Timing it Right

Journalist and political historian Rasheed Kidwai’s latest book is out. Written in Hindi, Bharat ke Pradhanmantri takes a look at our former Prime Ministers, bringing out some unknown nuggets about each. Kidwai says he has purposely written the book in Hindi to dispel many wrong facts, canards, misinformation about former Prime Ministers during the rounds on “WhatsApp University”. Take the case of former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, for instance, who is largely projected as a spineless politician, who was soft towards Pakistan. Kidwai seesGujral as someone whose decency was often mistaken for weakness, but surmises that the former PM “had nerves of steel and wasa nationalist to the core”. Kidwai quotes Shekhar Gupta when he relates an anecdote from the times when Gujral was our man in Moscow when the then PM, Indira Gandhi came visiting. During an official dinner, the Soviet leader, Brezhnev, happened to glance at Gujral’s HMT watch and praised it. Hearing his comments, Mrs Gandhi told Gujral in Hindi that since he likes it so much why don’t you gift it to him. But Gujral demurred that this would go against political protocol. Since Brezhnev’s compliments kept coming Mrs Gandhi made another attempt to get Gujral to gift the watch, but he held firm. However, soon after he procured a brand new HMT watch from India and presented it to their Russian host. Kidwai also quotes a conversation that another journalist K.P. Nayyar had with Gujral where he commented that the then Prime Minister was seen as being soft on Pakistan. Hearing this Gujral shot back that there was no way he was going to give anything away to Pakistan for he was just as nationalist as the next man. Peppered with anecdotes and analysis the book makes for a rather interesting read.

Glimpse of the PMs covered.

Omission of a Commission

The tenure of the 21st Law Commission got over on August 2018 and while the government approved the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission in February 2020, it has not appointed either the chairperson or the members till date. Hence, for two years there was no Law Commission and after that for more than a year, itexists only on paper. Some see this as the dismantling of yet another institution by the current government, others blame the delay on Covid-19. But it is a fact that some of the recommendations of the Law Commission,especially its recommendation limiting the use of the sedition law to only those cases where an act is committed with the malafide intention of disrupting public order or an attempt is made to overthrow an existing government. This recommendation along with the fact thatthe 21st Law Commission was also not supportive of the government’s decision to bringin a Uniform Civil Code,instead in its 2018 report recommended codifying personal law. Bothare decisions thatcould not have pleased the government. The question now is: will these vacancies be filled anytime soon?

Killing us softly with his song

Shashi Tharoor’s clip and Javed Akhtar’s reply.

Shashi Tharoor created quite a buzz on social media recently when he sang an old Hindi movie song Ek Ajnabi Haseena Se at a public function recently. Since Tharoor is known for his clipped accent and English vocabulary the video of him intoning a Bollywood song went viral. The event occurred in Srinagar at a cultural program organised by Doordarshan. Perhaps Tharoor was influenced by his recent meeting with Farooq Abdullah in the valley, for the latter is known for his flamboyant ways. Having said that, this is also not the first time that Tharoor has given the Hindi language a shot for there are some videos of his undergoing a rapid-fire test in translating Hindi words during his TV interviews. Anyhow, the clip went viral along with a caption by Tharoor himself which said, “unrehearsed and amateur but do enjoy.” and everyone had some fun with it. While a meme of Tharoor on Instagram was captioned as “South Delhi boys at a sangeet function”, the best reply came from Javed Akhtar, who tweeted: “We have a similar song in Hindi”. Touche!