leader to follow in the footsteps of the Mahatma. Dada Dharmadhikari spurned the offer of chief ministership and Union ministership. Nehru never refused any post, either in the party or in the government. He has recorded in his autobiography at several places that he wanted to resign from different posts or did not want to accept some posts but he was dissuaded from doing so. And then he himself wonders how easy it was to persuade him.

 Though Nehru has been honest and candid, the unmistakable conclusion is that he loved power. He was appointed vice-president of the Executive Council of the Viceroy on September 2, 1946, and became the prime minister on August 15, 1947, and remained on the post lifelong. In the USA, George Washington was reluctant to become president and went to Mount Vernon. He was persuaded to accept but quit after two terms, which has now become the norm.

Nelson Mandela, in South Africa, renounced office after one term. Now, Sonia is the Congress president for 15 years, the longest period so far for any party president, and she is in no mood to quit.
However, questions have been raised about ethics -- how far it was ethical for Natwar to use private conversation for public consumption to settle score?

It is clear that he has written with a sense of vengeance. It will be pertinent to quote from the book: “Sonia’s behaviour during my implication in the Volcker Report was vicious and venomous, and caused me great pain…From the day she put foot on Indian soil she has been treated like royalty; she has behaved like a prima donna. Over the years she has evolved from being a diffident, nervous, shy woman to an ambitious, authoritarian and stern leader. Her displeasure strikes fear among Congressmen.”

 It is true that great people do not use privileged information for personal gains. JP did so by returning the letters written by Kamla Nehru to his wife Prabhavati. These letters were very personal which spoke volumes for the intimate relations between the two. No letter ran into less than four pages and had such intimate details about her personal life, the publication of which could embarrass the Nehru family.

JP did not deem it proper to get them published and returned them to Indira Gandhi. Moved by his magnanimity, she exclaimed, “You alone could do this.” However, disemboweling a myth of renunciation is not a bad idea, even if done belatedly.

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