Now, who said Union Home Minister L K Advani is just another politician?
He is pretty cerebral, man -- look at what all he reads!
Unlike most politicians whose tryst with the printed word is confined to newspapers, Advani is far eclectic.
On his recent visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he found time to read Humphrey Hawksley's controversial novel Dragonfire, a fictional account of a nuclear war China wages against India.
Advani had earlier finished Dragon Strike: The Millennium War which Hawksley co-authored with Simon Holberton.
Perhaps unconsciously Advani was influenced by Hawksley's 'realistic fiction'. For he asserted at a reception in Port Blair that India could outstrip China in the new century, given the right leadership.
Though he did not suggest even remotely that China was India's Enemy Number One, as Defence Minister George Fernandes very kindly did not long ago, Advani stressed that New Delhi needed to get its act together to exploit its tremendous potential.
Remarkably, for someone who is wholly identified with the Sangh Parivar's hardcore section, Advani presents a very different, a very liberal, persona.
He is not obsessed with Hindi. Though he is proficient in that language, Advani seems to think in English. He feels English is no more a foreign language.
One reason India has stolen a march over China in information technology, he said, is that whereas China had shunned English, we turned out tens of thousands of graduates who were proficient in that language. Thus, concluded he, were able to keep abreast of the latest developments in IT.
So he came, did he?
Although he is past 70, it is not unusual for Advani to put in long hours.
On his visit to the Andamans, his working day stretched from 0600 hours IST to well past 2300 hours. He has tremendous energy to be able to retain his equanimity even after a backbreaking 10-hour journey in a decrepit 20-year-old Avro aircraft.
In what could be a lesson in correct political etiquette, the chief minister and top brass of Uttar Pradesh rushed to greet Advani when the Avro made an unscheduled halt at the Lucknow airport to refuel.
Rajnath Singh was attending an Eid function in the city when he was told about Advani's presence at the airport. He immediately rushed there.
In sharp contrast, in Marxist-ruled Calcutta, when Advani's plane made a scheduled 40-minutes halt on the way to and from Port Blair, no one from the state cared to greet him. Even Bengal's home secretary did not deem it fit to extend the customary greetings to the country's home minister.
Three cheers to Jairam
Jairam Ramesh, the Congress think tank, played a crucial role in injecting a sense of realism in the recent deliberations of state chief ministers and power ministers in New Delhi.
Thanks to his persuasive powers, Congress CMs led by Karnataka's S M Krishna, shed partisanship to fully endorse the prime minister's power sector reforms.
Jairam, deputy chairman of the Krishna government's planning commission, argued strongly for the adoption of a pragmatic package to prevent a serious energy crisis.
Krishna, in turn, was joined by Madhya Pradesh's Digvijay Singh. Together, they prevailed on the other chief ministers to de-politicise the question of reforms.
Thus it was that cheap populism yielded to economic pragmatism at that meeting.
Politics and the Budget
Former finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh finds it difficult playing politician. Sample this:
Soon after Yashwant Sinha unveiled his Budget, Dr Singh told his friends that under the circumstances it was a good Budget. But in his comments to the media, instead of praising Sinha, Dr Singh criticised him in no uncertain terms.
Politics does that you...
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
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