A film on Sanjaya Baru’s book “The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making And Unmaking Of Manmohan Singh” has grabbed headlines and dominated spirited debates on TV channels at the closing of the year 2018.
The book is about the former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s 10 years as prime minister of India. It portrays, according to contents in newspaper articles and television studio luminaries, the extraordinary “silence” of Dr. Singh when the government was actually being run by outsiders (obliquely Mrs. Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi) and scams of historic proportions were taking place openly. In fact, his name was punned by changing the spellings to “Maunmohan Singh”, “maun” means “silence” in Hindi.
But he was not a silent prime minister though his style and diction of communication might have escaped the newcomers to behaviour science, body language, communication technologies because they are signs of advanced cultural nuances.
The “silence” of the ‘perceived to be’ the silent prime minister has dropped like a bomb more devastating than the hydrogen bomb dropped anywhere in the world!
The book “The Accidental Prime Minister” has been in the market since April 2014 without raising much of a heat or cacophony but the film has, even before its release, raised fires and demand for a ban on its release.
The newly elected Congress led coalition governments in MP and Rajasthan have either already banned its exhibition in their states or are going to do so. The reason: the speaking silence of Dr. Manmohan Singh has exposed the culprits responsible for silencing him and hijacking the government.
In a way, the entire blame has been laid at the doorsteps of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and the family.
This was no secret, the only thing is it was reduced to writing by Sanjaya Baru, the media advisor to Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India for full 5 years. So, he watched the full show from the closest quarters and managed the media saving the image of Dr. Manmohan Singh personally while ensuring no harm came to Sonia Gandhi or her son or other family members (Robert Vadra, husband of her daughter Priyanka Gandhi; or her mother living in Italy). It was like watching murder of democracy, disrobing of probity in public life and silence of Bhishmapitahmah who was considered capable of stopping it just by breaking his silence.
That silence of Bhishma ultimately led to the greatest Indian war in history- the Mahabharat war which inspired the epic Mahabharat, a jewel in Indian literature. Rest is history of India with the deplorable centuries of slavery, which is unfortunately loved by the people who were responsible for making the Indian Prime Minister simply “maunmohan”. Scholars interested in real history of India since the Freedom Struggle would discover precious pearls of wisdom, truth, ethics, morality, rectitude, sacrifice and public service by deep study of trends and developments of this period and after it.
I have referred to Bhismapitamah to draw the attention of the readers to a significant point. The epic Mahabharat is not only an account of a bloody family feud of the cousins, it is much more of relevance in daily life, human relations and management of a variety of challenges faced at individual or family level where even general public or national interests too are sacrificed for petty self-interests or satisfying overblown egos. It is a challenge every public-spirited person faces in life. Any form of government demands the highest standards of personal integrity, morality, ethics, rectitude, capability, accountability and many other virtues of the top man/ top woman (ruler for ease of discussion). Democracy is no different. Democracy thrives on party politics and parties survive on political workers. Millions of such “workers, volunteers, followers, cadres” are employed on this unpaid work round the year. Does democracy demand of them free work and expect them to go for food and shelter to charity or philanthrope? The epic presents this contrast in the most telling, exciting and provoking style.
The Pandava brothers are led by the eldest named Yudhistar, who is the epitome of the God of Justice (Dharmaraj). He refuses to make even the slightest compromise on ethics or laws or rules and is prepared to forego the crown and kingdom of a monarch. On the other hand, his rival and cousin is named Duryodhana (invincible). The good kings and armies are on the side of Yudhistar and the evil ones on the side of Duryodhana. The epic passes no judgment on the defeat or victory of the one or the other, because it depends on perception. That is generally the position in a democracy, and India is not only a big democracy but too diverse, complex and complicate. It is like a coalition of political parties forming a government. Dr. Manmohan Singh was prime minister of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance). Don’t get fooled by words like progressive or united or alliance, as it earned the reputation of being the most corrupt government in the history of India since 1947. Dr. Manmohan Singh could not have acted Yudhistar in the circumstances.
Now contrast this scenario with the present one. Narendra Modi has run the government for 57 months acting Yudhistar-like (naa khaungaa, naa khaane doongaa). He is loved by the masses but not the classes; he is being fired verbally everyday by the opposition and a few of his own party-men. The insults hurled at Yudhistar and his brothers and wife by Duryodhana (his brother Dushashan meaning bad-king, friends etc.) in the open court where Bhismapitahmah, Dhritarastra, Kripacharya, Drone and Karna and many powerful individuals were present but chose to keep silent, makes one of the most powerful scenes in the video version of the Mahabharat story. Yudhistar was the only one who maintained a cool composure under such a provocating scenario that moment while other brothers were so angry that they rose to give a fight. As the opinions may differ on the issue and several other day-to-day problems covered in the story, the epic is not promoted to be read at home for avoiding family debates which might turn out to be worse than the current TV debates on the film version of the Manmohan Singh story.
The point is that the silence of MMS was not a weakness but weapon to be used appropriately at a time and place of his choosing. That has happened through Sanjaya Baru’s book first and the film now. Incidentally, there are many legends, where the Gods communicated their message through some host. For Dr. Manmohan Singh, Sanjaya Baru is the host.
Dr. MMS is not the only specialist of meaningful communication through silence, gesture, expression, body language and choice of words. Ak Anthony is another such brilliant user of language. He was the Defence Minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet and deal to purchase VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland was concluded, cancelled and the supplier blacklisted during his tenure. Allegations of payment of bribes were made before the deal was called off. The matter went to a court in Italy which ruled that bribes were indeed paid and pronounced the supplier company officials and middlemen guilty. The court punished them and said the bribe takers be brought to justice in India.
One of the middle-man is Christian Michel, a British citizen of Italian origin (presumably). He was spotted in Dubai and extradited to India towards the end of year 2018. He is likely to name the people and the bank accounts in which bribe money was transferred. Documents seized from Michel by the CBI and the ED contain several names of prominent Congress Party members including Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
The disclosure of the name of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has generated heated discussions. The Congress has accused vendetta politics and the BJP of Narendra Modi is demanding full disclosures about the recipients of bribes.
The Congress Party has complicated matters by providing a lawyer to Michel. This lawyer was the Legal Cell Chief of the Congress Party Youth Wing.
Failing to save Mrs. Sonia Gandhi & others, the Congress has now fielded the other General in their army: A.K.Antony, Defence Minister in Manmohan Singh Cabinet. He is known to be a clean person. He raised his voice in support of “transparency revolution” taking place in India when the Anna Hazare agitation against corruption was at its height and the Manmohan Singh led UPA government was believed to be the most corrupt one in the Indian history in memory. Antony had earlier been the chief Minister of Kerala and earned the reputation of being clean. He might be aware of the recipients of bribe but being “loyal” to the Gandhi dynasty is trusted. So, instead of fielding the usual fighter lawyers of the party known for their belligerence and abuse of knowledge & language to defend Mrs. Sonia Gandhi & others, AK Antony was asked to do the job.
Antony spoke in many words but a different kind of “silence” than “Maunmohan” Singh: he did not categorically say that bribe was not taken by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi or others. It means he did not issue any certificate of honesty to them. He said that Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never “interfered in the Augusta deal”. Was he any different from other ministers who simply signed the files sent to them for signatures after Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had “approved” them? Even Dr. MMS was the subject of satire in cartoons on TV and print media signing files marked approved. Had the details of bribe been disclosed to AK Antony, he would not have signed the file. So, the question of interference would not arise. But mark the use of the verb “interfere”. To understand the meaning of this word the user is required to learn the different versions of English in India. There are as many kinds of English in use in India as there are states, something like the other international types of English e.g. American English or German English or French English and English English. To get a true “sense” of “interfere” it would be advisable to consult a user, scholar, politician or teacher in neighbouring Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. Like nodding and shaking of the head denotes the opposite meanings in different states in India, so is the case with English such as Tinglish, Binglish, Hinglish etc. So, what A.K.Antony said was said without saying much in English that needs translation at the same scale and cost at which the BBC gets CNN feed translated in to English and vice versa. The Mahabharat is oft quoted for “Naro Vaa Kunjararo Vaa” statement! And A. K. Antony is an Honourable Man, we respect him for that!