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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Flip side: Will and testament

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is busy writing his final will and testament, in the political context of course. His publishers, however, have leaked some portions in advance. Excerpts:

Written by Dilip Bobb | Published: April 20, 2014 12:18:33 am
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is busy writing his final will and testament, in the political context of course. His publishers, however, have leaked some portions in advance. Excerpts:

Friends, remains and countrymen,
Lend me your ears. My years of public service are coming to an end, but it seems like yesterday when I received a gentle nudge on my back from an unseen hand, pushing me to assume the position of prime minister. Some say it was the elusive foreign hand, but I could not tell since my gaze was unwavering, and my face unsmiling as I waved to the crowds in my signature fashion — hands at waist level in case I was accused of exceeding my brief, or briefs. My tenure has been anything but brief, 10 years at Race Course Road; but from a gallop, I have been charged with slowing to a crawl, and crawling when I only needed to bend. Et tu Baru!

His publishers, Hatchette Job, have gone by the belief that the good that men do is oft interred in the interest of book sales. People say that one should choose wisely in selecting a wife and friends. I’d like to add media advisers. It was an accidental choice, and that nudge in the back from unseen sources could also have been a stab in the back from an unseemly hand. I have always believed that one should be like Caesar’s wife, so what if she was of Italian origin? I hope when history is written, not the one that is mostly fiction, it will be kinder to me than the media and former media advisers and coal secretaries have been. I consider my job well done and I have her permission to say so. Like Brutus, I am an honourable man, even though he was of Italian extraction as well.

People have accused me of being more loyal than the King. My sole concern is the Congress family. And since it’s a family concern, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, which that man from Gujarat is sending my way, does not bother me. In fact, as you can tell from my expression, my countrymen, nothing bothers me, not even my ministers — who didn’t bother to brief me.

That man from Gujarat keeps harping on about two power centres and that ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Let me assure him that there is no dual role. Nor a reversal of roles. In Vajpayee’s time, the principal secretary functioned as if he were the PM; while in my case it is being said that the PM functioned like a principal secretary. I did not Pulok Chaterjee out of thin air, to hand over files for approval. Two heads are better than one and I never felt as if I was in a minority, although I am in a sense. My contribution is not limited to the nuclear deal and adding to Sardarji jokes; it is far greater. History will judge and the proof will be in the pudding, usually tiramisu.

Critics say I should have been more accessible to the media. As prime minister I avoided the media, so much so that I never watched television, not even prime time, mainly because the remote was always in someone else’s hand. My greatest legacy would be to hand over the baton to the young, er… young man, but it is the inked finger that will decide. The nation would have been in good hands, the Congress hand, which I will always remember as being firmly on my shoulder. Jai Hind, sab theek hai.

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