Woman of letters: Malavika Sangghvi writes an open letter to Dr.Manmohan Singh

Sunday, 20 April 2014 - 7:25am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
In the wake of the public outcry over his capitulation to Sonia Gandhi, as revealed in Dr Sanjaya Baru's book The Accidental Prime Minister, Malavika Sangghvi writes to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

Dear Dr Singh,

Three years ago, in a column that I'd written for Business Standard titled 'Tragic Hero' I had begun by asking:

'Has the time come to recognise that Manmohan Singh is a tragic hero, cast in the same mould as the protagonists of some of Shakespeare's great dramas such as Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth?'

'For a man who has lived by such exacting standards of honesty and accountability to admit to heading a government that is seen as the most corrupt must be the ultimate humiliation,' I had written. I concluded with the words: 'What is that fatal flaw that Manmohan Singh possesses, that makes him the great tragic hero of our times and has led to his downfall? The fatal flaw, dear reader, is: decency.'
Even your worst enemies dear Prime Minister cannot fault you on the two virtues of decency and incorruptibility.

Throughout his book, The Accidental Prime Minister, which I read as a poignantly valiant defense of a leader by one who admired him, this decency and personal high ethical standards come through in Dr Sanjaya Baru's tome; and even though his account of the many instances of your capitulating in the face of 10 Janpath's rapacious lust for power have created a national outcry, I'd like to say that there are many like me who view you in a much kinder light.

The thing is, Dr Singh, in a country of rapidly deteriorating values just the fact that you were decent, upright, financially ethical and ensured that no members of your family misused their position is good enough for me.

I know it's a cop-out and I ought to be outraged that you allowed the PMO to be so diminished and that some of the most venal looting went unchecked on your watch, but frankly being a pragmatist and one inclined to see the glass as half full, I'm pretty chuffed that you managed to emerge with your own reputation unblemished.

And not only were you a decent, upright man, but a learned one too. When I look back on the politicians we've had, I can only think of a handful that brought with them so much learning, so much expertise in their field.

Yes, you allowed yourself to be bullied by those lesser than you, but frankly I think that's because you were just outsmarted and ill-equipped to deal with the political smarts of the Congress high command.
Running a coalition government was not easy, especially not for someone unused to the cut and thrust of coalition dharma. With the added onslaught of people within your party pulling the rug from beneath your feet to fulfil their own ambitions of dynasty and dominance, you were totally out of your depth.

Do I feel sorry for your predicament? Yes, I do. Do I condemn you for it? No I don't. I am too much of a realist to think in absolute terms.

Even leaders have feet of clay and I'd rather that my leader's flaws were that of decency and honesty than any other. I know this is going to go against public opinion, which is baying for your blood. (Somehow I can't help thinking that this new wave of criticism too is a diabolical campaign to deflect the blame of the Congress' imminent defeat in the current elections at your door.)

I think history will be a kinder judge of you Dr Singh. And for whatever it's worth I'd like you to know that even now, there are still some of us who hold you in high regard and know that you did your best.
I'd like to leave you with these words from WB Yeat's Second Coming which I think are an apt summation of your situation: 'Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world….The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Here's wishing you many long years of fulfilling retirement when you never have to deal with crass politics again and the only remote control you have to think about is that of your own TV set!

Yours sincerely etc,

Malavika Sangghvi


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