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Manmohan is the best PM we’ve had,says Khushwant

The launch of Khushwant Singh’s book proved that the 95-year-old remains unsurpassed as both India’s best known and best loved writer.

Written by Shruti Ravindran | New Delhi |
August 17, 2010 1:57:05 am

The launch of Khushwant Singh’s book proved that the 95-year-old remains unsurpassed as both India’s best known and best loved writer. A host of eminent people converged in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel for the release of the latest addition to his prodigious oeuvre — Absolute Khushwant: The Low-Down on Life,Death & Most Things In-Between,in conversation with writer Humra Quraishi.

“I really feel privileged and honoured that I’ve been able to do this book,” said Quraishi. “His loyalty and friendship has had a deep impact on me. He is so caring. Such a person is rare today.”

Journalist and protege M J Akbar spoke next. “This is one of the rare occasions when even hacks like us run out of words,” he said,before disproving himself by launching into a rousing tribute in which he revisited the start of his own career in 1971 under Singh’s mentorship at the Illustrated Weekly. “Editors,then,thought it was beneath their dignity to speak to anyone below 72 years,” Akbar recalled,“but destiny took me upstairs,where,suddenly,I was writing cover stories at the Illustrated Weekly,which just blew up Indian media; transformed it completely. Editors then sneered at it because it was popular,and it communicated,but they also considered it politically correct to sit in an attic and never breathe fresh air.”

An enormous chocolate cake was then wheeled in,upon which Khushwant Singh spoke briefly with characteristically laconic wit. Impishly referring to First Lady Gurcharan Kaur,seated next to him,as a “gatecrasher”,he said,“All I want her to do when she gets back home this evening is take a look at page 69 and see if what I’ve said is correct or not.”

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The page in question is under a chapter entitled ‘Those I respect and admire’,and is a paean to the Prime Minister,extolling his rise from “humble and simple” origins,his courage for opening India to the world and turning around the economy. Singh goes on to declare that the Prime Minister’s goodness and statesmanship exceeded that of Indira Gandhi and even Pt Jawaharlal Nehru — who “had vision and charisma” but was “anti-American and blindly pro-Soviet and socialist”,“could be impatient with people,and had favourites”. “I believe Manmohan’s (Singh) the best Prime Minister we’ve had,” Singh writes. “Manmohan has a free and extremely good mind. He cannot be accused of nepotism. Nehru could. Indira could. No one would say that of Manmohan Singh

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