Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Natwar Singh's autobiography. One Life is Not Enough: A Courtier's rant

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Natwar Singh has an unlikely admirer, another Sonia Gandhi loyalist, Mani Shankar Iyer. Knowing very well that the Natwar Singh has fallen out of favor in the Gandhi household, Mani Shankar Iyer has given a very laudatory account of Natwar Singh in the current issue of India Today. Probably both studied in Cambridge and were part of the elite IFS unities both men in a common miasma of mutual admiration. Mani Shankar Iyer is known to possess an acerbic tongue which can be hired by the Gandhi dynasty and unleashed against anyone daring to ask the dynasty inconvenient questions. Yet Man Shankar is very reverential when he engages with Natwar Singh and his work. Probably another courtier waiting for the opportune time.

Natwar Singh's so called revelations do not add anything of substance to what we already know about the regime of Sonia-ManMohan Singh, the duo that had dominated the power structure during UPA I and UPA II. Man Mohan Singh's pussinanity was too well known and it did not require Natwar Singh's laboured history to confirm what we all knew. Sanjay Baru in his book the Accidental Prime Minister  had alerted the Nation to the dyarchy that prevailed in the UPA regime.  Even his explosive revelation that Rahul Gandhi prevented his mother from taking up the Prime Ministership is hardly an expose. Being a shrewd politician, Sonia Gandhi knew that her public acceptance  was very limited and she could not have been an effective PM. Holding the Remote Control in her hand ensured that she held the sinews of power. Natwar paints himself as a victim of a ruthless woman. Natwar Singh is really the quintessential courtier whose entire life was spent in the personal service of the rich and the powerful. He thinks that he is doing great acts of State when he is  asked to carry messages to and fro people who matter. Message carriers cannot deceive themselves into believing that they are confidants of their handlers. This is the truth of Natwar Singh's petty existence. he a mere factotum carrying messages between Indira and her Ministers and later between Sonia Gandhi and her extended court. Butlers and Factotums like Natwar Singh are expected to maintain discreet silence. I remember that Princess Dianna's butler also came out with a salacious book on the Princess.

Natwar Singh does not say anything about the Vocker Report and he was dismissed from the Government because of his involvement in the Food for Oil Scandal. It is true that the name of his son, his friend and Natwar Singh's own name appear in the list of beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein's largess. He had the opportunity to say his side of the story and Natwar Singh is quiet about the whole issue except to say that he was implicated in the scandal at the behest of the Americans. This line of reasoning is suspect because the Vocker Commission was set up by the UN Secretary General and there are documents to prove the involvement of Natwar Singh in the scandal. It is unfortunate that Natwar Singh chooses to obfuscate the entire affair instead of bringing out the truth. And there is not a word about the mysterious death of his daughter in law who was killed after falling from the roof of a hotel in New Delhi and her cell phone did not even have a scratch. Natwar Singh and his great admirer Mani Shankar do not raise these inconvenient facts because public memory in India is only as long as the days' headlines.

Natwar Singh, a jat from Bharatpur packages himself as royalty and I recall Mahavir Singh a man who claimed to be his nephew always addressing Natwar as Kuwar, a feudal title of respect. Men like Natwar Singh are mere courtiers and their lives are not enriched either by reflection or refinement. An unworthy man has written a sly book which evades all the real questions and the hard controversies. Raising questions over Sonia Gandhi will not make us forget Natwar Singh's involvement in the Iraq Scandal. Yes, in one way this man is right. One life is not enough for a corrupt predatory courtier like Natwar all ofn 83 years of age.

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