For god's sake act like a humble farmer, if you are one!
Dear prime minister,
A few weeks ago, you were quoted as telling a group of visitors
that you had become prime minister by accident. Your friends say
that when you are particularly exasperated by the pressures of
running this omnibus coalition, you sigh, ''I never wanted
this job; I would happily go back to Bangalore."
Ten years ago when we first met, you told me that you would one day become
the Karnataka chief minister. I was -- dare I say it? -- a little
sceptical, but could not help being impressed by your quiet confidence.
In the event, you did become chief minister -- though perhaps it
was a little behind your own schedule -- and from all accounts, you did as well as, if not
better than, your predecessors.
A decade ago, you struck me as being sincere in your simplicity,
and everything you did in your 10 months in Race Course
road has served to confirm that impression. You may be no Jawaharlal
Nehru, but you have done better than anybody expected. And most
of the country sees you as a straightforward chap, who is doing
his best to handle the job he never expected to get.
Over the last month, however, an opportunity has arisen to go
beyond the limited success you have enjoyed so far. The disarray
in the Congress and the euphoria created by P Chidambaram's budget
have at last given you room to manoeuvre. You now have more goodwill
than ever before. With that goodwill has come a chance to do
something you will be remembered for.
This is a crucial moment in any prime minister's career. Some
people will suggest that you use this new strength to launch policy
initiatives. Personally, I don't agree with that prescription.
Given the nature of your coalition, few meaningful measures can
be taken. And you seem too sensible a person to fall back on such
stunts as a war with Pakistan or more reservation for 'weaker
But prime minister, nobody can stop you from being yourself. And
there, I suggest, lies your greatest opportunity.
You keep telling
us that you are a poor farmer and proud of it. Well, for god's sake, act like one then! What I have
in mind is this: dismantle the imperial prime ministership. Throw
away its regal trappings. Stop trying to impress us
with your motorcade, your bungalows, your security, and your chartered
Let's take the small matter of the prime minister's house first.
During Indira Gandhi's days, this was a modest complex with two small
bungalows. One for her family and one for office. Rajiv moved
to Race Course road and, though his securitymen insisted on
blocking off the street, followed his mother's policy.
He lived in number five, to which no political people were ever
invited, and received official visitors at number seven.
Then came Narasimha Rao, a widower with grown-up children, who
had till then lived on his own in New Delhi. You might think that
he had no need for two separate bungalows. No way. The first thing
he did was to take over yet another bungalow -- number three.
So you had a bizarre situation in which Rao lived all
alone at number three and received Chandra Swami and N K Sharma
there. His sons took over number five and entertained gentlemen
with suitcases. Official visitors were directed to
I am sure prime minister, that your grown-up children have no
need for suitcases. And nobody needs three bungalows, least of
all a poor farmer. So give up number three forthwith. Evict your
own sons from number five -- they are old enough to find accommodation
of their own. And clear number seven of all chamhcas.
That is step one. Step two has to do with the absurd trapping
of power that are forced on you in the name of security.
Tell us what you think of this column