The Real Fascists
Whatever the outcome in Bihar — and it is so close, it is impossible to call — the Prime Minister will have a tough time running the government. Because whether his party wins or loses, there is no way the Opposition will play ball. Modi will have to learn to press ahead with vikas, in spite of the dogged and desperate obstructionism of virtually everyone who was rendered jobless by his spectacular victory last year.
In this context, one is utterly disappointed with the conduct of writers and artists who have rushed to return their awards alleging failure by the government to defend the republican values of free speech, individual rights, freedoms, etc. For, creating systematic roadblocks in the path of progress, in wilfully preventing the creation of a conducive environment for growth is in effect a bigger assault on the people than a stray act of violence by a few mad-caps lacking modern education. The poor can gain only if the country is able to grow at, say, 9% to 10% on a sustained basis for the next decade or so. This alone will help banish poverty from the land.
However, those making a splash about returning the shop-soiled trinkets after having duly encashed them by way of higher sales of their works, ought to know that creating artificial barriers in the path of an elected government is a bigger assault on the peoples’ rights. It violates the founding principle of the republican system predicated on transmitting the popular will through the aegis of Parliament. Has any of these award-returnees mentioned even in passing the vicious attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy by making its functioning impossible?
Let us face it. These fellows are no friends of the present regime, having been patronised in myriad ways by the Congress, which has ruled the country for the longest period. The party had put in a place a three-tier system of patronage for sustaining itself in power. At the top was the supreme leader who relied on the second-rung state apparatchiks, who, in turn, patronised constituency-level criminal-mafia gang leaders to deliver votes on election time.
The supreme leader could rely on the support of the two tiers below so long as she/he allowed them to rake in the big bucks through all sorts of licit and illicit operations. Unfortunately, the Mandal and Kamandal movements broke this system, leaving the Gandhis high and dry. Now, all they can do is to put ever new spokes in the wheel of the popularly elected government and thus thwart the country’s onward march to progress.
If the above is clear to the ordinary people, the award-returnees, presumably blessed with superior cognitive powers, would have realised the real agenda of those stalling the wheel of democracy. How is it that not a whisper has been heard from these high-minded people who, otherwise, have latched on to a horrendous criminal act in Dadri and a few silly remarks by people associated with the ruling party to make it out as if the entire country is about to slip into fascism? If the truth be told, the real fascists are those who appear determined to do anything and everything to stall the functioning of the duly elected government.
And while still on the ersatz anger of the not-so-celebrated artists, where was the rationale for them to return the awards after the Sahitya Akademi had officially spoken against the attacks on rationalists and others?
A long-forgotten scientist seemed to be in a hurry to remind the world of his existence, making headlines in a section of the media, which anyway, is known to be unfriendly towards the present regime. It is notable that while the Akademi resolution hardly merited mention, return of awards a couple of days later was front page news. A case of “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t”, such being the ingrained prejudice of the class of people who had lost their fount of patronage with the marginalisation of the Congress.
A durbari reveals it all
Whatever the reason for M.L. Fotedar to tell it the way it was when he was an integral part of the Indira and Rajiv Gandhi durbars, he seems to have spoken most candidly. In his book, The Chinar Leaves, Fotedar has confirmed what was widely known in the political circles. That Ottavio Quattrocchi, the main bribe-taker in the Bofors deal, was in and out of the Rajiv Gandhi household. That both Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi were friendly with Quattrocchi children and often stayed over their house in the capital’s Friends Colony. And that the Gandhis, that is Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, wife, Sonia and their children often went on family holidays with the Quattrocchis.
However, what Fotedar has failed to mention is that Bofors was not the only deal in which the Delhi-based Italian middleman made tonnes of money. He brokered practically every deal during the time the Gandhis were in power, especially after the death of Sanjay Gandhi. Now, Sonia Gandhi could not be facilitating Quattrocchi’s business unless there was something in it for her as well. This probably explains why the Quattrocchis and the Maino family in Italy were so close. Which is why successive governments went to ridiculous lengths to ensure that no harm came to Quattrocchi.
And in a most disgraceful act, largely forgotten by everyone due to equally huge scams like the coal and the 2-G, Manmohan Singh dispatched a senior law officer to London to unfreeze the Quattrocchi bank account and, thus, put over 20 million British pound sterling of loot in the dalal’s pocket. The account was frozen at the behest of the V.P. Singh government.
Fotedar was ignored by Sonia Gandhi, who denied him a position either in the party or in government. Indeed, she took no notice of the entreaty made on his behalf by the then political editor of a major English daily, who had argued that Fotedar could be immensely useful to her. This was an unusual thing to do, but the senior journalist, who now edits a major regional paper, probably thought he owed it to a useful news source to help him regain relevance in the Gandhi durbar.
A case of sour grapes
Predictably, Arun Shourie stole the headlines. And thus took the focus away from the reason why so many noted economists, public intellectuals, policymakers and senior journalists had gathered that evening. Unusually for him, even the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the audience. The occasion was the launch of the celebrated economic editor, T.N. Ninan’s book, The Turn Of The Tortoise, at the capital’s India International Centre. Arvind Subramanian, the economic adviser to the Finance Ministry, Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary, and Shourie were to discuss the book, with a well-known television anchor conducting the proceedings.
But from the word go, Shourie vent his angry spleen. Hardly a word about the well-crafted and well-reasoned book. He just went hammer and tongs at the government, how it had made a mockery of the mandate, how people were now missing Manmohan Singh, (Ha, ha!), etc, etc.
Disdainfully ignoring the half-full glass, he concentrated only on the half-empty part. There was not a thing that the government had done right, according to him. As the anchor loudly muttered, it was a case of sour grapes. Again, predictably, given its obsession with the negative, the media completely ignored what Subramanian and Saran said.