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Question hour

Arun Shourie deals with the many questions that we as a nation keep asking without getting satisfying answers.

books Updated: Jan 01, 2010 23:54 IST
Pankaj Vohra

We Must Have No Price

Arun Shourie
Rupa Rs 495, pp 343

Arun Shourie’s books are always meticulous in their research and are written in a simple but forceful style. They also cover topics that touch us all. His latest offering, We Must Have No Price — his 25th book — is no different. Covering issues such as internal security and whether “dream teams” can actually bring about reforms, Shourie uses his experience in government, media and politics to raise some very important questions.

However, there is also a streak of self-righteousness in the book’s last chapter where Shourie takes a dig at some of his critics, including those in his own party. The piece is well-crafted and takes to task the BJP’s ‘lawyer spokespersons’ without naming any of them. The author’s disagreement with some of his colleagues who went on to expel Jaswant Singh also comes out very clearly.

Most interesting is his observation of how his detractors had expected him to be punished for his remarks against some of his colleagues by making selected journalists ask questions about his conduct during a press conference of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat.

He goes on to say that they thought that a whole lot of work done by someone could be tarnished by just one incident. This did not happen to their dismay as the RSS chief stoutly defended him, his integrity and his credentials.

Short of calling LK Advani a liar for claiming ignorance about the 1999 Kandahar hijack and hostage release episode, Shourie goes on to assemble the versions of at least four members of the cabinet committee on security at that time to drive home the point that the then home minister was always aware of what had transpired.

Shourie regrets that he withdrew his case against a magazine, which had attributed all kinds of motives to him after he had exposed the Antulay affair in the early 80s. He was called a CIA agent and nasty things were written about him.

The book also tackles specific intelligence shared by senior government functionaries during various meetings where they apprehended an attack on Indian soil from the sea route. He goes on to say that even though this kind of input was available much in advance, no attempt to properly put in place measures was taken by either the Centre or the Maharashtra government. He cites this as an example of our reluctance to implement things. Had things been taken seriously, an incident like 26/11 may have been averted.

Shourie touches some raw nerves when he states how the weakness of the system has been exploited by a few to block probes into various scams and how despite setting up scores of committees and commissions to reform the civil services, the latter have continued exactly as they have been.

This is a very readable book with the unmistakable ‘Arun Shourie’ trademark of saying many things and saying even many more between the lines.

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