Telling it Like It Is
If you thought that Dr Subramanian Swamy was blunt, then you have to read Evolving with Subramanian Swamy, A Roller Coaster Ride, written by his wife Roxna, for she certainly doesn’t hold back any punches. One interesting anecdote, however, is when she clears the air about a tweet of Swamy’s that created quite a controversy. This was in June 2016 when Swamy had tweeted that “BJP should direct our Ministers to wear traditional and modernised Indian clothes while abroad. In coat and tie, they look like waiters.” This was taken to be an attack on one of Swamy’s bete noir in the Cabinet. But writes Roxna, “the remark was not original”. What Swamy was referring to was a comment made by Morarji Desai, then CM of Bombay state who was introduced to Roxna’s uncle. “My unfortunate uncle happened to be dressed in a coat and tie and the ascerbic Morarjibhai took a dig at him by asking my grandfather in Gujarati: And this I suppose is your butler.”
Frenemies, Swamy style
There are other interesting anecdotes in the book, and what strikes one the most is how Swamy is capable of strking the warmest of friendships and the bitterest of enemities with the same person, be it Indira Gandhi, Chandrasekhar, Jayalalithaa, Ram Jethmalani, to name a few. In fact his opposition to the Emergency is well known as is the then government’s harrassment of his family. But what is not so well known is that later on, Mrs Gandhi used his help (a process initiated by Swamy during the Janata government) to open the Hindu pilgrimage route through the Himalayas, onto the Tibetan plateau, to Kailash and Mansarovar. (This had been closed by the Chinese since the 1962 war). Swamy was able to persuade the Chinese to open this and, in turn, they asked him to join the first batch of pilgrims. Since Swamy could hardly say no, he asked Indira Gandhi if she could get an Indian Air Force helicopter to pick him from Lipu Leikh and fly him to Bareilly. Indira Gandhi teased him that it would suit her better “If a more troublesome person like Swamy went to Tibet and never returned.” But she did send the chopper for him. But that was a different era of old school politics, which is a rarity today.
But as a footnote the most insightful comment on Swamy came from Chaudhury Charan Singh ,who apparently wondered how a Madrasi had developed Swamy’s belligerent Jat-like propensities. I am sure it’s a question many have asked since then.
Nailing the Rumour
It was well known that Rahul Gandhi’s overseas tour had been planned by his friend and former MP Milind Deora along with his dad’s pal Sam Pitroda and some inputs from Shashi Tharoor. The surprise element was the inclusion of Manish Tewari. The duo was seen together addressing an Atlantic Council thinktank (Tewari is a distinguished senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center). This also nails the rumour being floated by Tewari’s rivals at the AICC that he was out of favour with the party vice president. Even after Tewari was made national party spokesperson, his detractors did not get the message but continued the campaign of innuendos. Well, as they say a picture is worth a thousand whispers.