Jul 11, 2008
India - Characters in search of an Author
There is hardly a new thing that can be said about the Indo-US nuclear deal. But the deal has shown new sides to those public figures whom we thought we knew well. Here they are, looked at through the post-nuclear deal tamasha glass:
1. Manmohan Singh: After years of playing dumb-(or, at least, mumble) charades with both the Congress President and the Indian people, ‘I’m-a- Man’ Manmohan has suddenly received a double shot of adrenaline, which ought to help him help the country return to its fiscal good health. Armed with Marlboro machismo, he returned from the G8 summit getting ready to play footsie with the Samajwadi Party.
2. Sonia Gandhi: No one exactly knows how she managed to rule the country as a meta-PM — did someone say absentee landlady? — for four years. But one is sure that in wooing the Samajwadi Party, she hasn’t exactly found an ideal house guest. Had she had the courage to go for polls right now, the Left would have got bloodied noses, the decks would have been cleared and the ‘best man’ would have come out on top. Instead, by trafficking with the SP, she may have got the Congress in a hazy zone of political gimmickry.
3. Prakash Karat: The man of the moment that has passed. He is the Shakespearean fool, who while pointing out the follies of the world, is the first to go down, bells on his cap still a-jingling. His earnestness is his tragic flaw. Karat has no connection to ‘lived and living’ politics and yet wanted — and, lest we forget, got — to enjoy power disproportionate to his responsibilities. He could have been the new face of the Old Left, but became a victim of ideological geriatrics. If he goes under the pile, the Left may be saved. Otherwise, ‘Marx naam satya hai...’
4. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: He has no established connection to the nuclear deal and has kept steadfastly mum about it. But he could have emerged as the counterpoint to Karat’s sophisticated caveman instincts. He, however, has much more on his plate than to save the Left in the national Capital. He was initially the pro-reform, pro-deal comrade. Yet,the way he’s managed his beleaguered state, where ‘too little, too late’ morphed into ‘too much, too soon’, sealed his voice.
5. A.B. BARDHAN: If there’s a one-man party, it’s Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan. He is the representative, the spokesperson, the office bearer and tea boy for the CPI. But exactly what sort of political force the CPI is and what exactly is its constituency, no one dares to ask — lest they have to face a volley of obscure rhetorical quotations from Soviet textbooks that includes pre-Soviet ones like Cherensky’s What is to be Done?
6. Amar Singh: The wheeling-dealing survivor and negotiator of all high-profile and low-credibility deals. He smiles and outwits everyone in The Game. The assorted power and glamour quotient of Mulayam Singh and Amitabh Bachchan fall far short of what he’s imbued in. It’s Shylock-time for him now as he figures out how to extract a pound of flesh for his party, his friends and, yes, himself.