Saturday, 14 October 2017

An open letter to former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee

Close friends

Respected Sir,

Trust, this finds you in the best of health and spirit. Please excuse this ordinary citizen of India for writing an open letter to a former First Citizen of the country.

Sir, like millions of Indians, I have always been enlightened by your words of wisdom. You have been very forthright in sharing your thoughts with public, though sometimes, I find your words beyond my comprehension. That is my fault. Permit me to give a few examples.

I can never forget your memorable speech about late Sanjay Gandhi who was widely perceived as Indira Gandhi’s successor but the cruel fate snatched him away from us. Sometime in one evening of December 1982 or 1983, at a function organised at Vithal Bhai Patel House, just behind the Reserve Bank of India building on Parliament Street, to celebrate Sanjay Gandhi’s birthday, paying glowing tributes to the departed soul, you had said, ‘Sanjay was a great management expert’. I was present there as an onlooker. What you said was a news to me. Yes, Sanjay was the first Indian to dream of a completely indigenous car manufacturing plant to produce "people's car". He laid the foundation of his dream project in a garage in Gurgaon. Unfortunately, he had no knowledge of how to convert the dream into a reality. His mother expected the Planning Commission to support his project but D. R Gadgil and R. Venkatraman, the then Deputy Chairman and Member, respectively, of the Commission in 1971, rejected the proposal. The Maruti Limited went into liquidation in 1977. 

On May 13, 2017, still President of India, you participated in a function of the Congress party on the occasion of the release of a book, India’s Indira - A Centennial Tribute, compiled by the  Congress party. Addressing a galaxy of senior Congress leaders on the occasion, you gave another memorable speech (which I read in newspapers) that Indira Gandhi “was one of the remarkable personalities of the 20th century all over the world and to the people of India, even today after her passing away, she is the most acceptable ruler or prime minister of a democratic country.” No doubt, she was “remarkable” because there was something in her character that is not common but do the majority of the Indians really believe that she was most acceptable ruler or prime minister of a democratic country? People remember her more for imposing her personal rule (Emergency) in the name of saving the country when she put almost all her opponents in jails. She had misused the constitutional provisions and the President of the Republic to impose Emergency to save herself, not the country. 

You described her as a bold later and recalled several of her ‘bold decisions taken in the interest of the country’ including decision to ‘cleanse Golden Temple of militants’. However, can we forget that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was her creation?

Sir, as an officer in the Government of India, I had personally seen and heard from most reliable sources how she often worked against the country’s interest and showed scant regard for democratic institutions. She had agreed to take useless Westland helicopters from Britain, though the deal was finalised by her son, Rajeev Gandhi. We all know how disastrous it proved. Perhaps, I am one of the few living persons who know how she forced D. R Gadgil and R. Venkatraman the Planning Commission to quit for their audacity to oppose Sanjay Gandhi’s car project. (I was told the inside story by a close elderly friend who was eyewitness to whatever had happened in Yojna Bhawan.)

Incidentally, you used the book release function (a purely Congress party function function) to indirectly advise your former party colleagues how to revive the Congress.

Sir, very recently, on October 12 last, in an exclusive interview to the India Today Group Editorial Director, you said (categorically, according to a media report) that you did not feel disappointed when Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh over you for the post of Prime Minister. In your own words, “Not disappointed, because I considered myself disqualified from ever being the Prime Minister of India.” Among the reasons, you mentioned your being member of Rajya Sabha for the most part of your career before 2004 and your lack of knowledge of Hindi. (But Dr Manmohan Singh has always been a member of Rajya Sabha.)

Sir, may I humbly remind you of what you have written in the third volume of your autobiography, The Coalition Years, 1996-2012? You have written that on June 2, 2012, you had a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi “and I returned (from the meeting) with a vague impression that she might wish to consider Manmohan Singh as the UPA presidential nominee. I thought that if she selected Singh for the presidential office, she may choose me as the prime minister. I had heard a rumour that she had given this formulation serious thought while on a holiday in the Kaushambi Hills.”

 I leave it to the readers to compare what you have written in your autobiography with what you have stated in an interview on October 12, 2070 and draw their own conclusion.

Sir, you concluded the interview with a remark that has been interpreted as a tip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on diplomacy. You said, “I have always believed war no solution. Armed intervention is no solution. The only solution is to talk, dialogue, and nothing beyond that, when it comes to Pakistan and China.”

I wish, you had said that Prime Minister Modi tried his level best to engage Pakistan in dialogue. He invited Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, to his oath taking ceremony. In December 2015, he made a surprise visit to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharif. Soon Modi realised that no dialogue with Pakistan to resolve differences was possible. The real problem is, whom to talk to?  The Prime Minister of Pakistan is not as effective as Prime Minister of any democracy is because the Pakistani army and the ISI are more powerful. In addition, there are numerous powerful militant groups in Pakistan, which thrive on their ‘destroy India’ mission.   We have reached a stage when it is just impossible to solve the Kashmir issue and stop daily violation of ceasefire by Pakistan through dialogue.

Sir, your words on diplomacy may sound very noble and maybe appreciated by those who have soft corner for the separatists and militants but you have not given any workable solution to the problem. As an experienced minister for years, you should know that diplomacy with Pakistan will not work.  Diplomacy being ineffective, Modi is resorting to what any serious minded Prime Minister sshould do i.e. deal with the intruders with an iron hand and make the Kashmiri separatists ineffective by stopping the supply of money from Pakistan and putting them in jail for violation of the law of the land. If you have any concrete suggestion, please come forward with that.

Perhaps, dialogue is possible with China. Despite all the tensions on borders, there has been no exchange of fire and diplomatic pressure has often worked.

Before concluding, one humble question. Sir. do you propose to conduct yourself as a former President of India or as a leader of the Congress Party? By telling the nation that “Don’t write off Congress… The 132-year old party will bounce back” you have probably chosen to act as a Congress leader. Is it not unbecoming of a former President who is expected to be above party politics?

With kind regards and best wishes for a long healthy life.

Yours faithfully

Devendra Narain

October 14, 2017